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Celeste review
Exceptional
by JustCozzie

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»
Serge Ulankin
What a great review, thank you!
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Other reviews31

Celeste is like a jigsaw puzzle. That may seem obvious because Celeste is a puzzle-platformer but that is the best way I can think of that summarizes the entire game. Half of the battle is finding out how to fit pieces together, and the other is to actually fit them together. In real puzzles, these parts aren’t really that difficult, you grab a piece, see where it fits maybe by looking at the picture on the box, and attach it to the other pieces. In Celeste, both of these parts are more complex.

Not only does Celeste have more complex pieces: jumping, moving left and right, dashing in eight directions, climbing walls, and many level gimmicks; fitting them together requires precise timing and execution.

 While I think anyone who is interested in platformers should give Celeste a try, there are some things that could prevent some from enjoying it. The base moveset that the player has could possibly be too simple to keep your attention for the game’s whole runtime. I think that the level gimmicks make up for this but you may think the opposite. The game is difficult, especially towards the endgame. It is guaranteed that you will die over and over again, maybe even on the same screen. The story is one that I wouldn’t call stellar and I don’t think you should play Celeste just for the story. And the game doesn’t really have a reward for finishing its most difficult tasks, it rewards you with more challenges.

Though the biggest problem I have with Celeste, and the only reason I can’t recommend it to everyone is that it doesn't teach some mechanics to the player, and when it does teach you mechanics through its level design, it is not always clear. Continuing with the puzzle analogy, it's like someone taking some of the pieces when you weren't looking, you’d probably have to try out every piece to see if it fits before you realize that one piece is missing. Since Celeste requires careful execution to do this, it could lead to frustrating times for some players.

But when all of the pieces are laid out, Celeste becomes very rewarding, it does so not by giving the player more abilities or skills to play with but with even more challenges to overcome. It gets extremely difficult, but it is still a game that wants you to beat it. Celeste’s best moments really come from beating what at first seemed like insurmountable tasks. If you like that sort of thing in video games and are into platformers, then I highly recommend giving Celeste a shot.
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i love this game but god its so fucking hard
«Blew my mind»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
making mental illness my bestie
«Blew my mind»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
Celeste is a punishing platformer with good character development.  You will die over and over again, but the sense of accomplishment in victory will feel earned.  One of the better 2D games I’ve played in recent years.  
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
This is only the second platformer that I finished and It feels so satisfying to finish finally ( after 17 hours).  The story made it feel a bit more than levels stuck together and that is amazing. playing on a controller is a bit wonky as it is hard to always go cross dash or horizontal dash. Everything else about the game was exceptional.
«Blew my mind»
«Can’t stop playing»
Concise Review:
A well made platformer with very challenging and creative puzzles that somehow managed to not be frustrating even though I died hundred of times on every level. The story was way more insightful than it had any business being.

Journal Style Review:
I never play 2D platformers but I’m going to give this one a shot. First 30 minutes were alright. 

Just finished chapter 3. I heard that this game was somehow related to some type of mental health and I can see what they are talking about. The short interactions with characters are well written and pretty on point a lot of the time. Not necessarily saying anything that’s ground breaking, but its talking about depression and self hate and the negative ways we can often think about life and people. The symbolism is right in your face a lot of the time but so far I’ve found it very effective.

The challenges themselves have been reasonably entertaining, again I don’t typically play these types of games. The question will be how often am I frustrated Vs how often I feel that sense of accomplishment from sticking a series of moves. So far the frustration has been minimal even though I died 183 times during chapter 3. The checkpoints have been frequent enough to limit the frustration. I also often feel the deaths are my mistakes.

I don’t think this will be a sit down and play for a long time game. I think 30 mins to an hour and that’s all I would need per session.

Chapter 4 was difficult but quite fun. That ending with the feather breathing was actually pretty cool.
This game has surpassed my early expectations. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this game. Especially since I disliked braid so much. This is much better. 

I got stuck in chapter 5 which was frustrating because I didn’t know where to go. I had to google it eventually and the answer made me feel a bit dumb. Still, it’s always a bummer when you have to google where to go in a game.

I’m impressed by the platforming gameplay. I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. This isn’t saying a ton since I had very low expectations. But it has surpassed them. This is a fun little game to play 30 mins here and there.

I just finished chapter 6. It was my favourite so far. Wow these platforming challenges are getting difficult but incredibly satisfying. I’m really quite impressed. Somehow they (for the most part) havnt made me frustrated yet even though I die a bunch. The game has a great feel as well. The story is touching. It actually is a beautiful game if you listen to what it has to say. I didn’t think I’d feel that way.

Beat the game. It’s the greatest 2D platformer I’ve ever played. I think it’s the only 2D platformer I’ve played (not counting Braid, only played for like 40 mins and didn’t like it), but I can still see why it got such great reviews. Surpassed my expectations for sure. The B+ score is because platformers are low on my favourite genre list. This game was exceptional and I would recommend to anyone who actually plays a lot of platformers.

Final Score: B+
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10/10
«Blew my mind»
«Just one more turn»
This.....is the best game I've ever played
«Blew my mind»
«Just one more turn»
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!! 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍🌈💖💖🥺🥺