The first indie gem of the year is upon us! Celeste is a 2D platformer by Matt Thorson and Noel Berry. Like many indie games, it’s in the style of the NES/SNES era 2D platformers, but with many modern gaming sensibilities thrown in – it’s out NOW on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC, and Xbox One. Hurray!
It’s already met with rave reviews and, as IGN noted, it’s the first perfect score 10/10 game of the year (matched by the Destructoid review)! Tempting, non? As the player, you star as an introverted young lady who we renamed Susan – she decides to climb a big old mountain, on the way uncovering all sorts of magical sights and sounds. By gosh, it’s a startling game – it really is bloody good!
It’s essentially presented as an escalating series of challenges – each new screen features an array of difficulties to overcome, but they’re all tied together (along with the minimalistic, but effective, story) so you advance through the game as with traditional platformers. There’s even an out of game map reminiscent of the Donkey Kong Country games as you pass between stages.
As with many indie games, Celeste channels the NES/SNES era of difficulty. It’s a tough one. Very tough. It encourages imagination and risk taking, though, through occasional notes which are designed to spur you on – one informs you you’ll die a lot (which you will – you immediately regenerate, so that’s fine) but that’s fine as you’ll simply get better at the game!
These are there to ensure this title isn’t for seasoned gamers only. There are a batch of modes you can tinker with in order to make the game easier, but if you go in for the unadulterated experience then be prepared to die thousands of times before you’ve scaled that SOB.
Regardless of this, it’s a real pick up and play title and you’ll be quickly sucked into this extraordinary experience. Susan’s main ability is a dash jump, which will fire you at angles across the screen – master this quickly and you’ll be set, but be prepared to think strategically about what you’re doing.
Persistence is key! You’ll be rewarded with the year’s first classic if you stick with it and, asides from the excellent soundtrack and striking SNES era graphics, the challenge is full on and the gameplay rewarding as a fresh batch of soup (or some other food you love).
Celeste (which refers to the game’s mountain, by the way, not the protagonist) is a magnificent title crammed full of challenging and rewarding gameplay, well timed sentiment, humour (see the “old bat” comment above), and the familiar glorious SNES era inspired moments of taking a moment to stop adventuring and enjoy the moment.
It really is a grand scale adventure and one filled with imagination. We bang on a lot about how insipid a large proportion of big budget AAA games are and then you turn to the indie scene and you have works of art like this. It’s something of a masterpiece – an enthralling adventure with an introspective edge which will also probably put you off ever climbing Mount Everest. Why do that when this is more fun?