This game gets a lot of accolades, so I gave it a try. I regretted that about an hour in.
I'm not going to lie, I ended up using the "Assist Mode" to complete this game. And the fact that "Assist Mode" exists and is practically required for a completion that doesn't require months
of study to "learn" the game is why I scored it so low.
There are two parts to (almost) any game: story, and gameplay. Usually they're related. Celeste is no different. Its gameplay is directly tied to its story. However, there is barely any story, and what little there is quickly gets overpowered by the gameplay itself.
This is a platformer. Platformers are about the platforming mechanics. Most good platformers give even the slightest bit of leeway when it comes to where the character can be on screen to make it to the next platform, with a few more challenging areas that are usually reserved for side quests or collectibles that don't impede progress in the main story. Celeste flips that almost entirely around. You have to be damned near pixel-perfect 99% of the time, or you will die and have to replay the entire current scene/screen/room over. Collectibles are often easier to reach than the end of the current room. Which means you have to constantly recollect the collectible until you make it out, because that progress isn't saved until you make it to the next room.
Yes, you can save and quit and anytime and come right back to that room. But it's disheartening to play the same 10 seconds over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and
over and over and over and over... Think you get the picture yet?Trust me. You don't.
"Brutal" doesn't begin to describe how twitchy this game forces the player to be. There are platforms that, once you land on or touch them, will launch you directly into spikes or some other insta-kill-auto-room-restart hazard. Not like other games where they launch you at
the death trap and you just have to move in the correct direction at the apex. No, this game literally launches you directly into
a trap, which you will hit if you do nothing. You then have to move in the correct direction at the absolute perfect timing, while also suddenly shooting across the screen at ludicrous speed. And if you don't shift the controller absolutely perfectly
to the next direction, the game will not read the direction with which your controller most lines up
. It will be an absurd interpretation that one hair off DIRECTLY to the right means you wanted to jump up and to the right. Which throws you into another trap. No, not the one the platform launched you into. One of the 8 you'll fly past on your to that one. And then you die. And then you repeat the current scene. For the 80th time.
And it's not like there's one of these traps per scene. No no no. That would be too easy. There's like 10 of them, just to move from scene to scene. Even with assist mode on and infinite air dashes and invincibility to move through hazards, some of these scenes just keep going and going.
And when you do manage to make it through the hazards, you have to be *perfect*. This isn't like Ori - or others of its ilk - where you have fairly open spaces between 95% of the insta-kill spikes. Nope. In Celeste, you have pretty much the width of the main character. Off by a pixel, or breathe on the controller the wrong way while air-dashing through a hazard, or adjust your direction slightly too soon for the super-twitchy next thing you have to do, and right back to the beginning of the room for another try over.
I tried playing through the game without assist mode. The first stage alone was miserable. I'm not a professional-level gamer, but I'm also not bad at games. This game made me feel like I didn't know what to do with the hunk of button-covered plastic in my hands.
And I suppose that's the point. Without getting into spoilers, this is a game about the main character's inner turmoil. Literally bringing out her inner demons to haunt her as she attempts to climb Mt. Celeste. The main character has to overcome her insecurities and find inner peace in order to reach the top. This was one of many games to try to ride the wave of games dealing with mental health. And while that part of the story is definitely touching and endearing, the game's developers seemed to have wanted to hammer home that same kind of despair and insecurity into the gamer themself.
There are going to be gamers that like that. But they are a vast
minority of gamers. For a game intended to deal with the critical social issue of mental health, you should be targeting a wider audience. Such a game's mechanics should make it broadly accessible. But this game is not
fun. Not for me. And I like a challenge. I enjoy challenges
. I don't enjoy games that make me play the same 10 seconds over and over and over until I've master that one part for a single instant if my life before moving on to the next repeated 10 seconds to master. I don't tend to replay many games, so that's not a skill set or knowledge I'll use again. It doesn't represent a challenge
. That level of mastery is a college degree
. It's a job
. I have both already, I don't need another of either. So no. That's not fun. I don't want to spend months learning a game just to get to its end. I want to spend months actually playing a game that's actually fun to actually play because I learned the mechanics early on and they were fun and I can put them to use doing things I enjoy.
I don't want to die repeatedly in quick bursts before I've committed to memory the exact angles I need to jump and dash to avoid moving obstacles that will still hit me and make me do it all over and over. Dying a lot in a game is not a mechanic. It's torture.
At the beginning of each level you get a postcard that has a "tip" on it. One of the levels literally tells you to "embrace your death count because dying more means you're learning." WTF?
I mean... seriously. WTAF? Do these game developers not think I have better things to do with my life than study the same single-window scene for half an hour before I can move on? Because I do. I have lots
better to do. And I want to do them.
I did just that. I played this game for an hour, got pay the first stage and into the second and decided its hype was thoroughly undeserved. The only reason i came back and finished it was because I saw the TA walkthrough, popped it open to see if I'd missed something obvious that made the game playable, and it started with "turn on assist mode". I'd somehow missed that in my initial attempt.
I turned it on, blasted through the game, and got to know the main character. The story is definitely touching. But there's not nearly enough of it to justify the difficulty level and replays necessary to move from each tiny sliver of story to the next. You get little drops of text at some key moments, a few glimmers of insight into the main character. But even blasting through the game with assist mode, the story takes all of 10 minutes of your 8 hours of playtime, and that's only if you exhaust literally every dialog option with every NPC.
And then there's the arbitrariness of some of its mechanics. It's 2D so you can jump up through platforms. But for some reason, you can't jump right back down. What game lets you jump up
through a physical barrier but not back down
? The kind that's designed to make you replay an entire chapter over just for the collectibles. The entire purpose of not being able to jump back down seems to be to keep you from being able to go back to some screens with tricky-to-get collectibles (ie: strawberries). This is maddening beyond belief. I can't stress that enough.
I also cannot stress enough just how hard I find it to even imagine trying to play some scenes of this game without assist mode on. Like the boss scenes where you apparently have to bounce through spikes, while y'know, playing the actual platforming pieces of an actual platformer while a boss hurls 2D attacks at you that pass through barriers and still hit you. Scenes that go on and on and on, from screen to screen, dragging on with the same tired platforming over and over seemingly forever. Get to the end of like the 8th part, thinking "surely this is it!" only to have yet another part to do. Even with assist mode and infinite dashes and invincibility on, some of these scenes were too long. Like, boringly repetitive. With invincibility. Drag-om scenes with crappy, twitchy mechanics, and very little reward at the end. And, sorry, but that means the game is definitively not good.
If the game designers had put half the time they put into designing asinine, drag-on levels into fleshing out the actual story, or making longer but slightly easier levels, Celeste would have been a lot better. But the little bits of story you get just aren't worth the punishment.
Unless you're into that. If you are, more power to you. Also, I have a set of clamps you might enjoy more than I did.