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Celeste review
by Tzeelim

Controls, visuals, and music are solid and all together this makes a mind-blowing quality of level and character design. I am a huge fan of Towerfall and had great hopes for this game, and my expectations were beaten.

Celeste is a masterpiece of platformers, and to me this was the first one that could nail both storytelling and gameplay. I loved it more than all recent Super Meat Boy or Mario titles. It plays great on Switch too, it feels like a perfect home for this game.

Other reviews23

The mountain climbing adventure of Celeste is magical and perfectly addresses really intimate topics. Madeline's trip is accompanied by beautiful music and extremely difficult platforming. The base game isn't too challenging, but post-game content is brutal and spikes in difficulty to the nth degree.
very nice
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
my baby girl is trans!! 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈💖💖🥺🥺
Celeste could have been better. It's a classic example of how level design can go terribly wrong, preventing a good game from becoming a great game.

For what it's worth, I'm a veteran to the genre of platformers, and I completed all b-sides, c-sides, and Chapter 9 (Farewell). 

I'll start by saying that Celeste has a fantastic movement kit. It's a very good example of "easy to pick up and difficult to master." The Dash feels great, and on the Switch, it has great haptic feedback. The developers put a lot of time and effort into tweaking the timing of the dash to make it really shine. It's what makes this game good. The technical tricks like "wavedashing", perfectly timed jumps out of bubbles, and dashing into wall jumps feel great to use and add some much needed depth to the basic platforming. These also allow for some pretty cool tricks when getting through levels in a quick way. There is "hyperdashing", however, that feels horribly inconsistent and more like a glitch than an actual intended mechanic. 

The controls are the first major issue. The developers decided that using "raw input" for the joystick would be best, forgoing the usual Quality of Life additions that other platformers use to make sure you go left when you press left and right when you press right. This resulted in a frustrating experience on some levels where I accidentally dash diagonally when I want to dash left/right. It took a very long time for me to train up the precision necessary to avoid doing this, and I still do it from time to time. The most confusing part is they acknowledge this issue in interviews and in design, even making the downward dash have a smaller input on the joystick than the diagonals, but refuse to actually implement any sort of fix. 

The controls I could mark up to the Nintendo Switch. Perhaps it was a quirk of the joy-cons and would be better with the Pro Controller (it is) or with the joy-con d-pad (which has its own issues with diagonal inputs). The level design, however, is what turns Celeste from a fun, technical experience into a frustrating one.

The levels in the base game are appropriate level of difficulty. A few screens are really tough to pass with all the Strawberries (Celeste's optional collectible item). The level design does a great job of teaching the player how to play the game. Many b-sides are even appropriately difficult, teaching the player the more technical, "hidden" mechanics very well. However, a vast majority of the content in the game after the credits role will be an exercise in frustration. Levels begin to require insanely precise movements, with spikes and obstacles that only serve to make the timing required even more precise. In Farewell (the final Chapter added to the game as DLC), almost every single screen will take tens, if not hundreds of tries to pass. Some particularly egregious examples include 3 to 4 minute long levels that restart if you fail anyone on the way, or a level that requires 6 wavedashes in succession, one of which requires almost frame perfect inputs to execute. I could go on and on with examples of frustratingly difficult level design, with spikes and hazards added everywhere. Just know that most of the really challenging levels will be exercises in muscle memory, not your platforming ability. 

To address all these issues, this is what I'll say: not every platformer needs to be Super Meat Boy level of difficulty. Meat Boy was a novelty. It wasn't "good" design by any stretch of the imagination. It was just difficult for difficulty's sake. Take a step back and realize that, while difficulty and speedrunning have their place, it's not a good idea to make that mandatory. While I realize that Celeste's difficulty lies in its "post-game" content, the game is simply too short to call that optional. This is good for those who like the challenge (like me), but bad for basically everyone else. It makes Celeste a great "spectator sport", but not a great game.

There are enough puzzles in this game to make the puzzle design worth mentioning. To acquire each Crystal Heart (another rare collectible, one per level) you must solve a riddle of sorts. By and large, the puzzles are done well. There are a couple really well done puzzles, but also a couple really poorly done puzzles. One of the worst offenders is a puzzle that requires knowledge of Super Mario Bros 3 eastereggs/speedrun strategies to solve.

