They say that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” and while that definition wouldn’t hold up for a second in a congregation of doctors who know what the hell they’re talking about, Celeste is a game that does account for all folds of that urban myth.
For one, you’ll be doing the same thing over and over again in Celeste. No game this year challenged players to try again and again and again like Celeste did, punishing gamers for the slightest mistakes in its extremely tight platforming puzzles. And yet, no game felt so gratifying in success because not only did you earn those small victories on each and every screen, Celeste’s physics, especially that oh-so satisfying dash, are the most spot on for a platformer since, probably, the original Super Mario Bros.
We’ve had plenty of platformers over the last 33 years, but we’re dead serious when we say Celeste is the first to do it best since Mario himself did it. Not Mega Man, not Super Meat Boy, nobody. Celeste sets a new bar in masterclass of platforming physics.
And yet, this game is not the a towering figure of the masochist game genre. Celeste also tells a brilliant, touching story, that compares climbing a cold, snowy mountain to the struggles of dealing with mental illness. Usually, I’m skeptical of people who make such obtuse claims about video games and their themes, but Celeste‘s handling of the topic is nothing shy of graceful, delivering its message with the subtlety and poignancy of a perfectly ripe strawberry.
The indie genre has produced some brilliant games over the last decade, but you’d be hard pressed to find a game that manages to both deliver a heartfelt message and be both challenging and fun at the same time.