New ‘Celeste’ game speaks volumes

Recently released 'Celeste' video game calls for players to battle tough obstacles while containing a deeper meaning

The+%27Celeste%27+video+game+cover.+The+game+was+released+Jan.+25%2C+2018
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New ‘Celeste’ game speaks volumes

The 'Celeste' video game cover. The game was released Jan. 25, 2018

The 'Celeste' video game cover. The game was released Jan. 25, 2018

Free Use Image from Google

The 'Celeste' video game cover. The game was released Jan. 25, 2018

Free Use Image from Google

Free Use Image from Google

The 'Celeste' video game cover. The game was released Jan. 25, 2018

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When booting up Celeste, players are greeted with somber piano music, an indicator that this game is going to be a calm, easy experience on Madeline’s trek up Celeste Mountain. The beautiful 2D pixel art style of the game is comparable to old retro games like Mario and Sonic. But these aspects can be very deceiving. This game will make the player shed tears. It will make their muscles tense up and maybe even quit out of pure anger. However, despite the difficulty of this game, its unique atmosphere, music, gameplay and story will keep them coming back so that they can finish conquering the mountain.

Hidden under this challenging game’s adorable exterior is a story about depression and uncertainty. It’s a hauntingly modern tale about being anxious and unhappy and never really knowing why, the feeling of just wanting to run away from how the world makes one feel. In this case, escaping from social media and work and all the mistakes you’ve made takes the form of climbing a mountain, but really it’s just about doing anything crazy enough that might shake you out of the rut you’re in. It’s a feeling that hit close to home for me at multiple points throughout Celeste and one I’m willing to bet many others will relate to as well. But Celeste’s story isn’t all about running. It’s about standing your ground in the face of what scares you about yourself and how learning to understand those parts is the only way to stop them from controlling you. None of these messages felt heavy-handed. They’re all conveyed through the lens of a world full of magic and adventure but its core message is very down to Earth.

Having a good story is just one key part of making an amazing game. There should also be gameplay that is fun and rewarding, which is just what Celeste has. The controls of the game are very simple. You have a jump, a dash and you can also grab onto walls for a short period of time. The game uses these three mechanics to create levels that require the precise usage of each move to accomplish the goal of getting from point A to point B. The first couple of rooms contain simple jumps that you might fail once or twice, but they’re easy compared to what comes later on. Slowly, the game starts adding in more unique obstacles with their own mechanics. For example, in the first chapter of the game there’s a block that moves when you grab it. You use it to solve a couple of rooms and the the realization hits you. If you let go of it at a certain time, the momentum will launch you farther and faster, adding to your toolbox of moves.

After a while, you’ll have to make split-second button presses, and one failed timing or movement will result in your death. In the time I played Celeste, I died a total of 859 times but I never felt like the game wasn’t fair. It was always a problem on my part, like when I accidentally pressed a button early or moved in the wrong direction at the wrong time. Each time I died, I found myself refining my strategy just a little bit. I would slowly adjust the angle of a jump or the timing of a pause, all the while getting more consistent at whatever parts came before that tricky bit. I’d occasionally have a breakthrough in those tough spots as well, fundamentally rethinking how I attacked a jump and making it much easier as a result, proving that Celeste’s platforming requires smart thinking along with quick control. It makes beating these levels feel truly earned and immensely gratifying.

The atmosphere of Celeste is really the cherry on top of the already delicious cake. In the background are snow-capped mountains, and animals are going about their day. But what really makes the atmosphere great is the music. The music at the beginning is exclusively piano. But as the game starts to get more intense, more instruments are added that complement the gameplay and just add more life into the world around you. The music pushed me along and slowed me down in harmony with the level design, and its connection to both the platforming and the story helped me connect more deeply with both Madeline and Celeste Mountain.

Celeste is a surprise masterpiece. Its 2D platforming is some of the best and toughest out there, with levels that are as challenging to figure out as they are satisfying to complete. Hidden throughout those levels are an abundance of secrets and collectibles, some of which push the skills it teaches you to the absolute limit, along with enough end-game content to keep you playing for dozens of hours. But the greatest triumph of Celeste is that its perfected jumping and dashing mechanics, which blend beautifully with an important and sincere story and an incredible soundtrack, make it a genuinely emotional game, even when your feet are planted firmly on the ground.

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