A Deep Review/Analysis of Celeste | Teen Ink

A Deep Review/Analysis of Celeste

January 22, 2019
By Finn-Sargento BRONZE, Dennison, Minnesota
Finn-Sargento BRONZE, Dennison, Minnesota
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

2018 was a year full of many accomplishments in video games. Shadow of the Colossus and the Spyro the Dragon games received their anticipated remakes, Red Dead Redemption 2 finally released (earning Rockstar Games over 700 million within one week.), Spider-Man gave Marvel fans a new story about your friendly neighborhood Spider, and God of War was my cinematic experience with a lot going for it. Amongst a year with all these successes, I feel like smaller and independent developers weren’t given as much attention as they could have gotten. With all these games that bedazzled us, I was happy to see a little game known as Celeste the win Best Independent game and Games with Impact awards.

To give background, Celeste is an indie platformer title developed and published by Matt Makes Games. The story follows a young-adult lass named Madeline trying to conquer her anxiety and self-doubt by climbing one of the most dangerous mountains known to her, Celeste Mountain. The whole mountain itself is filled with hazards that could mean your progression or game over. Overall it’s a very challenging experience, but that adds to the games overall narrative.

The game was developed in a 2D pixel style that is very engrossing to look at. Each screen of the game has a new hazard to face, and new scenery to look at. I personally never had a moment where I thought something in the overall look of the game felt off. It all feels like it correlates together very nicely, like a puzzle. But what else fits in with it? Looks aren’t everything of course, and that's where the music and gameplay shine together.

One core skill that Madeline has that is rooted in the game is the “dash” ability. Whenever you press the game’s assigned action button, Madeline will do a quick dash in whichever direction you will face her. This is the games main feature, and it would not be possible to complete the game without it. As well as the dash ability, you can grab onto walls and such and climb up them before running out of stamina. To myself, it shows that simplicity doesn’t mean a simple game. You have a very easy to explain and use gameplay style but a killer hard game.

What makes a game without some rad music? Celeste has a very upbeat and sometimes somber score. As well as that, it adds to the game in whatever situation you’re in. There are moments in the game where you may meet up with a character named Theo amongst a campfire. The score here will change to silent and somber as the characters interact. Or the opposite, whenever you’re being chased or have to make a split-second decision during gameplay the score will kick up and make you truly feel on the move, and I really feel its effects. The music is very diverse in its scores; in the sense that whenever you hear it, you know what it’s from.  Upbeat when it needs to be, and intense when it needs to be.

And now to the segment of why I love this game so much, the central themes and story. Celeste is more than just a game about climbing a dangerous and literal killer mountain. Your character Madeline is climbing the mountain not to overcome it, but herself. She lives with self-hate, depression, and doubt in herself throughout the events of the game, and before the climb. Her overcoming this is a metaphor for real people’s fight with their mental illness and themselves; them overcoming their feeling to give up. And it’s not something that’s it’s awful in your face about; it’s all portrayed through Madeline and her own thoughts throughout the game

At the beginning of the game her anxiety, hate, and doubt manifest into an alternate version of herself. It is implied that the mountain has a strange “aura” about it, so in the context of the game, it makes sense. But it also makes sense in the context of the game’s themes. The hateful version of Madeline that is nothing but against her most of the game is a clear nod at many people’s own hate towards themselves, and that the only way you can get over it is by trying to accept it and work around it.

When you break down the game to its core, the beauty of its true narrative is what makes it special. I personally relate to many of the themes of the game and sympathized with the events the characters went through. It represents the struggles of living with anxiety perfectly, and it shows as a lesson. You can’t get rid of anxiety, or any other mental illness. But you can learn to live with it, and that's the beauty of Celeste.

To end off, I highly recommend Celeste. It’s a challenging game for sure, but the developers also left in the “Assist Mode” to aid players that still want to beat the game when stuck. The game's soundtrack is a joy to listen to, and easy to find online if you’re unsure.  It’s aesthetically pleasing to look at, and at times I found myself just looking at some of the artwork. So much work was put into the visuals of the game, even the concept art shows that. And I believe that those who love video games and good storytelling should experience this. It cares about shedding true light on what its story is really about, and every crevice of the game shows that. This game is worth your dime, showing more love to developers like this will gives us more heartfelt stories and games in the future. Thank you for reading.

The author's comments:

I'm a young artist/writer who loves to play video games. Nothing more nothing less.

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