With your host, Rob Remakes

Tag: Twin Stick Shooter

Tesla Force

A screenshot from the game Tesla Force. It is a floating stone Island, lit largely in purple and blue. Red Lovecraftian creatures roam and enormous glowing crystals break up the stone edifices.

Tesla Force has one of the most immediately disarming structures to a twin stick shooter I’ve played. In a good way, mind.

Picking up from the also wonderful Tesla Vs Lovecraft, Tesla Force reimagines the game as a more open, customisable, less guided experience. With co-op. I really like it but yeah, it certainly caught me off guard at first.

There’s a familiarity there, sure. If you’ve played Tesla Vs Lovecraft then you’ll be instantly at home with the menagerie of beasties, the mech/on foot/mech rhythm and the large array of weaponry, upgrades and whatever you can acquire. It’s all really solid, filling the screen with bullets and colourful explosions hasn’t gotten old yet and I’ve been playing this on and off for ages and ages now.

The surprising part is just how much freedom 10 Tons have built into the progression and how generous it is.

Sure, you’ll be exploding monsters into pretty colours in order to collect gems in order to spend gems to buy more ways of exploding monsters into pretty colours and repeat – fairly standard stuff – but unlike 10 Tons previous twin stickers, Tesla Force is (for want of a better phrase) a roguelike.

Each playthrough has you work your way through a procedurally generated map, moving from node to node until you reach the inevitable final boss. The first few rounds limits the choice of routes the player can take but a few upgrades later and the map is positively sprawling. So far so roguelike! I mean, it works doesn’t it? So, why not!

However, with the exception of the boss nodes, the stages don’t actually end. I can keep playing each one, rinsing them for gems and pretty colours until I decide to leave. As I say, it’s disarming at first. Even the lootiest of looter ARPGs tend to have a point where the player has exhausted things to do in a stage and they’re forced to move on yet Tesla Force leaves that up to the player.

Of course, there’s a wrinkle! This is a videogame after all and they’re tricksy things at the best of times. Once I begin the first stage, a countdown begins – the ominously named death clock – and each time the countdown reaches zero, the game gets a little bit more difficult, harsher, more abrasive. So the longer I spend on a stage, the more things get tricky, the more the stage will require more firepower, more health, more skill to survive.

Sure, I can keep grinding stage after stage but the longer I spend doing that, the more difficult the later stages are going to be. The more difficult the stage I’m grinding is going to be, never mind.

Whereas this would be a pretty oppressive system in most games, when combined with the brevity of each stage and the huge amount of skills and upgrades available to buy with your gems, it’s the other one. It’s remarkably freeing and lets me control the difficulty from stage to stage. If I fancy an easy ride? Get in, complete the objective, move onto the next node until done. Fancy testing myself? Stick around. No matter what happens, I’ll be collecting gems to spend on more upgrades or weaponry, each completed stage hands me a new weapon or ability to add to my arsenal, each game over nudging me closer to another unlock. In Tesla Force (as with a number of other recent roguelikes) a game over is an interruption, rather than an end.

There’s always progress and it’s hardly stingy, there isn’t an unlock that doesn’t make some tangible difference to the game and there is a lot to unlock. I’ve been playing for ages now and haven’t even got round to giving any of the other characters you can unlock a shot. I’ve been far too busy buying more weapons, more abilities, more slots to pop abilities into, more firepower, more time in the mech and on. I’m sure I’ll get round to giving them a go soon but y’know, I’m having loads of fun as it is. No rush!

Tesla Force is a wonderful game. I’ve been playing it on PS4 (and more recently on the Switch) and it’s not got any less enjoyable for all the (many!) hours I’ve pumped into it. In fact, I think I’ll just sneak another go in now whilst no-one is looking.

Cataloguing The New Arcade: Glitchangels

The character select screen from Glitchangels, it's glitchy! And purple. There's a distorted pixelised angel in the background, a green hued user interface with two big icons in white, one some arrows to indicate 'dodge', the other a skull to indicate 'rage'. It's very nineties cybergoth.

