With a name like Tesla vs Lovecraft, you're expecting a certain tone. This is not a serious shooter; right from the outset it aims for ‘insane’ and works from there. Appropriate given the game's antagonist. The title screen blasts out a chaotic theme tune, depicting a monster-riding H.P. Lovecraft facing off against Nikola Tesla in a mech suit. Yet even that doesn’t prepare you for the strange and bonkers action in this top-down shooter from developer 10tons.
The brief opening, which takes place at one of Tesla’s demonstrations, sees the renowned occult writer offer a grave warning to the man who invented the remote control. Before you can say ‘Yog-Sothoth’, Lovecraft has burned down Tesla’s lab and made off with his inventions, unleashing the eldritch hordes in the process. Our intrepid electrical engineer equips his prototype teleporter and ventures out, armed to the teeth.
What’s immediately apparent in Tesla Vs. Lovecraft is the sheer breakneck speed. The bite-sized levels and generous progression system create a feeling of constant forward motion. It recalls 2016's Doom with its ferocious pacing and exhilarating action. The game is constantly throwing abilities, weapons, and power-ups at you in the early stages. The wave-based enemies swarming you are manageable enough at first, so it’s easy to get to grips with your arsenal. Movement is fluid, and zipping through crowds of fish men with the teleporter grants a sense of situational control, so fights never feel overwhelming.
Alongside traditional weaponry like pistols and machine guns, there are sci-fi variants like the Tesla repeater and Gauss rifle. Special inventions are powerful abilities with finite charges, each one a piece of mad scientist tech, like energy swords and plasma bombs. Also, did we mention the mech suit? Our hero can collect six pieces of the ‘War Pigeon’, which turns him into a 19th century D.Va for a brief period of time. Elsewhere, there are general power-ups that spawn throughout the level, like fire bullets, XP multipliers, and a screen-wiping nuke.
Leveling up during a stage opens up a selection of two perks, ranging from increased damage and health to infinite charges of your special inventions. The beauty of this system is that it resets at the beginning of each level, meaning a loss allows you to take stock and try a different approach. It’s satisfying to fail a few times before finding that sweet spot in your build that allows you to dominate a tricky level. There’s an added layer of progression in the damage boosts received from killing enemies, with each level earned boosting your effectiveness against a particular foe. The leveling system and the perk bonuses are ample, without affecting the game's overall difficulty too much. There's always a challenge waiting in the next level, and for every enemy type mastered, a new one will emerge to kick your ass.
There are times when it feels like there are too many plates to spin, with boss characters added to the mix, and shrines which spawn tougher enemies if not destroyed in time. Yet as cheap as some deaths feel, the game is never frustrating and always rewards another try. The main map comprises three different realms with dozens of levels, some duplicates but with a decent stylistic variety. Alongside the central campaign, there’s survival mode and daily challenges that encourage return journeys. These extra modes are a good way to farm crystals that unlock permanent perks and new abilities for Tesla.
10tons has a good track record in the genre, and Tesla vs Lovecraft shares a lot of DNA with the likes of Crimsonland and Neon Chrome. The PS4 isn't exactly wanting for top down shooters, yet despite the familiarity of its execution, there’s just so much to enjoy here. The main modes are plentiful, and to cap it all off, there’s local co-op for up to 4 players. We did mention Tesla has a mech suit, right?
A relentlessly entertaining experience with energy to spare, Tesla vs Lovecraft takes a comedic premise and crafts an addictive ride, filled with variety. Despite some sporadic difficulty spikes, this stands shoulder to shoulder with PS4's best arcade shooters.