Celeste Review

Jaden Megginson

Celeste is a challenging 2D platformer created by indie developers Matt Thorson and Noel Berry with pixel art from Miniboss studio. Originally a four-day project on game jam, a program where developers create a game in the span of a few days, the developers liked the concept and fleshed it out into a full game. Released on January 25, 2018, Celeste quickly received critical acclaim as a challenging platformer with a compelling story. It was nominated for over 20 awards and won seven of them.

You play as Madeline, a headstrong young girl dead set on climbing Celeste Mountain–an especially daunting task, considering the mountain’s mystical powers. To reach the summit, you have three essential moves: jump, climb for a limited amount of time, or dash once in any direction. To refresh your stamina and dash you must touch the ground, a replenishing force, such as a crystal, or move to a different screen.

As stated before, Celeste is a difficult game and you will die a lot. And to remind you of that, there is a very helpful death counter recording every time you die. But because of the game’s near flawless design, very few deaths feel cheap or unfair. Every death is a lesson on how to complete the level.

There are eight “worlds” in the game. Each of these worlds have corresponding B-sides (much harder versions of the levels) that you can unlock by finding collectibles called a cassette. After completing all the B-side levels, you unlock the C-side levels: Super short, but even harder challenges. At the end of every cassette level is a crystal heart, which you need to unlock the final level, The Core.

Throughout the world and levels there are collectibles called strawberries. Usually in hard to find, or out-of-the-way places, collecting them can range from easy to infuriatingly difficult. They will make up for most of your death count throughout the main game. Fortunately, they were not added to the cassette levels. Rest easy completionist!

For the less challenge inclined, there is an assist mode to make the game easier. Assist mode lets you change certain aspects of the game’s physics such as, invincibility, infinite dashes, unlimited climbing stamina, and slowing down time. Although, the developers recommend playing the game normally on your first playthrough, to get the full experience.

At the beginning of the game, the prologue, Madeline meets an old lady, Granny, that tries to dissuade her from climbing the mountain. She ignores the Granny’s warning and begins the long and arduous climb. After clearing the first level, The Forsaken City,  Madeline camps out at the site of an old medieval ruin. She then enters a dream in which she finds a mirror. The mirror cracks and a copy of Madeline, named Badeline, emerges. She tries to stop Madeline from climbing the mountain verbally, and when that does not work, forcefully.

Madeline wakes up from her dream and continues on. She meets Theo, a budding photographer climbing the mountain for the best shots to put on his Instapix account. She enters a dilapidated hotel and meets a ghost called Mr Oshiro, the former owner of the Celestial resort. He tries desperately to convince Madeline to stay and Madeline can’t bring herself to say no. Badeline intervenes and insults Mr Oshiro, giving Madeline a chance to escape. But Mr. Oshiro, enraged, follows her and chases her out.

Madeline climbs further until she comes to a chasm with an ancient gondola bridging the gap. She finds Theo there as well and they climb aboard the gondola together. Midway through the ride, Badeline causes the gondola to stall over the chasm; inciting a panic attack from Madeline. Theo manages to calm her down and the gondola starts back up again. At the other side is the ancient mirror temple.

Theo decides to go investigate while Madeline catches her breath. Madeline enters and can’t find Theo. As she is searching for Theo, Madeline encounters Badeline and blames her for everything that has happened and that Badeline should help her fix it. Badeline refuses to accept responsibility for the situation. Madeline resolves to find Theo on her own. She eventually does find Theo. Only, he is encased in crystal and Madeline has to carry him out of the temple. As they exit, the crystal around Theo shatters and they make camp.

Madeline and Theo have a discussion in which we find out that Madeline suffers from depression and anxiety. She believes that by climbing the mountain she can find the strength to beat her depression. She figures that Badeline is a representation of her negative thoughts, brought to life by the power of the mountain. Madeline comes to the conclusion that she needs to get rid of Badeline.

Once again, she enters the dream world and confronts her darker self. Angered by Madeline’s conclusion that she doesn’t need her, Badeline sends her plummeting down the mountain and into a cave system. Disheartened by the amount of progress lost, and the belief that she will never be free of herself, she gives up and decides to go home. As she exits the caves, though, she meets Granny again, who now urges her to continue. She tells Madeline to try to communicate with her other half, rather than push her away. She takes her advice and confronts Badeline one last time.

Scared of being betrayed, Badeline initially lashes out. Madeline manages to wear her down and tells Badeline that she truly wants to work together with her. The two halves then merge, granting you the ability to dash twice in the air. With this newfound power, they scale the mountain and reach the summit. Reformed by the experience, they promise to work together from then on.

One year later, Granny calls Madeline back to the mountain for one last challenge.