At first glance, you might think that Celeste is just your standard indie game that has been inspired from the 8-bit platformers. It also seems to start as one simple platformer but over the course of the story, the game can take a dark and depressing tone as it digs deeper in the history of the main character, Madeline.
Celeste is a brilliant platformer that relies on a set of well-designed levels to tell a story that not many games have attempted before. It is about the depression and anxiety that anyone can face in real life. The story features the tale of Madeline, who is the main character of the game on a self-imposed goal of climbing the mountain, Celeste. As the story begins, Madeline is warned from the beginning that climbing this mountain will be a tough challenge, but it is simply not related to the actual climb, but also to the mental stress that one might face during this journey.
As Madeline is not even a professional mountain climber, she has to go through a lot of difficulty just to make the climb and this manifests in the game with an alternative personality for Madeline referenced as ‘Part of Me.’ The higher you climb, the more challenges will be presented by the game and throughout the climb, there will be people that will try to persuade you to stop the climb and demotivate you from achieving your dream. This is a nice parallel to the real life where you can attribute it to achieving your goals.
The difficulty curve of Celeste is extremely high but the developers had the great idea to make deaths least frustrating in the whole game. Dying in Celeste might be too easy but learning from the experience and the mistakes that you make is what makes this whole gameplay loop work well here. If you die at any point during the level, you will simply reset back to the last checkpoint, which is essentially the start of the level.
Don’t mistake it as losing progress since each level is essentially a single screen where your task is simply to go to the next checkpoint while attempting to take as many strawberries that you can find. They provide additional bonus for those purists who want to get every extra that the game has to offer. Some of these strawberries are in difficult to reach places and will require careful analyze of each level and timed jumps in order to get them. If you are playing the game for the first time, you can always avoid trying to get everything and just enjoy the levels as they are presented.
The one aspect of Celeste that should be worth mentioning here is that the game has a great replay value. It even offers a dedicated speed run mode for those who prefer to tackle some challenges. If you are tired by the difficulty curve being too high, there is the option to toggle the ‘assist’ mode that makes it even easier to clear the game with the game basically removing some of the limits that it imposes with the default difficulty setting.
The core visuals of Celeste are all focused on 8-bit look but the game presents a hybrid art style with the modern take reserved for the narrative moments like end of chapter scenes or the general UI. The transition from a snowy mountain to some of the more outlandish design helps in conveying the sense of journey and inner struggles of Madeline on this climb. It is hard to not feel attached to her character after you come to the end.
The end of Celeste is not just the end of the game. It actually opens up the potential of the game by unlocking a more challenging set of levels called the B-Side. If you have enjoyed the platforming offered by Celeste, you will have a great time attempting these challenges, but they are also the hardest levels in the main game so do keep this in mind when attempting to tackle them. I will say one thing though, there is no better reward than figuring out and completing the B-Side knowing that you have managed to overcome some of the more brutal platforming sections presented by the game. Of course, it won’t be for everyone and even if we limit to just the main game, there is a lot of good time to be had here with the story taking between 5 to 10 hours depending on your skill level.
Celeste Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Celeste is a platforming video game by Canadian video game developers Matt Thorson and Noel Berry. The game was originally created as a prototype in four days during a game jam, and later expanded into a full release.
A poignant tale that tackles a sensitive subject matter. Celeste is not only a challenging platformer, it is also an emotionally powerful story about dealing with the struggles of mental illness.