In this week’s game review, we will be talking about Celeste, created by Matt Makes Games. It’s an epic platformer that challenges you to be at the top of your game! There are likely to be more than a few mountain puns in this blog post so I apologize in advance. If you haven’t heard about Celeste, what rock have you been hiding under? With a 94/100 Metacritic score for XONE as of the date of this article, Celeste has been positively reviewed across the board by IGN, Game Informer, and more. What’s more, by the end of 2018, it had sold half a million copies and it’s been nominated for 30 separate awards, winning 9 from all around the world! That is an incredible achievement for an independently developed game! Check out the full details of its reviews and accolades on its Wikipedia page here.
Without giving away too much of the plot, the main character Madeline sets out on an adventure to find herself by climbing a mountain. She finds herself in a ghost town with very few companions on the way. Early on, she meets Granny, who seems to mock her and laughs at her need to climb the mountain. Next she meets Theo, who is lighthearted and addicted to social media. He is kind though and wishes her well on her climb, as he is also climbing. As she makes her way through the mysterious mountain, Madeline comes across a mirror. The mirror breaks, and a Part of Madeline escapes. Eventually, this results in an epic chase through what seems to be a dreamscape of a tunnel or cave in the mountain. After the chase, Madeline wakes up. But fear not, Part of Madeline will return, for better or worse. Madeline also encounters Mr. Oshiro, the slob of a hotel owner who also appears to be a ghost. Like any great story telling game, Madeline’s encounters with each character tend to reveal more and more about herself. She apparently has panic attacks and struggles with knowing what she wants. These character traits speak deeply to the generation of millennials the game is catered to. It gave me a sense of connection to her character that she has such realistic flaws in a game that is otherwise very unrealistic.
Celeste is a side-scrolling platformer with a puzzle twist. Each level consists of small sections, if you will, in which you must figure out how to make it through without dying (there are no shortage of ways to die). If you die, rather than starting at the beginning of the entire level you begin again on the small section you have been working on. Speaking for myself, even once I had figured out how to make it through a section, it still required very precise controls and quite a bit of focus for me to get through them. Something I was very impressed with was how thematically sound the game is. Yes, there are things that would never happen in real life, like dashing through the air or flying with a golden feather. But like in real life climbing, you cannot infinitely hang onto walls, eventually you will tire and fall. There are some levels where the wind speeds will send you flying unless you traverse with care. Additionally, each of the levels contain several items to pick up, strawberries, B-side cassettes, and crystal hearts. Going after these items are certain to up the overall death count in the game, but the crystal hearts and B-side cassettes can also grant you bonus levels you would otherwise be unable to play. Speaking of death counts, something I thoroughly enjoyed was watching my numbers rise. It seems unique to this game, but once you have completed a level it tells you the number of times your character died over the entire level. In the first couple of chapters I died around 200 times a piece. By the end of the game? I had died nearly 5000 times. Like most games nowadays, there are tips on loading screens. In Celeste, these come in the form of postcards. One tip that really stood out to me was to appreciate the death count, as every time you die, you are learning something. Pretty sure I should have been a genius by the end...
To say this game is hardcore would be an understatement. If you decide that the base game is not hard enough, and you decide to go poking around each of the levels, you can find a B-side puzzle. If you can make it through to get the B-side tape at the end of each puzzle, you will unlock of B-side version of each level. These are harder than the original levels, though considerably shorter, they also feature a remix of the levels original soundtrack. This was a nice touch by the creators, they even give credit to the artists who remixed the songs at the beginning of each B-side level. Beating all of the B-side levels unlocks the C-side. Reportedly, these are about as difficult as they can get. I haven’t made it there yet though, as my fingers are still bleeding from making it through the base game.
Built in, there are also some extras that can either help you through, or challenge yourself even more. There is an assist mode in which you can lower the challenge by slowing the game down, grant yourself invincibility, give yourself endless stamina, and skip chapters. On the other hand, you could also enable the speedrun clock, if you need to see your time in an attempt to set records. Though, through the main menu, you can see that the game is keeping track of your overall speeds though each level. I really enjoyed going and looking through the diary there, as it gives a fairly granular look at everything you have done so far in the game.
Overall, this is fantastic game to try out. It has a great storyline, and you can sense that the developers really want you to learn something. The entire experience makes you feel like you are actually climbing a mountain. In order to finish, you must persevere. Just finishing the later chapters are rare achievements on Xbox, so most players (like most climbers) do not reach the summit. If you have had your eye on this game, or if it is just hanging out in your library, I implore you to try it. The sense of triumph from finishing is well worth it, and you will be figuratively standing on top of a mountain!
What game have you tried that made you feel like this? Are there challenging situations in your life that gaming has helped you learn to overcome? Let me know in the comments, and if there’s anything else you’d like to see reviewed or a topic you are interested in, let me know. Until next time…
Nap time=game time