Last week the maker of Towerfall released Celeste, an inventive mountain-climbing platformer, on console and PC. The game has quickly picked up critical and popular acclaim.
Celeste tells the story of a girl named Madeline attempting to climb Celeste mountain. Players guide Madeline through hundreds of platforming challenges. Along the way, Madeline battles with panic attacks and depression. The game has been praised both for its tight gameplay and compelling narrative.
Celeste released for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC on January 25. The developers at Matt Makes Games originally created the game in four days as part of a game jam. The first iteration of Celeste consisted of 30 levels. The makers then began the process of turning it into a full standalone title, a process which they shared with the world. Fans were able to follow the creation of Celeste as much of the development was streamed on Twitch.
The final result includes more than 90 levels, but if you want to play the original game jam version, you can. The entire thing is included as an easter egg inside the final product.
Aside from its narrative and development process, Celeste is being recognized for a few innovations in difficulty. The consensus agrees that the game is difficult, but the developers made a few intentional decisions to mitigate the difficulty without neutering it.
Madeline can dash while in midair, but only once. After dashing, her hair turns blue to signify that she’s out of power. However, things like crystals and special areas can recharge her dash in midair and are required to get through many levels. This setup splits the difficulty into two types: precise platforming and solving the puzzle of navigating the level.
In a recent Reddit AMA, developer Matt Thorson confirmed that these two aspects of difficulty were given an inverse relationship. If a level is visually complex and presents a tough puzzle challenge, the actual platforming execution will be comparatively mild. If the level is easy to solve, then the execution will be harrowing.
“This was deliberate – if a room is very hard to execute, I tend to make it easier to figure out and vice versa, otherwise it can start to feel impossible for a lot of people,” Thorson said. “Pacing is very important in the main story of Celeste because the feeling fo the platforming has to mirror the narrative.
The game also features a uniquely customizable Assist Mode that is more of a simple helper than an auto-win. These decisions make Celeste both difficult and accessible for all kinds of players.
Critics are eating Celeste up so far. IGN gave it a perfect 10/10, while popular YouTuber Videogamedunkey made a video exclusively for the game and gave it a 4/5. Out of 352 current reviews on Steam, only 2 are negative, and one is a joke.
Celeste is priced at $19.99 on all platforms.