Celeste

Celeste

Playing Celeste was not a high priority for me. A 16-bit platformer whose primary mechanic is mid-air dashing? It just seemed so ordinary. Even the anxiety/depression metaphor is kind of cliched at this point. While those thoughts are still mostly true even after playing it, I underestimated how exemplary the gameplay would turn out to be. This is one of the only titles inspired by Super Meat Boy that actually recognizes how to extract joy from such punishing difficulty. Instantaneous resurrection is a vital component, but it also requires extremely fine-tuned controls and gameplay design that exhausts every nuance of the movement mechanics and isn’t ruined by chaos theory, all of which are demonstrated here.

One thing Celeste has that has never been successfully implemented in any past murder-platformer is worthwhile storytelling. The trick to marrying those elements is twofold: most of the really difficult content is optional, and the plot is a metaphor for something that’s even harder than the gameplay. Although the metaphor is lost when characters bluntly discuss which entities represent what, the experience is still uncommonly artful for an action platformer, in part due to its splendid soundtrack. It sounds good, naturally, but more importantly, it still sounds good even after you’ve died 2000 times, so there’s nothing to dissuade players from compulsively retrying for hours on end.

8/10
8/10

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