Although Celeste is a puzzle platformer and pretty fun in its own right, you're not really going to be here for the game itself. This title is about telling a story about a girl named Madeline and her quest to accept herself; the gameplay aspect just makes things a little more fun. But don't make the mistake of labeling this as yet another coming of age drama. While she does mature and grow as the game progresses, Madeline isn't trying to find her place in the world or "go the distance" as that one Disney movie phrased it.
Instead, our heroine struggles with severe (and often crippling) anxiety. In fact, she has a number of anxiety attacks during the game, and the player will need to guide her through these situations.
This isn't helped by the fact that she's trying to scale Celeste, a large mountain where strange things have been said to happen. In her case, the mountain forces her to confront the parts of her personality she's rejecting by manifesting them as a ghostly and distorted clone. Despite its behavior, this creature isn't your run of the mill "evil clone", and the battle between the two "Madeline"s becomes a metaphor about fighting your own inner demons.
There's a really powerful story here, especially for anyone that deals with mental illness, and for that reason alone I'd highly recommend Celeste to anyone that loves a heartwarming story.
Assistance is offered
Since Celeste is meant to be enjoyed by everyone (not just skilled players), it features an "Assist Mode" that can be activated from the menu screen. Once active, you can tweak how it works from the game's pause menu. Effectively, this allows you to cheat in a number of ways. For example, you can give Madeline infinite stamina, make her invulnerable, or even allow her to jump multiple times in the air. There's no shame in using it, though it is recommended that you play as much of the game as you can without it.
Throughout the game, you'll find strawberries you can collect. Some are just out of the way, but many of them are hidden behind walls and a few will even fly away if you dash too soon after entering the screen they're on. You don't really need to collect any of them, but how many you have does affect the ending. At the end of the game, Madeline uses the strawberries she collected on her journey to bake a big strawberry cake. The more you find, the better the cake turns out, and you don't even need every last strawberry to get the best possible result.
Steam community features
There is a cassette tape hidden somewhere within each level. Finding it unlocks
the level's "B-side", allowing you to try a much more difficult version of the level for an extra challenge. Completing these challenges is entirely optional, as is collecting the tapes themselves. There is also an old computer hidden away that, once discovered, unlocks
rendition of Celeste.
Extremely high difficulty
This game has Steam trading cards
for you to collect while you play. Somewhat surprisingly, the achievements
can be earned while Assist Mode is active, so if you focus on having fun and exploring the mountain, you'll eventually earn them all regardless of your skill.
Many areas in this game require you to be very precise about when and where you move and jump. Essentially, the game's world is one massive obstacle course, as the primary threats are part of the environment itself. Unlike a lot of games, Madeline is a one-hit wonder
, meaning that if she is hurt by anything -- anything at all
-- you'll be forced to replay that area. Thankfully, that's the only penalty for screwing up, but some of the longer regions are going to be a pretty serious challenge, even for the best of us.
Of course, this can be easily bypassed by turning on Assist Mode and just cheesing your way through the world, but this might also take the fun out of the experience.
A powerful story for the mentally ill
This game does not pull punches with Madeline's anxiety issues, and the techniques referenced to pull her out of panic attacks are real methods to cope with the disorder. Effectively, this allows the player to virtually experience and understand the chaotic nature of these illnesses. It's a rollercoaster, but one worth the ride.
A supernatural mountain
Celeste is a giant mountain that forces the people who climb it to confront their greatest character flaws, usually by creating a warped reality that reflects these flaws. The most blatant example of this is how Madeline is forced to deal with an angry clone of herself. Another example is how Theos, a hiker who is obsessed with taking selfies
and posting them on social media
, is forced into a small crystal prison where hundreds of eyes can watch his every move with vacant, unblinking stares.
Additionally, there are many other supernatural creatures on this mountain. These range from miscellaneous monsters to a gentle (but incredibly
stressed) ghost and the corruption that his frustration has spread.