So you’re still reading? We could have saved each other a lot of time here. Alas, the story is something which took me by complete surprise. We are talking about a story which covers relationships, psychological issues, the effects of Social Media and other important subjects which we can all relate too in this modern world. I certainly didn’t expect this from a 2D platformer with cute looking characters. From the moment you meet the old lady in her wood cabin and you read the dialogue, you know you in for something a little special. It’s a story I thoroughly enjoyed and one which drew me into this vivid world upon the mountain. A journey of self-discovery which makes you think about your own life and not what’s just going on in the game. It was like I was on this journey with Madeline which is an absolute triumph to the writing which has gone into this game. I can appreciate that for some the dialogue may be a little too much but you can skip if needed.
Those piano notes which play at just the right time and make everything on the mountain sound so mystical. The music choice for the game was absolutely nailed. I enjoyed every note. Sound effects are also great when characters speak, there is a made up little language which just adds to the charm of this game. The jumps and dashes all sound spot on and the music which plays between dialogue really just draws you even further in. The wind on the mountain top makes it seem like a cold, natural stunning place.
Visuals and Performance
Celeste has a similar type aesthetic in terms of the backgrounds to Slain Back from Hell. For me, it’s a massive compliment because I felt Slain was a good looking game but this goes a step further with how vivid everything looks and how the backgrounds always have something going on again making everything feel almost like it has a lifelike quality. I love the way it snows on the mountain, or when you get to a log cabin and there is a fire outside burning and crackling. Chapter four for me is stunning, with yellows, purples and blues used to beautiful effect. While it snows and the wind blows and we take our character jumping through the clouds. Stunning!
I really liked how our character shows through the little animations if she is struggling to hold onto a ledge by shaking, showing you are about to fall to your death, or how her hair changes colour when she has performed a dash.This is actually a very important signal. When her hair changes from red to blue it means her dash move has been used and won’t reset until you hit the floor or a mid air regeneration pad so use the dash move wisely.
Everything about Madeline is shown to you the player so you can judge how best to keep her alive. The cut scenes do a fantastic job of showing the emotions of the characters through their facial expressions. Each chapter looks really different to the last which is a testament to the designers.
Can you remember?
Oh, Celeste how I have been waiting for a game like this for what seems like years. More often than not you expect great things from a game. The premise of the story or the gameplay is that it’s going to offer something amazing, more often than not games never fulfil the hyperbole from the marketers.
I have often thought, and apologies for going out on a slight tangent here, that some games seem to have something special which is not always easy to put your finger as to why you feel so much for them. Why they become ingrained in the mind for you to remember with fond memories far into the future. Think about how many games you have played and then think about how many of them you actually remember and why that is. Close your eyes and take a moment. What did you come up with? I am betting that your memory will recall a few games that were truly special to you and will stay with you as an experience forever.
This is going to be good!
As soon as Celeste loaded up, I felt it was going to be good, part of it was the music, the other part was the visuals although pixelated, do a great job to make you feel like you are somewhere mystical, it also has charm but that’s not all this game has going for it.
What else is it about this game, that just grabs you and never let’s go? We hear a lot about games which are simple in the Indie scene but don’t offer enough depth. We have seen many games like that already on Switch, where after a few hours you are done with the game. After all, why should this be any different when all you have is a few moves at your disposal?
Our Protagonist can jump and then dash through the air once in eight directions. She can cling to walls and climb them by holding the trigger on the joypad. She can also jump back off walls in the opposite direction. This game is not about defeating enemies so there are no power-ups and your character will not get stronger as you go on. This is all about you against the mountain and overcoming each chapter made up of rooms with your platforming skills. This mountain is an absolute monster which will gobble you up and spit you out at every opportunity. The only respite is the story scenes! I would say that by the time you complete the game, you can print off a certificate for yourself and be a certified jump and dash expert.
