Ever since I saw this game on Steam, I’ve wanted to play it for a while because of the nostalgic graphics. It looked rather difficult than most platformers I’ve played, but I decided to give it a chance because there was something that drew me to it.
Celeste has been well-received by fans and critics and is marketed as a challenging platformer.
It tells the story of a young woman named Madeline who comes to climb Celeste mountain. Along the way, she must face a part of her that tries to stop her along the way. A very simple story that gets better as you progress through it.
One thing that makes this gameplay special, is although it is designed to be difficult, (trust me, I’ve had my fair share of deaths and struggles) it’s only if you let it be. The game has an assist mode that allows you to adjust things like speed and stamina if you find yourself struggling too much. Elitists who always do these games on the hardest difficulty or without assistance will probably want my head for this; having turned on assist mode when I was having trouble and just wanted to move on. I only turned it on when I felt it was necessary. Other than that, I would try to go forward without it.
But seriously, not every gamer wants to crash and burn constantly (you could say that’s why I stopped playing Cuphead!). Some of us are just in it for the story, like me. Having the assist mode allows me to still enjoy the game without getting overly frustrated. The developers recommend you play without the assist mode for the first time, but, they are aware everyone is different and may not want to do that. It’s not like they’re going to block your access to the game or write a letter of disappointment to you if you turn assist mode on in your first playthrough. So to anyone who says otherwise to my choice, suck it.
The game itself is actually not as long as I anticipated, and it has a small (but well done) set of characters.
First, there’s Madeline of course who is a headstrong, but conflicted young woman who strives to climb Celeste Mountain; she sees it as a time to turn her life around and take control. In the past she has suffered from depression and anxiety accompanied with panic attacks. The Part of Madeline a.k.a Badeline she meets on the mountain is like a way of representing her negative traits and mental health issues in a physical form. She calls herself the pragmatic part: the realistic one who believes Madeline shouldn’t be climbing the mountain, due to fear of something going wrong. I feel like I can relate to Madeline, especially when she talks about her anxiety problems how she worries about things she shouldn’t be worried about; things that have already passed for example. I have the same problem.
There’s Theo who Madeline befriends during her climb and he’s a big social media addict using what he calls InstaPix (parody of Instagram) to share his photos of his journey. I think he’s also a bit of a risk taker, considering he wanders into the ruins without considering the danger that lies in there. I really liked the part where they shared their stories by the campfire, except when Madeline said she would cope with her mental issues by drinking or trolling on the Internet. No Maddy, that’s a very unhealthy way to deal with depression girl!
The other two characters are Oshiro, a ghostly resort manager who can’t seem to move on from his failed business. I’m not sure why he releases those red and black floaty things around the hotel that are lethal at the touch. There’s the Granny too who lives in solitude on the mountain. She seems nuts but she’s still got friends, Madeline ignores her warning about the mountain twice. All the characters are interesting, simple, unique.
Well, onto moments. This game has a lot of intense moments, so it was difficult to pick three; what I do in my reviews is stick to three so it isn’t too lengthy.
I felt like they game didn’t start to get really good until I was halfway through it. After braving the strong winds, Madeline and Theo rode the gondola only for this to happen:
A selfie right when the gondola stalls. At first, Part of Madeline tried to persuade Madeline to not climb the mountain verbally and then by force. This was one of her ways of doing so. Madeline then had a panic attack until Theo taught her how to imagine a floating feather controlled by taking deep breaths; just a good way to help with mental health problems without drugs. I really like how this was done when the game makes you try to keep the feather afloat. The way they add the shadows from Part of Madeline also empathizes what it might feel like for people who deal with panic attacks on a regular basis.
The ancient temple was another interesting approach. Right after the stall of the gondola we go into this temple and already it’s suspicious. Madeline finds Theo trapped in a mirror and eventually gets sucked into a vortex behind a curtain. The temple is suddenly transformed to resemble what’s going on inside Madeline’s head, and it’s pretty dangerous. What’s with all the octopus-like creatures chasing her? Is this a way to resemble running from your negative thoughts you may get from depression? Although this was a difficult part to do, I must say the soundtrack was pretty epic as it changed in every room
All the eyes watching could be be a symbol of what it’s like to deal with anxiety. It’s like you’re afraid that the whole world is watching and judging you and anything someone says you could see it as an attack; something I struggle with daily. Breaking open the crystal Theo was trapped in by throwing him at the giant eye seemed to put an end to the nightmare.
Now, this is where the game started to get really good. After opening up to Theo, Madeline confronts Part of Madeline that they need to go separate ways. But this only angers her where she unleashes her power and sends Madeline falling to the mountain base. That twisted look on her face just shows how shocking this part of the game was.
I think I watched so many walkthroughs on this chapter since it was my favourite part of the story, that I rarely needed to switch on assist mode and didn’t touch it at all during the boss fight with Part of Madeline. What a shock. But when Madeline realizes she can’t get rid of her demon doppleganger, she decides they should work together instead.
So what makes this part my favourite? Well, we were all under the impression that Madeline was going to defeat her demons and reach the summit, but then everything takes an unexpected turn when she fails at that, falls down the mountain and realizes she must stop running away from her negative side and accept that she can control it.
I’d say that Part of Madeline is our antagonist. She’s cruel at first, manipulative, and stops at nothing to prevent Madeline from climbing the mountain. One thing that makes her great is, she’s not a villain you can just defeat and reach your goal; we find that out when Madeline talks to the old woman what she must do instead. It makes me wonder what my anxiety would look like if it was represented as a clone of myself! But, I think I’ll stick to it being in my head and get the help that I need to manage it.
In the end, Part of Madeline merges with Madeline and together they reach the summit. Part of Madeline can only remain in the body she has on the mountain which is sad after the two of them make peace. Upon returning to the bottom, Madeline bakes a strawberry pie for everyone. The outcome of the pie is based on how many strawberries you collect in the game. The strawberries are completely optional and are considered extra platforming challenges. Here’s what I got after completing the game a second time with assist mode kept to a minimum:
Some were easy and some were harder than others. There’s apparently one last chapter you can play where Madeline returns to the mountain to explore more of its secrets, but it can only be accessed by collecting all of the crystal hearts. You can also collect cassettes to unlock harder modes; ideal for completionists or experts at platformers.
So, what do I think over all? Celeste is a game with a simple yet fantastic story with a great soundtrack and a challenge depending on how you choose to approach it. If you want to go all out without any assistance, by all means, or if you’re looking to just absorb the story and not crash and burn constantly, then there is no shame in using assist mode to help you. The developers wanted the game to be challenging but accessible to all types of gamers, not just the pros.
I was originally going to give this game a B due to its difficulty, but after playing I decided to bump it up to an A- due to its story and soundtrack.