Games TM - - CONTENTS -

Would you be will­ing to die 4,612 times in pur­suit of a few hun­dred straw­ber­ries? Ce­leste quickly posits that its fo­cus is in scal­ing a moun­tain, in con­fronting and over­com­ing your demons even as they scream at you to stop. But we all know that it’s re­ally about the straw­ber­ries.

Ce­leste’s chal­lenge (and to be clear, much of its magic) is self-im­posed. It lies in you mak­ing an as­sump­tion that the game is ly­ing to you in its ear­li­est hours. “Straw­ber­ries will im­press your friends, but that’s about it,” reads a post­card ad­dressed to Made­line in an early load­ing screen. “Only col­lect them if you re­ally want to!”

That’s game di­rec­tor Matt Thor­son goad­ing us. It has to be. He wants us to ig­nore the bloody straw­ber­ries so that he can sad­dle us with some sort of crappy end­ing 18 hours later, forc­ing us to crawl back through the en­tire cat­a­logue of chal­lenge rooms pick­ing them from the most per­ilous lo­ca­tions Ce­leste Moun­tain has to of­fer; an ex­er­cise in anger man­age­ment, a cau­tion­ary test for any play­ers that don’t yet have ‘ac­ci­den­tal’ dam­age in­sur­ance cov­er­ing their Switch. Only col­lect them if we want to? Yeah, right… we see you, Thor­son.

Ce­leste is, af­ter all, a mod­ern in­die game – those straw­ber­ries will in­evitably end up as a metaphor for some­thing. Be­cause there’s no way that the game would have us break our fin­gers for some­thing as re­dun­dant as, say, bak­ing a straw­berry pie to ap­pease a mil­len­nial you met up on the moun­tain, an an­noy­ing old woman, an ill­tem­pered ghost, and the man­i­fes­ta­tion of your Mys­pace pro­file pic­ture, right? Right.

Ce­leste makes the pur­suit of its al­limpor­tant mys­tery straw­ber­ries easy enough. No mat­ter how chal­leng­ing this ex­cel­lent plat­former may seem at any one time, each of its puz­zles are heav­ily rooted in logic. They play by the in­ter­nal rules that are quickly es­tab­lished in each of the seven core chap­ters, pre­sent­ing an ever-es­ca­lat­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing se­ries of nav­i­ga­tional chal­lenges. A check­point is never fur­ther than a screen away, and you should ex­pect to never see any sort of game over screen or pun­ish­ment for your nu­mer­ous, nu­mer­ous fail­ings.

And, just to be clear, you will fail. Over and over. Fail­ure is the cat­a­lyst for ob­tain­ing suc­cess, each of Ce­leste’s screens feel­ing like a fresh op­por­tu­nity to over­come ad­ver­sity with skill and dex­ter­ity. In many ways, Ce­leste feels like a nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion of the mi­cro-chal­lenge de­sign pop­u­larised by Su­per Meat Boy. Bet­ter­ing the in­die clas­sic with a more forth­right pac­ing, hyp­notic sound­track, and poignant nar­ra­tive frame that smartly lever­ages your ever-es­ca­lat­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion and lev­els of stress as a way of ex­plor­ing anx­i­ety.

Ce­leste is ex­cel­lent, an al­most pix­elper­fect plat­former that will im­press, re­gard­less of whether you be­come ob­sessed with its col­lecta­bles or not. And as for the straw­ber­ries, we wouldn’t like to spoil the sur­prise en­tirely, but what we will say is this: we see you, Thor­son. You’re go­ing on the list.

above: While Ce­leste usu­ally feels fair, it can oc­ca­sion­ally cause heartbreak due to some strange path-find­ing de­ci­sions, which is par­tic­u­larly an­noy­ing given the labyrinthine de­sign of a hand­ful of its ar­eas.

above: Matt Makes Games is now re­spon­si­ble for two of the best games of the gen­er­a­tion: Ce­leste in terms of sin­gle-player, and the ex­cel­lent Tow­er­fall: As­cen­sion for mul­ti­player ac­tion.


su­per meat boy

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