When Celeste was released earlier this year I noticed it gained traction surprisingly quickly on /r/NintendoSwitch so I was keen to check it out. Funny enough, when the game was announced during the Nintendo Mini-Direct alongside Fe I was actually more interested in the former, but as the tables turned I’ve now beaten Celeste (not 100%) and haven’t even touched Fe yet. Be warned, as this entry will include spoilers regarding the storyline so if you don’t want to see that then feel free to read this at another time.
The storyline of Celeste centers around a woman named Madeline in her quest to reach the peak of Celeste Mountain. During her travels, she stumbles upon several side-characters that she gets more aquainted with as the journey progresses. The game also tackles elements such as anxiety and depression, and takes quite a realistic approach in doing so. The dialogue is very well-written, and quite humorous at times as well. The characters are likable. It all really comes together and adds to the charm that in turn keeps the player invested and motivated to push onwards.
Celeste looks very visually pleasing, in my opinion. Backgrounds are nicely fleshed out, the colors are vibrant, the character designs are very true to their concept design and I especially like how they’re displayed in the dialogue prompts. The attention to detail is reminiscent of Shovel Knight. I had no frame drops throughout my playthrough either, the game is silky smooth in that regard. Overall, I have no complaints concerning the presentation of this game.
For me, the gameplay is another aspect that really shines through with Celeste. It’s a hards-as-nails 2D platformer, think Super Meat Boy or I Wanna Be The Guy style of gameplay in a way. The thing that gets me with Celeste’s gameplay though, is that it feels incredibly fair throughout.
The level design is intricate enough to teach players how to navigate through the screens by introducing new gimmicks without being overbearing. It gives you time to adapt to a new style, and then ups the ante once you’ve got the hang of things. Along with really tight controls, it ends up being that much more satisfying in terms of truly feeling in control of your actions. Every death feels like your fault as opposed to being a cheap trick played by the game at your expense. On top of that, for newcomers who aren’t used to slightly unforgiving platformers there’s an assist mode that allows you to add handicaps of sorts such as changing the in-game speed and making Madeline invulnerable.
As you scale the mountain, your deaths symbolise the effort you’ve put into reaching the top with Madeline and it’s almost as though your goals intertwine. It’s similar to a Dark Souls mentoring approach.
I wouldn’t usually add this category, but in terms of sheer replayability this game is jam-packed with extra content. Dispite the main campaign not being the longest thing out there, there’s tons of addition challenges. Optional collectibles such as Strawberries are placed in each level waiting to be collected, and some of them are a nightmare to collect. The game even outright states “these are just for impressing your friends”, leaving the choice of putting in the extra work in your hands.
Alongside the Strawberries, there’s also cassette tapes that can prove to be quite tough to find. However, if you manage you’ll unlock a whole new version of the world you were referred to as a “B-Side”. From there on you can even unlock a “C-side” if you’re so inclined. Now, the difficulty does get pretty high once you decide the tackle the B and C-sides, so do expect an insane amount of deaths if you decide to tackle these optional bonus worlds.
Another fact worth keeping in mind is the existence of Crystal Hearts. I believe there are eight in total, and honestly you might need a guide to find some of them because a few are them are very well hidden. In fact, collecting some of these opens an optional additional chapter so it might well be worth the effort to find them.
Finally, in one of the chapters there’s a prototype of the original game hidden somewhere I won’t specify. It was a nice touch of the developers to include it as a nod to the game’s original roots. You can really see how much it has truly progressed since then.
I enjoyed this game so much more than I initially thought I would. Kudos to the dev team for starting off the gaming year of 2018 so well! I’ve heard talks about a potential level editor being added later on via a patch, and I’d love to tinker around with that. For $20, Celeste is a steal in my opinion.