By Drew D. / April 18th, 2019
|Original Release Date||June 15th, 2018|
|Age Rating||Unpatched: Mature
After having played Maytroid and giving it an average score, I decided to review another game by PixelGreeds to see if I would have a similar experience. When it comes to developers that are new to me, I do try to play more than one game by them if available, especially if it proves a group has a wider range, style, and a greater skill set than what a single game can convey. And so, I decided to give an earlier game by PixelGreeds a chance. Teleportals, as one could guess, is named after Portal, yet, similar to Maytroid’s naming, is not quite the carbon copy one should expect going in.
Teleportals is a puzzle-platformer in which you control a woman named Susan, who randomly arrives in an alternate realm. How she got there or why remains a mystery. She soon finds a companion in a one-eyed ball-like creature named Maki, who tells her that time spent in this realm will have an adverse effect on her. The only way to prevent her eventual demise is to escape. The single upside in all of this is that she can teleport to where Maki is dropped. With not much choice, Susan takes Maki with her and begins making her way through this realm in hopes of finding an exit.
The overarching plot of Teleportals is painfully straightforward with escape as a driving force. Susan arrives, wants to leave, and so she goes on her way. As to where she is, how she got there, who these things are that she meets, and how she can teleport with them, none of this is explained. It just is, and we’re meant to take it at face value. Setting all of these questions aside, there is another narrative that takes place, which does a far better job of providing a much needed story element, as well as adding character development. For one, Susan has a backstory, in that she is a scientist researching a virus. Due to her lab running out of funding, one of her colleagues, Nancy, infects herself with said virus in an attempt to garner funding and push the research forward. Susan’s thoughts often return to Nancy, a means for Susan to strive ever closer to escape.
Maki also provides narrative strength, discussing his interest in movies, which serve as his attempts to have Susan open up during their campaign. There are several moments of humor and charm here and they contrast in a particularly satisfying way with Susan’s concern for Nancy and her drive to return and finish her work. We even see Susan forget her troubles at times, hinting at a desire to run away from an anxiety that potentially runs deeper than first implied. In fact, the narrative even suggests that there is more to the situation of Nancy infecting herself than Susan lets on. These glimmers of story are helpful to a weak plot and I would have liked far more than what is delivered.
Why do I say “far more?” Because glimmers of a story do not make an intriguing, immersive experience. More than anything, I felt dissatisfied, as I was left confused, maybe even a little cheated when I finished the game. All we actually get are hints at an underlying conflict that goes beyond the text we are given. The text itself, which I believe is a translation from another language, is not nearly strong enough to make the implications it’s attempting to make. Also, there is no proper resolution to the story at the end. We are left wondering what happened, why, and again, what significance it’s trying to imply. After one ending and credit roll, there are more levels and then a vague epilogue as if those last levels didn’t happen. What was even the point? More mystery? No, just more random nonsense. Zero genuine conclusions can be made with such a fierce lack of details.
The developers want to insinuate that there’s more happening in the plot, but without proper set up and build, it comes off as a collection of fragmented ideas that, again, seem nonsensical. If you’re planning to develop a deep lore, you need details. Vague is not the same as mysterious, nor does it build mystery. Now, there are theories floating around on the game’s Steam discussion board that could potentially make sense and better connect these fragments into a coherent story. However, I believe these theories are simply too far-fetched. Huge stretches need to be made and some major assumptions are necessary for these theories to work. Granted, you can theorize until you’re blue in the face with such a lack of detail and depth. A stronger overarching plot and a far more detailed look into these characters would have turned a forgettable mess of a story into one of legitimate intrigue.
Although Teleportals suffers from this lack of story, a recurring problem I’ve seen from them, its gameplay fares better. As I mentioned, this is a puzzle-platformer, in which the goal is to reach each room’s exit. Every single room is its own puzzle filled with traps for you to avoid and designs that require the unique attributes of your companions. Susan has the ability to swap places with Maki and another character, Bruce, who you meet later on. Susan can run and jump, as well as activate switches. Maki is small and light, allowing him to pass through narrow spaces and also bounce on special platforms when dropped. This bouncing can allow Susan to swap and reach higher areas or launch over hazards. Also, if there is a jump too high for Susan, she can place a companion near the jump point, bounce herself, swap, and ride the momentum for a higher jump. As for Bruce, he is a block-shaped entity that can act as a shield against projectiles or a step for higher platforms. Many of the later rooms will require you to utilize both companions, using their attributes and working them in tandem to reach the exit. Once you start playing, it may seem like gameplay is one-dimensional, but I was easily engaged throughout. There were several puzzles that caused some frustration, but I will admit that it was always pretty satisfying to solve these more troublesome rooms, especially the ones that take you multiple tries.