Sitting at the intersection of glitchgoth and cybergoth, Glitchangels is Berzerk reimagined as a Nuclear Throne-alike. Throw out the unending maze of the arcade classic, replace it with discreet rooms with tight corridors, clear the enemies to open the exits, paper it with Droid Assault inspired art – strip out the Paradroid elements, keep the store and upgrades.

Glitch everything, movement, firepower, everything. Play the videogame as VHS, make a mistake, rewind and forward your angel to safety. It’s weirdly now. It could really only collect all these things together and vibe like it does in the now but yes, it’s an EBM arcade dancefloor Robotron.

What a heady mix for a twin stick shooter all this makes. Instantly familiar to anyone who’s even mildly been paying attention in our post Geometry Wars world and it’s not like the game makes any effort to hide or obscure its influences anyway, quite the opposite. It’s there in the credits, it’s there the moment you spawn into the first screen. 40 years of twin sticking, goth’d up, glitched up.

Buy it on Switch, grab a cider and black and sit in a tree to play it, preferably in a graveyard. In Whitby if you need to. Maybe get the flourescent gear out, meet the game on its terms, you know? Sod it, chuck a glowstick or two in your bag whilst you’re at it. If you know anyone with a dry ice machine, I’m not saying it’d complete the vibe but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Or, y’know, grab it on the PC or Xbox. Whatever works. But really, do grab it. It’s good. I’ve been having an absolute ball with the thing.

Fight. Die. Glitch. Win. It totally does what it says on the tin.

Tesla Vs Lovecraft

It's a caricature of HP 'Sauce' Lovecraft being carted off by the bizzies. Serves the racist git right. Tesla looks on with a fine moustache.

Whilst I don’t entirely understand the internet fixation with either Tesla or Lovecraft, or why they seem to go together like Cannon and Ball, Rod and Emu or Andy Crane and Edd The Duck, at least it’s led us to perhaps my favourite 10tons game yet. For that, I’m grateful.

If you’re new to the 10tons formula, it’s twin stick blasting mixed with ridiculous upgrades – never *quite* game breaking upgrades but certainly for a few moments each round, there’s invariably some ridiculous level of things blowing up or going splat happening.

In Tesla Vs Lovecraft’s case, this comes courtesy of Tesla’s mech. Once or twice a round you’ll find yourself having collected all the parts of a mech, summon it up and it’s time to tear through absolutely everything in sight. It’s remarkably satisfying.

A very, very purple screenshot from Tesla Vs Lovecraft. Everything is exploding. In purple.

Most games would be content with just providing a mech and being all “alright, that’s plenty” but that’s not the 10tons way. In-between rounds, it’s time to start levelling up and kitting out Tesla with even more firepower, even more armour and stuff and things that glow and go bang.

There’s a silly amount of customisation in there, well above and beyond the call of duty and because in Tesla Vs Lovecraft, power ups all stack, it won’t be long before the screen is a blur of glowing lasers and the innards of whatever old gods popped by to cause trouble. I love it! It’s just so unecessary and so over the top, I can’t help but grin at it.

You’re already handed some firepower fairly quickly but there’s movement upgrades for good measure too. Tesla can ‘teleport’ in Dishonored-Blink fashion beginning in one of the very early stages so a good part of the game is spent shooting stuff then *pop* blinking to safety (or as is more likely, into an even bigger throng of suit wearing frog things).

A screenshot from Lovecraft Vs Tesla. Tesla shoots his way through a massive amount of cosmic horrors as electricity tears through the environment.

Once you’re a few stages further and you start racking up upgrades, new inventions and perks, it’s just flat out silly. The good kind of silly, obv. A very neon good kind of silly. My kind of silly.

There’s a bit of story and a vaguely roguelike structure glueing everything together, not much in the way of surprises in that regard. Travel from start to finish on the map, there’s a few different tasks to be completed depending on what location choose but eventually, it all comes down to exploding cosmic nasties using glowing neon laser beams in some fashion.

There’s also a couple of difficulty levels to progress through. They’re less about whether you prefer the game easy or difficult and more about finding the most enjoyable pairing for whatever your current Tesla is kitted out with and amount of things you fancy shooting.

