Review – Celeste
Celeste is a 2D platformer that follows Madeline, a normal everyday girl that tasks herself with climbing Celeste mountain. It’s a simple set-up that most platformers would go for, but Celeste surprised me because it went beyond just that. It’s a story about depression and about facing your fears.
Madeline’s occasionally joined by a small cast of characters that have their own reasons for being at Celeste mountain with their own personal issues. The story is incredibly well told and the interactions often contain very touching moments, especially towards the end of the story.
Celeste‘s gameplay is nothing short of amazing. The simple control scheme makes it easy to pick up, but the amount of depth makes it much more difficult to master. Controlling Madeline feels fluid and responsive. She has a basic jump that, when held, causes her to jump a little higher; a dash that allows her to make more distance; and a grab that allows her to grab hold of walls and climb. The depth in the gameplay shines through as the levels get more complex and you start needing to think of creative ways to overcome them.
The game’s main story is split up into 7 chapters, and every chapter is unique in sound, visuals, and what new mechanics it brings forward for you to learn. In one chapter you’ll have to deal with strong winds, which will heavily effect Madeline’s movement. Whereas in another chapter, platforms will move whenever you perform a dash. It keeps things fresh and never really overuses one mechanic.
You will die in Celeste, though. A lot. Throughout the 8 hours it took for me to complete the story and some additional content I died well over 2000 times. And no, that’s not abnormal for a playthrough. Yet, despite the death toll, it was never frustrating thanks to the intelligent level design and no waiting times between deaths. You just get popped right back to the start immediately. For those who want to experience the story but worry the game will be too hard for them, don’t worry, the developers have implemented a simple but creative tool that allows you to tweak a number of settings, including game speeds and Madeline’s stamina.
Once you’ve actually finished the story, it’s not over yet. There’s a ton of replay value and additional content to play through. After the credits roll, an extra hard 8th chapter will unlock, and it’ll really put your skills to the test. On top of this, there are a bunch of collectibles to find and B-Side and C-Side tapes which ramp the difficulty up even further for each chapter. These require incredibly precise movement and timing to complete, but are also incredibly satisfying when you get through tough areas. Celeste could very well keep you busy for many hours if you’re a completionist.
Graphically, Celeste is stunning. The pixel art is simple, but effective. Each of the game’s chapters feel distinctive, partly due to the fact they look unique and have their own atmosphere. My only gripe is the occasional wall or ledge that looks like its part of the level but isn’t. Luckily, this doesn’t happen often enough to become a serious problem.
The sound design is some of the best I’ve heard in years. Instead of spoken dialogue the characters will spew out a line of gibberish that I wasn’t a fan of at first, but it grew on me when I realised it was reflecting the state of a character’s mind. The soundtrack itself is atmospheric and really sets the tone for the stage, then ramps up for the action when it’s needed.
I wasn’t expecting much when I went into Celeste and I came out pleasantly surprised by the touching story and top tier platforming level design. One of the best games of the year so far!
The pixel art is stunning and every area looks distinctive.
Tight and responsive controls make controlling Madeline a joy.
The sound design is great all around and truly helps immerse the player into the world.
Fun Factor: 9.5
Even after countless deaths in particularly brutal areas, you’ll still be having fun.
Final Verdict: 9.5
Reviewed on PC.
Celeste is available now on PC, Switch, Xbox One and PS4.