Ce­leste is a twitch plat­former with a story of as­cent.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Shaun Prescott

Ce­leste is about over­com­ing ad­ver­sity. It’s a pun­ish­ing plat­former de­signed to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple who can’t com­plete pun­ish­ing plat­form­ers. Rather than be­ing hard for its own sake, Ce­leste is hard for a rea­son that dove­tails with its themes and nar­ra­tive. And much like the demons that haunt the game’s pro­tag­o­nist, the dif­fi­culty does re­lent. You will fin­ish this game. But if you’re like me, you’ll die up­wards of 3,000 times do­ing so.

You play as Made­line, a young woman hell­bent on climb­ing the Ce­leste Moun­tain. It’s tall, dan­ger­ous, and seem­ingly haunted; not the kind you’d nor­mally want to climb. But Made­line does, be­cause it seems to her that she can’t get any­thing else right in her life. She can’t make peace with her­self, so why not dive head­first into a in­sur­mount­able chal­lenge?

Spikes, red ooze, fa­tal falls… all the en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards are here, and they’ll all kill you on im­pact. Made­line can jump, dash (both midair and on the ground), and climb walls and cliff faces. For the bulk of the game that’s all she can do, though cer­tain en­vi­ron­men­tal fea­tures, spe­cific to each of the worlds, tinker with the for­mat.

You’ll find jump pads, red glow­ing balls that hur­tle you end­lessly in any given di­rec­tion, and green di­a­monds which grant Made­line an ex­tra mid-air dash. Ce­leste never stops adding mod­i­fiers to its sim­ple two-but­ton plat­form­ing, and most of them fo­cus on mo­men­tum. Chain­ing dashes be­tween green di­a­monds is a treat, as is ma­nip­u­lat­ing directional blocks to leap deftly through lev­els. At times, Ce­leste has a ground-is-lava feel best cap­tured re­cently in Ori and the Blind For­est, in the way it has you charg­ing through the cos­mos in a bal­letic dance.

The worst of these mod­i­fiers is wind. When it’s blow­ing in Made­line’s fa­vor, it’s fun to course through the air. But when she must press against the wind, it’s like nav­i­gat­ing through treacle. In an other­wise bril­liant plat­former, these are among the most te­dious mo­ments I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in a mod­ern 2D game. Ce­leste is about snappy ac­tion, and wind is a huge mo­men­tum killer.

C’est la vie

Ce­leste is in­ter­est­ing for the way it weaves its nar­ra­tive around its twitch plat­form­ing tem­plate. It’s a story of a young woman’s ef­forts to make peace with her­self. One can as­sume that scal­ing a mys­te­ri­ous moun­tain is tough, but the rea­son Made­line is scal­ing it, and the things we learn about her as she does, lends a sense of ur­gency and pur­pose to the task.

The fa­mil­iar pat­tern of fail­ing and try­ing again is very much a part of Made­line’s frame of mind, whether she’s scal­ing a moun­tain or not. In this way, Ce­leste uti­lizes its rhythm in a way that will feel mean­ing­ful to ev­ery­one. It helps that plat­form­ing is leav­ened with more open-ended ar­eas fo­cused on light puz­zling, and these of­ten dou­ble as tu­to­ri­als for the new el­e­ments that will pre­vail for the next few play ses­sions.

What re­ally sets Ce­leste apart, aside from the story, is that you’ll fin­ish it. Twitch plat­form­ers are my bread and but­ter, but I’ve never fin­ished Su­per Meat Boy, I’ll never fin­ish N++, and 1001 Spikes can die in a fire. I’m happy to play a game for as long as I’m ca­pa­ble and not fin­ish it, but many aren’t. This is a game for those who aren’t. Those look­ing for a caus­tic chal­lenge can find cas­settes through­out Ce­leste’s world that ‘remix’ the game in de­vi­ous ways, but I’m fairly cer­tain that any­one, with the right amount of de­ter­mi­na­tion, can com­plete the core game. I did so in about ten hours.

That’s prob­a­bly my fa­vorite as­pect of Ce­leste: It wields dif­fi­culty in a mean­ing­ful way, but not in a way that will solely ap­peal to masochists. It re­minds me of The End is Nigh, in the way its dif­fi­culty is not just a longevity-ori­ented fea­ture, but a core ve­hi­cle for help­ing the player un­der­stand what the game is about. Ce­leste knows when to dig its claws in, but also when to give you a break. I’d rec­om­mend 1001 Spikes to ba­si­cally no one but my­self. I’d rec­om­mend Ce­leste to any­one.

Chain­ing dashes be­tween green di­a­monds is a treat

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