Welcome to The Indies Insight. this is where a player from the Nintendo Players UK Community shares one of their favourite indie titles, whether it is an often forgotten classic or something that you may be fully aware of and they just want to gush! This times, the writer is Euclidian Boxes from Nintendo North Wales!
Developer: Matt Makes Games Inc.
Celeste is about climbing a mountain, literally and figuratively. In this game, you play as Madeline, a young woman who has decided to climb Mount Celeste, despite warnings of strange things happening to people on the mountain.
Luckily, Madeline is well equipped to tackle the treacherous paths in Celeste. She can jump and grab hold of walls, with a small amount of stamina to hold on or climb with. But crucially, Madeline can also dash, flinging herself in one of eight directions to navigate the hazards you'll encounter.
Along the way, you'll face spikes, drops and perils which suggest the real hardships on the mountain are those brought by Madeline herself. There's a story about mental health interwoven with the superb platforming of the game, sensitively addressing anxiety, depression and even the pressures of social media.
Rather than being heavy-handed moralising, the story works in conjunction with the gameplay, metaphors and allegories becoming challenges to jump, dash and grab hold of. It is to the credit of the very small development team that one of the best stories of this year comes in a pixel art platforming game rather than a AAA epic.
Each stage along the way to the summit introduces a new mechanic to the gameplay in what feels like a very Nintendo like approach. Sometimes you'll get items that gives you a second dash in the air or you'll have to contend with strong winds that alter your jumps. This variety keeps the game feeling fresh throughout and will keep you excited to see what you'll face next.
If you really enjoy a challenge in games then Celeste is absolutely delighted to offer you one. Some of the areas in the game will require nimble fingers and split-second timing. Hidden among the levels are numerous side paths with secrets galore. There are times when you think you've broken the game, bending techniques to go somewhere you shouldn't only to find, like in Braid, the developer is a step ahead of you and has left a reward for your ingenuity.
Searching high and low for the secrets will open up more bonus elements of the game too. The main collectables in the game are strawberries. These hang in mid-air around the levels, goading you to perform increasingly elaborate demonstrations of platforming skills to collect them. The catch with the strawberries is that you must land on the solid ground to collect them, this can prove harder than it sounds but can be immensely satisfying to pull off.
Accruing strawberries doesn't do much, however, and the game tells you they're just for fun. The cassette tapes are another matter, however. Collecting these unlocks the B-Side missions, these take the themes of the different sections and ramps up the difficulty significantly. Completing the B-Sides will test everything you've learned in the game and even require discovering some new ways to play that the main game never demanded you to learn.
Celeste is joyous in its depth and secrets. The graphics convey so much with so few pixels and it's all accompanied by a superb soundtrack. It's also phenomenally welcoming, for all its challenging difficulty, it also offers an Assist Mode. Here you can modify the game, giving you extra dashes, invulnerability or even slow down time to help with getting your jumps just right. The game never judges you for using it either, it's there if you need it or can be ignored if you don't, either way, the developers just want you to enjoy your time with the game.
Emotional depth may be an unexpected quality in a platform game, but Celeste tackles its difficult subjects with heart while never being overbearing. Coupled with compelling gameplay and music you'll be humming long after the game has finished, it is definitely an indie gem everyone should consider owning.
Written by : Euclidian Boxes from Nintendo North Wales