By Josh Speer / April 28th, 2018
I don’t know exactly when the works of H.P. Lovecraft became part of the gestalt consciousness of popular culture, but I’ve seen it more and more of late. Though often used for horror, it’s just as common to find Cthulhu in comedy. This translates to the medium of video games as well, and that’s where Tesla vs. Lovecraft comes in. 10tons took the typical Lovecraftian conventions and married them with Steampunk science fiction courtesy of Nikola Tesla. The end result is a crazy monster mash that is a blast on my Nintendo Switch.
While every 10tons title seems to be a top-down shooter, that hasn’t stopped them from innovating a bit here. One thing I really appreciate about Tesla vs. Lovecraft is how you’re always acquiring new stuff. I was always unlocking a new weapon or perk as I beat levels, which definitely helped keep things fresh, despite basic gameplay monotony. By that I don’t mean to say the game is boring, it’s not, but there’s only really one thing to do – blast Lovecraft’s eldritch minions into a fine red mist. To help mix this up, during every level you can collect the pieces of Tesla’s mech suit, the War Pigeon, and relish in it’s pure destructive power for a few glorious seconds. I also really enjoyed teleporting about to avoid hordes of monsters and wisely choosing the right perk for the situation (my favorites are Extra Barrel, Hasty Reloader, Poison Bullets and Explosive Teleporter).
Overall the gameplay is really addictive and fun, and I rarely died on the Normal difficulty. Once I beat the game and started another run on the Aether difficulty, that was a whole other ball game. They throw a ridiculous amount of foes at you in each stage, and they alternate where they spawn as well as increasing their damage output. Foes that gave me little trouble the first time around were bringing me to the ground in a bloody dog pile here. One aspect of the combat I was a little disappointed by, however, were the bosses. Frankly, the bosses are really lackluster, since they’re just bigger versions of common enemies. It’s no exaggeration that I beat most bosses in less than a minute, whereas facing waves of foes was a much steeper challenge.
Although I liked the overall art design of Tesla vs. Lovecraft, I had a couple of small complaints in that arena. Namely, most of the enemies look pretty bland since they are so small, very different from how their models look in the bestiary. It’s just hard to see the same level of detail, such as the fancy suits worn by Deep Ones, the jaunty gait of Spawn of Dagon or the bulbous eyes of Flying Polyps. Though the levels are fine, they are all pretty uniformly dark and cramped, and don’t exude much of their own style. Likewise, the map interface is not intuitive and is very crowded, though it isn’t that hard to navigate with some practice. Musically, the tunes are good and the sound effects keep things hectic, but it quickly boils down to hearing the same screeches and splatters over and over as you run around the levels, which drown out the music. One area that stood out favorably were the cut scenes, which were very dynamic and added a lot of flavor to the game.
Pretty much the only area of the game that was a bit unclear about was using crystals to unlock features. On paper it makes perfect sense, but in execution it’s a bit vague since many features have multiple unlock tiers, so it’s unclear if you need to fully unlock them or if each tier increases the effect. Lastly, while the game is a riot and a fantastic way to waste some time, I really feel there was a missed opportunity. Namely, while it’s great to play the game as Tesla, why not offer a mode where you play as his maniacal rival, Lovecraft? It would be amazing to summon eldritch powers against the rampaging mechanized might of Nikola Tesla. Alas, perhaps that could happen in a future sequel.
In summary, I highly recommend you check out Tesla vs. Lovecraft, especially if you’re a fan of top-down shooters or 10tons. This seems to be a game perfectly optimized to play on the Switch, since it can be played in short bursts. If you’re hankering for something to do with not a lot of time to do it in, check this one out.
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