Review: Celeste

Celeste is a challenging retro-style platform puzzle game. Featuring pixelated graphics and an intriguing story about mental health, its a game whose main appeal lies in its difficulty.

One of Celeste’s strengths is in its simplicity. You can jump, grab (and climb) walls, and dash in any of eight directions. Those are the only controls, and they don’t change throughout the game. You are given all of the tools you need to tackle any given game challenge, and its up to you to execute.

While your basic controls don’t change, each of the game’s chapters introduce various interesting new mechanics. Many of these involve allowing you to reset your dash ability, which is normally accomplished only when landing on solid ground. The mechanics range from the incredibly fun and interesting to the rather boring and frustrating, though they tend toward the fun side.

There is no penalty for dying in Celeste, aside from the game counting your deaths, and indeed you will die quite often learning how to traverse each room. The game never sends you back very far upon death, so you can freely retry tough challenges. Though the game has a retro style, the difficulty feels much more modern. In older platformers, mastery was achieved through repetition and memorization, while here you only need to succeed at any given challenge once. The challenges are much harder individually than anything you’d see in an NES game, though mastery isn’t as necessary to complete the game.

As you’d expect, Celeste also features a variety of collectables. The main ones, Strawberries, don’t have any mechanical effect, but the rarer collectables unlock various harder content. If you enjoy Celeste’s challenges, you can spend a ton of time opening up and completing them all. Full completion is not for the faint of heart.

If you like challenge for its own sake in the form of a straightforward gauntlet of puzzles, Celeste is the game for you. I have to admit that I am not, and while I enjoyed the well-told and interesting story, I found Celeste a bit too punishing for my tastes.

Review Score: C+

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