Game Title: Celeste
Developer: Matt Makes Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 4 – 5.5 hours
Download: 1.2 GB
Celeste is a name that is pretty big in the gaming world right now. A little indie game that combined platforming with tales of anxiety and won the hearts of gamers across the PC world, console world, and handheld world. Even before its release, I saw Nintendo Switch fans sharing IGN’s 10/10 review that the game received.
The game is also something people have been asking me to review ever since it came out. Since I had some time between my Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review and Gal Gun 2 and Kirby: Star Allies coming out later this week, I decided to dive into this platformer and see what the fuss was all about.
Now that I have, let’s get right to it. Here is my review of Celeste for the Nintendo Switch!
Celeste revolves around the character of Madeline, a young anxiety-prone lady on a journey to climb up a mountain. Despite warnings from both an old lady living on the mountain and her own inner-voice, she ventures up the Mountain, unaware that the Mountain, itself, is about to put her through a fierce battle not only with the climb, but the demons inside her own mind.
The story of Celeste is a story about anxiety, depression, and those who deal with anxiety and panic attacks. There are themes and notions of all of these things across the entire game, and you see a physical representation of the two selves of someone with extreme anxiety and the battles they have to wage with themselves on a daily basis.
Of course, I have to say this. As someone who suffers from depression and regular panic attacks, myself, I can’t say I’m completely unbiased with the story. I found myself constantly connected to and understanding of Madeline and her constant inner-struggle. Because of how easily I related to her, I immediately got into and loved this game’s plotline. While I do think it is good even without that connection, I cannot say this without any inkling of bias as I write this.
Celeste is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with physics and exploration elements thrown into the mix. For all intents and purposes, it is what many refer to as a Metroidvania game, where the side-scrolling environment is not entirely linear and requires some exploring around various rooms to find and unlock the true route out of each area and level.
While main progression has you going from stage to stage and exploring platforms and avoiding dangerous obstacles, Celeste does have a few unique things that you don’t necessarily see in your run-of-the-mill 2D platformers.
The most unique aspects of gameplay are the dashing and climbing mechanics. Instead of having simple platforms everywhere you can just jump to and move onto the next room from there, many of the game’s environments have tricky platforming areas surrounded by deadly spikes, flames, pits, and more that require some resourcefulness to platform around and get past.
That’s where climbing and dashing come into play. Since you can’t double-jump until later on in the game, you can use a mid-air dash to move around many of these traps and can cling to and climb solid walls to further explore areas past your initial jump. The tricky part of this is that you can only mid-air dash once after you leave the ground and dashing as well as climbing quickly use up stamina. Use too much and you won’t have the strength to hold on anymore and will, without a doubt, fall to Madeline’s untimely death.
This is where the game’s well-known difficulty comes into play. Many areas have you jumping and making strategic dashes and climbs to get past obstacles and where you need to go, since hitting an obstacle like spikes or flames results in instant-death. In this manner, the game reminds me of Super Meat Boy.
The difference between the two (outside of the storyline) is that most rooms are very small in nature and moving from one room to the next serves as a checkpoint. The difficulty along with this checkpoint system makes this game difficult at times, but the difficulty feels balanced. I never had to think about each room more than a couple times before I figured out what I needed to do to get through it.
If the game is too hard for you, though, the developers throw you a bone in an optional “Assist Mode” that reduces the difficulty. These options allow you to alter the game’s speed and give yourself more jumps, Infinite Stamina, and Invincibility. These options are also quite useful when you’re going through to get all collectibles with replaying previous stages. I would say that some collectibles actually require it to reach.
So, past the difficulty, how much content does this game have? That’s actually been a debate ever since the game came out and people saw the $20 price tag on the eShop. So, let’s break it down.
There are 7 story levels, plus an 8th “Epilogue” that adds a little bit of post-game closure on the themes present in the story and for Madeline, herself. The Epilogue requires you to find the difficult Crystal Heart collectibles for 4 separate stages, so I had to go back and grab a couple of those before I could really tackle it. Accounting for that as well as the length of the Epilogue, I cleared all Story Levels in a little over 7 hours.
As far as post-game content goes, each stage has collectibles and alternate, harder versions of themselves, including the Epilogue. You also have the “PIco-8” Game you can unlock and play from the Title Screen, which lets you play through the original build of Celeste, which is a similar, yet different game altogether. Although the original build has no story, it does offer an extra 2 hours of platforming to do in a system that feels quite different from the finished product from the Main Campaign.
I consider Time vs Price pretty important, and Celeste just barely made the passable mark, with Story Content lasting around 7 hours or so vs the $20 price tag. Alkthough some may not agree, but I believe Celeste to have plenty of initial content, plus the original build and alternate stages to keep players busy for quite some time after.
Controlling Celeste is pretty simple, and all of the controls are explained well as the game begins.
You can move with the Arrow Buttons or the Left Analog Stick. The Right Analog Stick is not used in the game. The four triggers can be used to grip and climb up walls. X and B are used for jumping, while A and Y can be used for dashing. If this isn’t to your liking, the options allows you to remap the controls as you see fit.
Graphically, the game is built like a retro platformer. The game is built, down to its pixels, like oldschool platformers, so you can see pixel lines around the character models and everything else around. The only exception to that is dialogue sequences. Whenever a story scene plays, the portraits for characters is a much higher-quality artistic style seen in more recent games, which really helps bring Madeline and the other characters to life.
Performance is mostly good, too. The frame-rate is perfect throughout the entire game and the load times are very short.
My only nitpick is that the game crashes, and in a very strange way. A few times, whenever I complete a Story Level, the game will crash on me. The strange thing is that it crashes after the Auto-Save goes into effect. So, it does crash with the inconvenience of having to relaunch the game, but thankfully, you will never lose progress when it does this.
Hilariously enough, I had this game for a few days now and I didn’t actually record the Battery Times until I started writing this review. But here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 09 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 18 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 26 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 32 minutes
I’d say that’s pretty good. 4 to 5.5 hours is a nice chunk of time, and enough to do probably 3/4 of the game’s Story Campaign your first run. I’m happy with those numbers.
In conclusion, Celeste is a game that is fun as a platformer and deeply psychological as a story. Although the game crashing after a level completes is a bit inconvenient, everything else about the game is well-balanced, user-friendly, and very eye-opening if you are or know someone with anxiety and panic attacks.