The art, music, and animations are all great: great pixel art, very varied and interesting environments, some solid tracks (and some not so solid tracks), and smooth animations. The story, on the other hand, is elementary, but likes to pretend it's more insightful than it is. Madeline, the protagonist, suffers from depression. Celeste Mountain gives form to her dark inner self (dubbed "Badeline" by the community) that hampers her progress. Madeline must make amends with herself in order to climb the mountain. There's another character, Theo, that is a caricature of modern social-media obsessed youth. This is portrayed as a positive thing, so I'm not sure if it was intended to be a caricature or if the writers are just that bad. The story, if it were written in another medium, would be appropriate for young children. Here, it simply feels out of place. At the very least, it does its job of pushing the game forward well. 

Overall, Celeste was enjoyable to complete the first time. When going back and completing the challenges, I had to take it in short bursts to avoid both the frustration and the hand cramps that resulted from the difficulty and precision required. I would recommend Celeste to two different demographics. Firstly, people who want a simple, short, platforming experience. The base game is short, but appropriately challenging, and the challenges can even be fun if you are picky about which ones you play. Secondly, to veterans of the genre who want a challenging, if frustrating, experience. There's not much room in between these two extremes, unfortunately.
There is no denying the beauty and charm of Celeste, visually and audibility stunning all around. And while the platforming is solid it leaves a lot to be desired personally. Thankfully the developers included resources needed to see the story through to the end no matter your skill level. 
«OST on repeat»
One of the hardest games I've ever played. And at the same time, one of the most addictive and fun.

When I first bought it, I was afraid it would have the same effect in me that Hollow Knight had (which I completely gave up on, because it was way too hard and rage-inducing) But I was completely wrong.

Where Hollow knight fails for me, is the fact that the risk of dying is overwhelmingly huge and frustrating. And Celeste, while still super challenging and hard, everytime you die, it's just an "oopsie" and you go back to the beginning of the current screen.

Not to mention all the characters, dialogue, and interactions are super charming, fun, and cute.
story is whole, gameplay is enthralling, but spent some time learning the controls. + some moments were exhausting
characters are a little chatty and an ending area is walled off behind an obscenely difficult prerequisite, but other than that, this game is pretty much perfect. an amazing achievement on many fronts and a true must-play.
Translated by
Microsoft from French
Celeste will be my last platformer. I'm not old enough for that, obviously. Everything is going too fast, and I need dozens or even hundreds of tests to pass a screen that my son spends in 3 or 5 attempts. Just for forcing me to this realization, my vote is negative. But not that. Good. Now the good points: * it's pretty. That's what made me buy the game. * The structure of the game is well thought out. I appreciated that once a level is over, I am told what "strawberries" I missed and that I can replay part of the level only. * Puzzles are usually nice, not too easy, not too hard. Well I still looking for the cassette of level 2... But other than that, it's okay. And the bad points: * that's a lot, way too hard for me. I'm coming towards the end of the game, I think, but I spent a lot of time, probably about three times too much. And most of all, so much of that time was an effort rather than a fun one. When you die ten, ving, a hundred times in a row on the same passage, it comes to hate the game, and to say that it should be better to stop than to continue to get excited. I am reduced to playing a quarter of an hour or half an hour maximum a day, and even on such short times, only the first five are fun. The rest is atrocious. * It's barely a platformer. Everything is so fast that I can't react to what happens to the character. If I wait to see where it is to move, I die. This means that it is impossible to correct an error, but in any case, the game is not made for that. Each screen is intended to be passed in a certain way, with a certain chain of buttons, and not otherwise. (Well, it's a speedrun game, so I guess finding alternative paths is part of the game's charm, but I'm not playing that lens there. I can't afford it anyway.) In short, in the end, you have to learn by heart the sequence of buttons and movements that lead to the end of the screen. So it's... a rhythm game, and not a platformer. And I don't like rhythm games. :(* Finally, the big black dot of the game are his orders. Celeste's movements are at 360 °, with finesse in the direction and speed of movements. EXCEPT for sprints, which they are made according to 8 directions. The interface hesitates between directional cross and stick. I died an untold number of times because Celeste left right or top while I wanted to go diagonally, top right. Or conversely, she left diagonally while I wanted to go straight. In Celeste, it's not the intrintu difficulty of the levels that kills me, with a few exceptions. I know quickly where to go and how to get there. No, what kills me is diagonal errors or rhythm errors. I was able to pass and iron the same screens dozens of times waiting to get to the end without Celeste leaving in the cabbage because she does not understand where I want her to go, without she misses a target for a rhythm error of one hundredth of a second , and without, to be honest, that I do not crash between (yet few) buttons to use. You may guess that I am writing this criticism out of a particularly frustrating part of Celeste. But it's not just a blood stroke. It was built over (too) many painful hours. Alas, Celeste's flaws are inscribed in her DNA and cannot be corrected by a patch. It is a game that is designed to be hard, intended for talented and motivated players who will spend hours there. This is not a game for me.
I thought I didn't like platformers, but turns out I just hadn't played Celeste yet.
Out of all the game's features its basic gameplay is probably the least talked about but it's by far the biggest reason Celeste clicked with me like no other 2D platformer. From the start you are given a mid-air dash which forms the basis of most of the challenges and, compared to a regular platformer's double jump, gives a huge amount of mobility and freedom of movement by letting you completely change direction in mid-air. This difference is amplified even further by the level hazards which, by a huge majority, give you EXTRA mobility instead of taking it away. Where a typical platformer might ramp up difficulty by taking away your abilities or slowing you down with things like icy/sticky floors Celeste instead challenges you to develop the reflexes and precision to deal with objects that boost your jumps or let you shoot across the screen. Without fail they're exceptionally fun.

