Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep me from getting to strawberries.
Upon completing Super Mario Odyssey I found myself craving a platformer with more challenge and oh boy did I get it when I decided to download Celeste. On the surface, Celeste has a very cutesy aesthetic the characters speak in gibberish, you collect strawberries just because they’re there. However this simple platformer has complexity in both its story and gameplay.
The first level is relatively easy, you quickly realise that trial and error is what it’s all about to overcome the finicky jumps but the checkpoints are very generous. They’re very much in a way a micro level because the amount of time attempting to beat some of the platforming segments will be what consumes your playtime. This makes Celeste the perfect game for the Nintendo Switch due to its portability you can complete a couple of these micro levels while you’re waiting for the bus. The game even says to you to have pride in your death count because it shows you’re learning. It’s very encouraging and much better then just saying to the player. “Too bad. Try again”.
To aid in you traversal Madeline can dash midair cling onto walls, and wall jump. You then realise that the environment plays more of a part in your journey to the top of this mountain then Madeline’s abilities. Finding out the eb and flow of each levels environmental mechanics gives every level a fresh new learning curve. Such as bouncy clouds, strong gusts of winds and controllable platforms.
The hidden collectables in this game are optional. I couldn’t resist however grabbing a floating strawberry if I saw one. Strawberries don’t offer anything significant except for a cute little moment at the end of the game involving pie. B-sides introduce to you a whole new level in platforming torture. Once discovered in the main level the alternative B-side levels provides some truly pain staking traversal that demands pinpoint perfection. The satisfaction upon completing these levels is like an addictive drug. The post game content for Celeste is overall very generous.
While you’re playing Celeste you can’t help but notice the haunting and atmospheric soundtrack. It really helped me ease my frustration while playing the more challenging levels. It’s obvious that Matt Makes Games Inc. values Lena Raine’s soundtrack by having a Soundcloud excerpt of her soundtrack on Celeste’s homepage.
What sets Celeste apart is it’s uplifting and emotional story that is totally unheard of in this genre of games. Simply put Celeste deals with anxiety and depression but how the story deals with this complex illness will most likely strike a cord with every player. It’s also what motivates you to keep on playing, any other game the goal would be tangible but here it’s deeply personal. All Mario has to do is grab the top of that flagpole, for Madeline she has to deal with her personal struggles along the way. This is portrayed effectively when riding a cable car to the next level and the cable car shakes side to side this is all due to Madeline’s dark side, her amalgamation of negative feelings make her believe this is happening. Poor Madeline is helpless and has a panic attack, her friend Theo however comforts her by having her picturing a feather gently fluttering in the breeze. You, the player have to keep the feather afloat. It’s a sweet moment and the feather is even used as an empowering tool within the gameplay letting you fly temporarily. The way Matt Makes Games Inc. incorporated this theme within Celeste is beautiful.
Celeste is definitely worth checking out for those longing for a meaningful challenge. It’s very much Super Meat Boy but with more soul. The difficulty drives you around the bend at parts and I would’ve loved a multiplayer option with a friend playing as Theo to provide that helping hand but these problems are mostly due to my shortcomings and not the design of such a well-crafted, tight little platformer with a lot of heart.
Celeste is available to download on Steam (PC or Mac), Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One for £17.99
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