Celeste, the charming 2D pixel-art platformer, emerged in 2018 from TowerFall designer Matt Thorsen and took the world by storm. It was named the Best Independent Game at The Game Awards 2018 and continues to receive high praise from gamers and critics alike. But what is it that makes this seemingly run-of-the-mill 2D platformer so extraordinary?
A platformer of its own kind
At first sight, Celeste is just another platformer with charming, pixelated aesthetics. You play the heroine Madeleine who sets out to climb Mountain Celeste. To do so, she is equipped with a small selection of skills, namely jumping, climbing, and dashing, which you will master quickly with snappy controls. While the game mainly revolves around vertical progress through a charming world, Celeste is actually a true platforming masterpiece that will surprise you.
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What the game is REALLY about
While many platformers brush aside the need for storytelling and mainly focus on the mechanics and letting players make it from one side of the screen to the other, Celeste will have you immersed in an emotional and tumultuous narrative – while you try to make it from one side of the screen to the other. It’s a story of facing fears and overcoming them, challenging your limits and pushing on, about personal growth, and believing in yourself. All that wrapped in a brutally hard platformer filled with demanding challenges that will at times leave you baffled, wondering how to go on.
A story to die for…
…a lot. If a game has a death counter – which Celeste does – you can expect that count to rapidly go up. Celeste throws insanely difficult challenges at you that will have you fall to your death a lot – or rather, perish into a burst of clouds – as you fall into a bunch of spikes for the 1,700th time, poof! Nonetheless, no matter how high your death count, Celeste never makes you feel like a failure. Just as fast as you plunge into oblivion, the game lets you restart afresh close to the challenge you were facing, to let you try again – and again, and again.
Without a limited number of lives, the game encourages trial and error and motivates you to take risks. As you progress through the game, your view of the levels changes. While you might think “this is impossible!” at first, with each “impossible” challenge you conquer, you’ll start looking for new creative ways to traverse. The impossible becomes possible as the game lets you discover your strengths and ability to grow and build on what you learned in previous rooms. With that, Celeste tests your abilities, while giving you a constant feeling of accomplishment as you make it through yet another difficult challenge. One of the loading screen lines captures this perfectly: “Be proud of your death count! The more you die, the more you’re learning. Keep going!” Instead of dwelling on your many deaths, the game lets you know each one of them was a lesson, pushing you forward, and bringing you closer to your goal.
Pixel art: evoking nostalgia in the 21st century
Besides the beautiful storytelling, Celeste boasts charming pixel-art aesthetics that evoke a powerful dose of nostalgia. In today’s age of strikingly realistic graphics, pixel-art titles are a refreshing reminder of the games of yore. It’s a route many studios take as retro titles continue to emerge. Celeste is one of many examples, joined by games such as Stardew Valley, The Messenger, or Hyper Light Drifter. Other games bring the old classics back in new formats. For instance, the world of slots is known for taking inspiration from popular culture to offer a wide variety of games. To make it easier for new players to try the games, casino platforms offer the latest casino bonuses such as free spins that allow users to play without betting money. On some of the platforms with the best-rated bonuses, players can find the Space Invaders Online Slot that brings the classic arcade game from the 70s onto the reels. Indulging in a fresh batch of nostalgia through retro games like Celeste can be a welcome break from today’s fast-paced era of constant technological advancements, making retro games as popular as ever.
Celeste is so much more than a cookie-cutter platformer. The game tells an emotional story, pushes you to your limits, and encourages you to believe in yourself. All this as you traverse through a beautiful but merciless pixel-art world that will have you reminisce about days past.