Pixelated indie platformers are not necessarily games that I gravitate towards, but I have been wanting to play Celeste ever since learning about the game that was originally released in late-January 2018. However, I’ve never managed to do so, for one reason or another. So, you can imagine my delight upon learning that the game was becoming free-to-play on the Epic Games Store this past weekend. It’s hardly a surprise at this point, seeing as how the game sits at an average rating of 91 on Metacritic across all platforms, but Celeste is one of the indie gaming’s finest achievements through its precise controls and surprisingly deep narrative.
Taking On The Mountain
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, Celeste centers around a girl named Madeline who, despite multiple (often otherworldly) warnings, decides to climb the treacherous, obstacle-filled Celeste Mountain. She meets a few various characters along the way, some of whom wish to help her, while others are more of a hindrance than anything. Madeline must face her own mental health issues in order to continue her journey, lest Celeste Mountain consumes her whole.
While the premise of Celeste seems simple, it’s anything but. Navigating through each level requires patience, practice, and precise movements. However, that’s exactly what Celeste gets right.
Celeste’s movements feature some of the most fluid and responsive controls in gaming. Jumping, mid-air dashing, and wall climbing feel tight and impactful. Controlling Madeline is far more controlled and responsive than, say, Mario in the original NES games. The added in-game objects of springs and feathers only further that cause, making controlling Madeline incredibly satisfying. The small details, such as Madeline’s shadow trail after a dash, or even the subtle movements of her body when coming into contact with the ground elevates the game’s immersiveness, making you forget that you’re playing in a pixelated art style.
Stay Healthy, My Friends
Celeste has won multiple awards for its music and overall design, but what makes it stand out from other platformers is its narrative on mental health, specifically in dealing with depression, self-doubt, and anxiety. The game does an exemplary job of navigating players through Madeline's struggles. Having personally dealt with similar mental health issues, it was easy to empathize with the personified demons that Madeline faced. The catharsis I felt by the game’s end was reminiscent of my Sea Of Solitude playthrough, another game (released far after Celeste) that also revolved around the topic of mental health.
Finally, if all of the above isn’t enough to make you want to play, Celeste offers plenty of replayability through its challenges of collecting strawberries, crystal hearts, and cassette tapes, all of which unlock additional content. Cassette tapes, specifically, unlock harder variations of levels, known as “B-Sides.” Add all of that with the fact that Celeste speedrunning is a now popular pastime, and you have yourself a game that can keep you busy for a very long time.
Believe the hype from someone who held off playing the game for this long. Celeste is the real deal and deserves your attention, even if indie platform gaming isn’t really your thing. If you’ve been wanting to play Celeste, there’s never been a better time to grab your copy. But you’d better hurry: Celeste is only free-to-play on the Epic Games Store until September 5th.
5 Out Of 5 Stars
Celeste is available for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
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