Ce­leste

PC, PS4, Switch

EDGE - - GAMES -

The old woman’s laugh­ter fol­lows you as you be­gin your as­cent. It echoes from her lodge, half­way across one screen, stretch­ing into the next be­fore fad­ing into the crisp night air. You’ve al­ready come close to be­ing crushed by a gi­ant fall­ing block of ice; she warns you that if you had trou­ble deal­ing with that, you may not be pre­pared for what’s to come. You soon re­alise she isn’t kid­ding. As you jog to your right, the thin stone bridge be­gins to crum­ble un­der­foot, so you break into a sprint, leap­ing over a gap, only for the stone you land on to fall away as you touch down. Time stands still as a crow sud­denly flaps over to you and caws out an in­struc­tion; you fol­low it, press­ing X to dash to safe ground. Phew.

Ce­leste’s open­ing is a master­class in econ­omy, not just in­tro­duc­ing you to its con­trols, but to the kind of trial you can ex­pect to face. The float­ing ono­matopoeic text of the woman’s laugh not only serves to mock pro­tag­o­nist Made­line’s am­bi­tions to climb the epony­mous moun­tain, but acts as a provo­ca­tion for the player, too, urg­ing you to prove her wrong. Im­me­di­ately, you’ll steel your­self for the task ahead, re­al­is­ing that this is a game that wants to kill you, and of­ten. We’re not pre­pared to share our stats for the build we played; suf­fice it to say, it suc­ceeded.

Much of the chal­lenge comes not from the many spiked haz­ards, fall­ing blocks and shift­ing plat­forms, but two key lim­i­ta­tions. First, your mid-air dash abil­ity is only re­plen­ished when you land, with Made­line’s hair ap­pear­ing blue once you’ve used it. And se­cond, she’s only ca­pa­ble of cling­ing to ver­ti­cal sur­faces for a lim­ited time. Oc­ca­sion­ally, the way for­ward looks ob­vi­ous un­til you re­alise you only have a sin­gle dash to get through it. And Made­line’s wan­ing grip forces you to ei­ther climb or jump quickly rather than wait for the per­fect mo­ment.

Be­fore long, you’ll have a new fac­tor to con­tend with, as Made­line ac­ti­vates a se­ries of en­vi­ron­men­tal anom­alies that ac­cel­er­ate your mo­men­tum in the di­rec­tion you’re headed as you leap into them. This means be­ing squished into the odd wall, un­til you work out the cor­rect an­gle of ap­proach. Later, via a cracked mir­ror, an evil al­ter ego ap­pears, and then some more: they mimic Made­line’s moves sev­eral sec­onds af­ter­wards, much like Su­per Mario Galaxy 2’ s Cos­mic Clones. As long as you keep mov­ing, they’re rel­a­tively eas­ily avoided – at least un­til your progress is halted by a mov­ing plat­form that can only be trig­gered by col­lect­ing a to­ken. This re­quires you to en­ter a cramped al­cove and ne­go­ti­ate your exit be­fore the evil dop­pel­gängers can make con­tact.

If reach­ing the next zone is your main ob­jec­tive, an op­tional se­condary goal proves all but ir­re­sistible. On some screens you’ll see float­ing straw­ber­ries that tempt you away from the path of least re­sis­tance, usu­ally re­quir­ing a tricky string of in­puts to reach. And you can’t sim­ply sac­ri­fice your­self by grab­bing one dur­ing a death plunge: it’ll only be added to your ruck­sack once you’ve touched down safely with the fruit in your pos­ses­sion. To fur­ther com­pli­cate mat­ters, winged vari­ants will flut­ter away if dis­turbed by a dash, forc­ing you to make your way to them with­out your fail­safe.

It’s a slow and of­ten fraught climb, in other words, but you’ll feel elated as much as re­lieved when you reach a new check­point. Ce­leste isn’t, per­haps, as rev­e­la­tory as co-cre­ator Matt Thorson’s Tow­er­fall, but for those mo­ments you haven’t got three friends to hand, it presents a soli­tary chal­lenge that gives you the sat­is­fac­tion of con­quer­ing your own per­sonal Ever­est.

You’ll steel your­self for the task ahead, re­al­is­ing that this game wants to kill you

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