Celeste is a great single-player game that throws back to the era of classic 8-bit platformers with very high difficulty levels. From Matt Makes Games, the developer of smash-hit archery battle royale Towerfall, it features a surprisingly robust story, solid mechanics and plenty of replayable extras.
Players take on the role of Madeline, a young woman trying to climb the colossal Celeste Mountain despite many warnings from the people around her. She wants to prove that she has what it takes to succeed.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse when her insecurities take on a physical form and start to haunt her in real life and in her dreams, forcing her to face her fears head on.
The platforming mechanics and core gameplay are easy to understand but hard to master. Players press X to dash and Y to jump, and they can also perform a dash in the air once per jump. The challenge, however, comes from the design: every new level features a new gimmick such as blocks that push players in a certain direction, or clouds that boost your airtime.
Completing a level may sometimes seem like a puzzle more than a platformer, though players will still need good reflexes, and might have to retry a stage multiple times to get the timing of a crucial jump just right.
Dying close to the end of a level is at times really frustrating (there is no mid-level save feature), but the sense of accomplishment players get when they finally figure out the perfect route will keep them playing for hours.
Also, there isn’t a lot of backtracking if a player dies – the game merely warps back to the start of the screen, but that’s about it. Death comes quickly in Celeste, but rather than discouraging it, the game instead encourages trial and error. Experimentation is key to success.
The colourful visual style is also surprisingly well-developed, with vibrant character portraits popping up for in-game dialogue, and detailed 2D pixel sprites used for actual gameplay. The environments on the way to the summit are amazingly varied, ranging from abandoned memorials to spooky temples. The boss fight near the end of the game also adds variety to the game, with cool visual effects that kick in every time a hit lands.
The music, composed by Lene Raine, enhances the game and adds emotion to the already expressive environments.
Although Celeste doesn’t feature any type of cooperative play, what it does have is a wealth of extra content. Strawberries are littered throughout the game for players to collect, which affects the ending.
In addition, players may occasionally come across rooms containing cassette tapes. These unlock special “B-sides” – extremely difficult optional levels meant for the brave. A Crystal Heart can be also found in each level. Collecting four of them unlocks an area right after the game.
Overall, Celeste is well worth its HK$119 price tag, if you’re looking for a single-player experience with satisfying gameplay, gorgeous art and music, and a whole lot of content.