Celeste is probably the best 2D platformer game I have ever played because it is the only platformer I remember completing. I have beaten other platformers where games feel like a chore to get to the end credits. In Celeste, there is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment at every level. The artwork describing the chapters and a jingle that plays on finishing them add to this feeling.
I beat the main game in January, reaching The Summit with zero crystal hearts and zero cassettes discovered. I completed Chapter 8: Core last weekend which needs four crystals to be unlocked. So, I revisited Chapters 1 and 2 to get two crystals and two cassettes. Cassettes unlock the B-side level, which rewards you with a crystal heart upon completing them.
The platforming genre is arguably the hardest for indie developers to break through. There are currently more audiences for narrative-driven and action genres. Games that have stood the test of time have dominated this scene, e.g., Donkey Kong, Limbo, Rayman Legends, Castlevania, etc. These titles have set the standards for the games in terms of quality and replayability. Celeste not only cemented its position among these triple-A mammoths but has also raised the bar for the fans of this genre.
There are five fundamental mechanics: Running, Jumping, Dashing, Grabbing and Crouching. The movements of the protagonist Madeline are super tight, precise and very satisfying to execute.
|GIF Credits - Tenor|
When Madeline starts running, she accelerates to top speed in 6 frames and stops so quickly that deceleration is unnoticeable. This feature allows the players to position the character wherever they intend and prevents unwanted sliding on smaller areas. The jump duration is also fast, unlike other games where jumps feel like a glide. The dashing mechanism is the only movement that relinquishes the control away from the player. It is still a remarkably reliable and necessary move in the game. Players can perform the dash in all of the 8-directional ways. Dashing is limited to only one use mid-air, and landing on a surface restores it.
The grabbing has a stamina system that depletes depending on the action from the grab position. Something like jumping and grabbing deduces stamina more than simply climbing. Upon using the whole stamina, Madeline starts falling and slides down.
These moves are combined with various elements of the levels, resulting in a delightful choreography. In the world of speedrunning, there are some ludicrous techniques that are just inhuman to execute.
While playing the game, there may be slight misjudgment in timing the inputs. Despite this, Madeline can smoothly maneuvre through the level. Celeste is very forgiving towards these nuances while still demanding strict controls.
|GIF Credits - Maddy Makes Games|
For example, when you hit the corner of an object when dashing or jumping towards it. The game will still let you go in that direction while carrying your momentum. Subtle details like this make the game accessible for casual players. Celeste still punishes the players if there is too much discrepancy in the timing. There’s a list of other adjustments that game does for the player.
Developers have hit that point in the design where it doesn’t feel like the game is unfair. When you die, you know it’s because you lack skills. When you beat the level, you know it’s not luck. The best part of the game was when I was scaling the mountain in the last chapter. It was the culmination of everything I learned that showed here. That level was also easiest for me, not because it was easy but because of what I did go through so far.
If the main game becomes easy, players can unlock cassette levels if they really want to push their craft to the edge. And what’s interesting about the cassette levels is that they are fu*king evil. You are not allowed to waste a single resource on these levels. These levels actually make you appreciate the controls of the game.
“And what’s interesting about the cassette levels is that they are fu*king evil” - videogamedunkey, 2018
If not for the Katana Zero, this game would have been my all-time favourite OST. Sound design and music are what sets the tempo of this game. Sometimes it is serene and slow so that you can appreciate the artwork of the game. Other times it is exciting and makes you feel invincible even if you die 100 times in a level.
It is so fun cruising through the map while the music is hyping me up. I also tried to put on my music on Spotify while playing the game. The soundtrack works so great with the game that my playlist sounded utterly bland in comparison.