Over the past few years, the responsibilities of adulthood have conspired to make gaming difficult for me. The days where I might excitedly sign up to grind my way through a 200+ hour epic are long gone, replaced by casual games I can drop in and out of whenever I find myself with 15 minutes to spare. Sure, these titles never satisfy in the same way that something like Skyrim or Bloodborne can, but they scratch that gaming itch, and when a particularly addictive drop-in/drop-out game comes along, I am flooded with relief: finally, a time-killer that doesn't involve obsessively refreshing my Twitter feed or combing through the increasingly underwhelming options on Netflix.
This weekend, former BMD Editor-At-Large Phil Nobile Jr. called my attention to a new game from the folks at 10tons Ltd., a company known for creating excellent twin-stick shooters. Given how much I loved 10tons' Neon Chrome (a title I spent most of last summer playing in 15-20 minute bursts), I was excited to learn the company had a new game out.
I was doubly excited when I learned that it was called Tesla VS. Lovecraft.
Tesla VS. Lovecraft is exactly what its name and pedigree implies: a lightning-fast, wildly addictive twin-stick shooter pitting Nikola Tesla against wave after wave of Lovecraftian horrors. The game's opening cinematic provides some backstory as to why Lovecraft and Tesla are at odds, but - as with most twin-stick shooters - the plot takes a distant backseat to the actual gameplay, which to my eyes (and thumbs) comes pretty close to capturing twin-stick shooter perfection.
Once you've worked your way through the customary tutorial levels, the game sets you off and running across a map of Arkham (one of several "planes" of reality you'll do battle across), with levels themed around various Lovecraftian touchstones. These levels are overflowing with familiar beasts - Deep Ones, Spawns of Dagon, statues of Cthulhu that regurgitate great waves of spiders out onto the battlefield. You start each level with a simple pistol, but soon enough the game begins dropping increasingly elaborate (and, charmingly, era-appropriate) weaponry into your hands: Tesla-powered shotguns, tommy guns, revolvers. With these tools you will mow down many, many Lovecraftian creatures. The gameplay is extremely satisfying.
If that were the end of things, the game would still be worth your money, but Tesla VS. Lovecraft knows exactly what kind of game it is, and doesn't stop there - it leans hard into the absurdity of its premise, periodically allowing the player to don a Tesla-powered Mech Suit (the arrival of which is accompanied by wailing electric guitars on the soundtrack) to take on some of the game's tougher foes. In addition to that undeniable selling point, the game also randomly generates special perks throughout each level, any of which will drastically impact the way you're playing the game. You might find yourself low on health and overwhelmed by Yog Sothoths, only to have the game toss flaming, armor-piercing rounds at you, or the ability to make each of your shots ricochet off the level's walls. In practice, these systems combine into a gameplay experience that's frantic, unpredictable and massively entertaining.
It's true that Tesla VS. Lovecraft begins recycling its levels a bit earlier than I'd prefer ("Didn't I just fight in this set of Arkham alleyways five levels ago?"), but 10tons introduces new weaponry, perks and monster types into the game at a steady clip, keeping things fresh and fun even if you're already familiar with a particular level's floorplan. It also ratchets up the challenge: early levels might feel like something of a cakewalk to experienced gamers, but by the time you've arrived at the game's first mini-boss, your palms will have started sweating. Half a dozen levels after that, you might find yourself paying a bit more attention to your strategy, and reminding yourself to take full advantage of the game's "Teleport" functionality (advice: get real acquainted with that perk; it's the only way to survive some of these encounters).
Look, I've not completed Tesla VS. Lovecraft, so I can't reasonably call this a "review". But I do know that I spent the better part of yesterday caught in the throes of a serious Tesla VS. Lovecraft addiction, and I am very comfortable giving the game a full-throated recommendation (besides, given how popular casual gaming and Lovecraft are around these parts, it felt pertinent to pass this recommendation along to you, the gentle BMD readers of the world). If you enjoyed Neon Chrome, The Binding of Isaac, or Helldivers, this is a title you absolutely need to play.
Tesla VS. Lovecraft is now available via XBOX One, PS4, Steam and Nintendo Switch. You should buy it.