A relatively calm moment on the game where there's only about 3 gazillion enemies instead of 98 gigagaziillibillion

I wouldn’t recommend going straight to one of the higher levels without grinding some power ups and perks first though, when the bulk of enemies work on the Gauntlet ghosts principle of “loads of the buggers running at you at once”, it’s wise to be prepared.

So yes! Tesla Vs Lovecraft is fantastic. I’ve been returning to it every couple of months for a fair while now for when the more sedate and methodical Neon Chrome and Jydge just won’t do. It’s 10tons doing what they do better than most teams in the business and whilst their twiddling with the formula doesn’t always land (Undead Horde), when it does it’s magnificent.

If anyone prefers something that leans ever deeper into the roguelike structure, has co-op multiplayer and just generally more of that than vaguely linear, Tesla Force is everything that’s great about Lovecraft Vs Tesla, plus all that stuff.

It’s good! Just, you know, I’m personally a lot happier and more relaxed around the Lovecraft Vs Tesla progression. I do like to feel like I’m working towards an ending of some sort so a lot of the roguelike structures in games now do very little for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Go on, give it a go. It’s available on nearly everything at this point! I’m most at home on the PS4 (as ever) but aside from a bit of trickiness with the teleporting, the mobile version is great too.

Highly recommended.

Dead End Job

Honestly, I think Ant Workshop, makers of Dead End Job, should be in touch with the Guinness Book Of Records because if they’re not the frontrunners, they’re definitely in with a shake for the Most Puns In A Videogame world record. In all my years (which are many), I don’t think I’ve ever seen the likes. It’s practically obscene.

Luckily, some truly rotten puns are a fairly good way to crack a smile out of me! The more of a leap, the better. Which pretty much means I spent way, way more time laughing at Dead End Job than is probably healthy.

Such a relief too because as much as I adore videogames, what passes off as humour in videogames is fairly often lost on me. For every game that manages to sneak a memorable joke under the radar, there’s a thousand where the joke is “I just said that thing off the internet” and oh, oh dear. Please, no.

So yeah, Dead End Job got more than its fair quota of laughs out of me. It’s also a really grand looking and sounding game. Styling itself around the idea of what if Ghostbusters arrived freshly formed as a nineties MTV-era cartoon, it doesn’t exactly pick itself an easy look to pull off. It does pull it off though, incredibly well.

Everything bops and squidges nicely, characters land somewhere between cute and grotesque in that oh so very nineties fashion, it even has title cards for the start of each mission! And it’s a small touch but one I loved, Dead End Job does that sort of “meanwhile, back at the house…” interstitial scene cartoons lifted from a myriad of sitcoms over the years complete with guitar break. Oh, and it has a theme song too because of course it does. If you’re going to do this stuff then might as well go all in and then some, eh?

It’s a pleasingly tough but not too tough twin stick shooter. You’re tasked with clearing an area out to earn money, each area is (as is oh so in vogue at the moment) made up of a shuffled around selection of rooms. Clear all the rooms, rescue a couple of folk on the way, get out and cash up then head onto the next bunch of rooms.

It’s a fairly routine set up made more interesting by having to work around incredibly cluttered rooms where things often have a tendency to explode, managing some (thankfully far, far from obnoxious) weapon cooldown timers and having to catch the ghosts with your ghost vacuum in fairly short order after hitting them with your definitely not a proton pack (honest guv) laser beam.

Everything is so big and chunky that there isn’t quite as much room to muck around in as you need so making space (by blowing things up) becomes a priority very quickly. Ghosts also have a tendency to leave slime trails behind them which should you try and wade through them, slow you down. There’s always plenty to be taking into account in order to make the space less cramped and more amenable to a bit of busting.

There’s a reasonably sized bestiary of ghouls and ghosts to catch, certainly far more than many games would bother with, and best of all the game allows you to rename each and every one of them. Not since Fable 2 have so many things found themselves mysteriously called Bernard by my hand. Look, I know it’s a problem I have, I’m trying to be better but gnnnnng BERNARD.

I really, really enjoyed myself with Dead End Job and it’s one I can see myself coming back to for a good few years. Helped, in no small amount, by it making me smile so much with its awful, awful puns.

Dead End Job is on Windows, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Apple Arcade. It’s (wait for it) dead good.

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