The Tesla Effect excels technically, but is otherwise poor. The gameplay is a soulless rendition of what made the previous games great, and the padding thrown in doesn’t help this poor impression.
First of all, the game suffers from serious pacing issues. It’s divided into “days” which aren’t days, and which length differs wildly, up to a “day” where you do almost nothing.
This is not just a nitpick, as the plot also advances in a confusing, uneven manner. While dialogues are decently written, the overall plot design is poor. Instead of gradually learning new details and incorporating them into the picture of the plot you’re forming in your head, characters just puke out a random twist at you. It’s less like filling in a crossword puzzle and more like reading one of those stories where different people tack on more and more sentences to see what comes out.
Gameplay is severely lacking. The points mechanism is poorly implemented and seems tacked on. Most characters don’t really have much to say about anything, so you end up interrogating them mechanically just to rack up points. Some characters you can’t re-visit, and most you don’t really have a reason to.
There is constant hand-holding. The game keeps telling you what to do, and forces you to do it in the right order. For instance, you start out with several questions to investigate. Tex suggested I tackle one, but I wanted to investigate the other. Alas, some obstacle was in my way, which arbitrarily disappeared later on once I did what Tex wanted.
The inventory puzzles are trivial, and the stand-alone ones are usually just copied from elsewhere, such as yet another river crossing puzzle. No insight is required to solve any of them - if you need a code, it’s a matter of finding where the code is.
There are several sections that feel like a hidden-object game, and are clearly thrown in as padding. Even the game’s version of hotspot highlighting was powerless against those damned baseball cards. Heck, there’s even a maze in there.
There are some poorly-implemented stealth sections. Previous games had them, but you had line-of-sight advantage over the guards/drones, so they had some logic to them. This time, a guard rounds the corner, you lose, try over.
The final puzzle is panned in every review of this game, and rightfully so. It requires dexterity, and is in itself just anti-climactic. It’s ridiculous to imagine the hard-boiled detective rapidly fidgeting with dials to save the world.
All in all, the game is very disappointing. It plays like it was designed by a checklist, so they threw in everything a fan would want, without giving any consideration to how the parts mesh together. The technical excellence can’t make up for all of the gameplay and writing flaws.
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Time Played: 5-10 hours