Other gameplay points include zero penalties for dying and a quick reset button for starting a room over. For the most part, the game is pretty fun and it challenges you thoroughly, however some puzzles have quite a few obnoxious elements to them. Even so, with no consequences to infinite attempts, every puzzle is doable with practice. Also, there is no combat in this game. While there is a means for Susan to destroy certain traps, there are no real enemies to fight. It’s simply surviving each room and exiting, yet the simplicity offers a lot more fun than I could have expected. Finally, gameplay options include support for multiple languages. I can appreciate the wider audience multiple languages can garner, but I’m still wondering if some things got lost in the translation.
My only complaint with Teleportals’ gameplay is in regards to its controls. I had the same complaint previously with PixelGreeds, in that if you wish to use a controller, you must rely on third-party software for any customization. Teleportals requires precision in your moves, so having zero controller customization out of the box is disheartening. Keyboard controls have customization, but if you wish to make changes, you must input all of your changes anew, as you cannot simply change a single key binding.
Moving on to the aesthetics, I had much to say about several of the visual additions seen in Maytroid that basically took a game that could have been for all ages into mature and 18+ territories. This seems to be PixelGreeds’ style, as an ecchi CG gallery that can become fully 18+ with a patch is present here. And, as in my Maytroid review, this inclusion does nothing for Teleportals. It’s senseless, as it limits the potential audience that can play this game. Perhaps my opinion is an unpopular one, but not everything needs naked women to make it better. Putting that time and effort towards the plot would have made more sense. Or, if you want hentai in your game, make it the focus of the game and don’t just tack it on. Having said that, the artists responsible for these CGs do seem to have a bit of talent. I only wish those talents were utilized in the form of in-game CGs to support dialogue or other on-screen events.
As for the in-game presentation, the aesthetics are satisfactory with its 16-bit visual style. Even though this game uses the same tilesets and backgrounds as Maytroid, they are no less impressive. Several different environments are depicted, from dusty deserts to snow-covered forests. It’s hinted that these environments even symbolize the symptoms of the virus Susan is researching. For example, one of the early symptoms is coughing or a sore throat. She makes this comment while in an arid desert, which is an early game area. A later symptom is a high fever and the connection is Susan commenting that she doesn’t feel cold, despite walking around wearing only a nightie while traveling through a snowstorm. As this narrative takes place later in the game, it points to the later stage symptoms of the disease.
Unfortunately, these connections to location, time, and viral symptoms all amount to speculation, theorizing, and tidbits the developers mention on Steam, as none of this is ever directly addressed in-game. A stronger symbolism or one with more direct connections would have made more impact. I realize this is another criticism of narrative, not aesthetics, but give me a strong, fleshed out story first, and then pepper it with secrets using the other facets of the game. Having said that, the storytelling flaws don’t take away from the quality of the visuals themselves. Finally, the audio is fair, with each track pairing to their locations adequately. My complaints are that the music itself isn’t all that memorable and there is too little of it. I think I counted just four or five tracks in the entire game. Also, these tracks may actually be the same ones used in Maytroid, but again, unmemorable.
Teleportals as a whole is a collection of great gameplay elements beaten down by unfinished ideas and bad decisions. If you were to strip away the plot and the lewdness, then the gameplay by itself would most definitely serve as a fantastic base for a potentially great game. I would even say by expanding gameplay further and properly addressing the plot, this would have had the makings of a hidden gem. The game can be completed in a single sitting, clocking in between three to five hours. Perhaps its saving grace, Teleportals can be picked up for $1, even less during a sale. So, if you’re in the mood for some quick platforming fun, and not a darn thing more, then maybe Teleportals is worth your consideration.
Review copy provided by developer.
pixelgreedsplatformerpuzzleTeleportalsTeleportals. I swear it's a nice game