Each chapter consists of a number of rooms, some rooms are still and some are scrolling, You will have to work out how to get to the next room by performing a number of jumps, dashes and climbs without succumbing to the traps which are all placed in a very clever way. You can die in multiple ways and death is a very likely occurrence. Not only is it likely but it should be applauded because it means you will have learned something. It means that next time you will improve and get a little further.
Your character doesn’t get stronger but you as the player get better the more you play and learn. There are spikes, chasms, ledges that disappear, traps and some enemies to avoid but the challenge is not in combat but in overcoming the levels themselves. The game has this perfect blend of challenge but it’s not so hard that you won’t be able to complete any given room, you will have to persevere through. Die and you respawn instantly to try again from the beginning of the room. Some deaths from time to time feel a little unfair but mostly they will be down to a misstep and the players fault.
Its all about the levels
I really enjoyed how this game is all about the levels and how each one has a different mechanic adding challenges even though you still have the same basic moves you started out with. Some levels will require an extra dash but you are only afforded one per jump. There are dash regeneration pads located in mid-air which you just have to touch. You will need to use these to perform double dashes to get past some of the more complex rooms which make for some very tense acrobats.
The elation felt is incredible especially when you died about 200 times just to get to the next part of the chapter. The game, by the way, is not shy about showing you your death tally! There are platforms which, when jumped on, shoot across the screen. You have to time your jump so it propels you further so you can grab that wall while having to jump back to reach that ledge and climb up to another room or passage. One wrong move and the sequence has to be performed again. Honestly, it feels like you are rehearsing to perform the perfect gymnastic routine at times which is awesome when perfected. Not that you have a choice as otherwise, it’s death.
Chapter two sees some odd looking transparent black patches which you can shoot through at great speeds to reach places you would not otherwise be able to reach, shoot into a wall though and it’s certain death so directing Madeline is crucial. The game is impressive in how it is constantly able to evolve. Some levels require you to go through them at a frantic pace and these are its version of boss battles. You have no time to think as you are getting chased down and will have to perform jumps and dashes really quickly. These parts are seriously tense and frustrating when you die as you have to start from the beginning but once achieved feel fantastic.
Controlling our protagonist is an absolute joy, everything just feels right and it’s spot on which it needs to be when jumps and dashes must be precise. Worth noting on the switch version is how the game makes use of the HD rumble, every jump signifies a little rumble and every dash uses the rumble to to immerse you even more. As you progress further up the mountain the challenges get stiffer as you might expect. Along the way, you will meet a bunch of characters which I am not going to spoil, suffice to say the dialogue is excellently written and I found myself identifying with many of the issues discussed and talked about. What I loved the most is how the whole atmosphere of the game comes together to create something which feels more substantial and controlling Madeline further up the mountain is an emotional and joyous experience.
There are secrets hidden through the game for those of you looking for a sterner challenge. Strawberries, like Bandages in Super Meat Boy, are hidden throughout each chapter and sometimes are in plain sight. The ones which are staring you in the face and look simple to get rarely are and will require you to probably die many times before you are successful in acquiring the strawberry. Oh and just touching it and dying is not going to cut it! You have to get to a safe platform before the strawberry registers.
Keep a lookout for those B-Side tapes as well, find one of these and you get to play a more challenging version of the chapter. B-Side tapes are hidden in every chapter and after completing the game, going back to complete the B-Side of the level is where the real challenge is. If you thought the game itself was hard to wait until you try these out, you are in for a shock! It’s also a fantastic way to show how far you have come and how much has been learned. When I started Celeste I thought it was difficult until I learned each part of the level. It’s only when playing the B side levels that I realised how much harder it could be and how much more I still had to practice.
The music switches on the B side levels and you know you are in for it! There are tons of secrets hidden in parts of the mountain which are not always obvious so exploring is key if you want to complete the game perfectly. For those who like speed, you can also turn on the speed timer in the options menu and speed run every chapter if you so desire.