Coupled with the speed of respawning after death (just a simple black transition and you're back in position to try again) that quick pace of gameplay means I never felt the frustration that normally accompanies a platformer because I was just enjoying the moment-to-moment gameplay (the music definitely helped too) even when certain sections took upwards of 50 attempts. It helps of course that the game is structured in a very smart way: playing through it normally lets you get the full story but, if you can find them, there are optional B-Sides and C-Sides - infinitely harder levels which follow the same theme but for those that enjoy challenge over story. The game wins big points for that in my book because it means I could happily put it down when I DID start getting that platformer frustration (at the exceptionally bullshit B-Side below) without having to slog through something I wasn't enjoying any more to see the end of the story, tarnishing my opinion of the game.
The story is, itself, something to commend; it never takes away the spotlight from the gameplay but manages to make the few characters intensely likeable in the short time you spend with them. One of them even has their own real-life Instagram that serves as prologue and an epilogue, all at once. Each character has a defined personality that serves to drive both Madeline and the player in their goal of climbing Celeste Mountain and any themes that are brought up are tackled in such a way that they affect both story and gameplay equally. I'm a huge fan of how Madeline's mental state is depicted throughout - it leads to some beautiful sprite-work as well as all my favourite setpiece moments in a game punctuated by great setpiece moments.

The biggest complaint I had playing Celeste was not even really the fault of the game itself. I played on the Switch version and the Joy-Con's analogue stick caused much exasperation when it came to the mid-air dashing I was singing the praises of earlier. Madeline's dash has 8 directions (up, down, left, right, and the diagonals) and I found that, even after completing the game, getting the right one still wasn't COMPLETELY reliable, with about a 1 in 10 chance I'd shoot off in a different direction to an almost guaranteed death. This is a game that would be intrinsically better with a D-pad over an analogue stick and that's just unfortunately not an option on most modern platforms. Surprisingly though one of the options that would alleviate the problem - control customisation - is completely absent. If I could've rebound diagonal boosts to the shoulder buttons it would've completely fixed my complaint, but the option is conspicuously absent in a game that is heralded for it's accessibility.

Accessibility is something the game does fairly well, with a suite of options from adjusting the game speed for slower reflexes to straight up invincibility, but despite the actual options being good it's an area I don't think lives up to the praise it's been given. That's because to use any of these options you have to know you'll want to use them before starting the game, you can't turn them on in an already started save file, so if you managed to finish the main game without problem but then need a bit of help to clear the B-sides your only option is to turn them on in a different save file and replay back to where you were. It's a baffling decision in a game that is, in almost every other way, impeccably designed.

One of those ways is level design. which was the biggest surprise I had coming out of Celeste. I've played games with good level design before, even great level design, but Celeste nails the ramping-up of difficulty, escalation of tension, and reward for exploring in a way that's truly rare. Level structure is much less linear than you'd expect from a game with the goal of going straight up a mountain - landing about a third of the way towards Castlevania on the Mario-Castlevania scale - but it uses that mantra of "just gotta reach the summit" to ground you, making sure you never lose your bearings no matter how branching the path gets because, if in doubt, you only need to head upwards. One thoughtful touch I really appreciated was that in the most convolutedly intricate level of the game there are little lanterns that light up when you get close. They serve no gameplay purpose other than to show you where you've already been, helping to stop you getting disoriented.

It's all those small touches of considerate game design and heart that come together to make it very hard to NOT recommend Celeste to anyone looking for at least 10 hours or so of tight and rewarding platforming. Even those like me who thought that was exactly what they didn't want.

«Constantly dying and enjoy it»