Written by  :  Pagen HD (145)
Written on  :  Dec 26, 2018
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars
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Universally acclaimed platformer with broken controls, and terrible learning curve

The Good

+ Infinite lives. 20-second short levels. Even the hardest C-sides levels will have infinite lives, so it's just a matter of how many more times you want to practice.

The idea of bite-sized challenges is borrowed from Super Meat Boy. I really enjoy these types of short levels that I can spend one or two minutes everyday beating one level, and feel that I have made some progress in the game. The media and fan response has been overwhelmingly positive -- this is the new pinnacle among the Meat Boy-like platformers.

+ Addictive collectible system. In Celeste, you collect Strawberries and Cassette Tapes. This is exactly like last year's The End Is Nigh in which you collect Tumors and Cartridges.

Now we have the "Three pillars of platformer collectibles": Bandages (Super Meat Boy), Tumors (The End Is Nigh), Strawberries (Celeste).

+ Collecting a Strawberry will cause a "+1000" text pop-up to briefly display. This is hilarious, because there isn't any "score" in the game whatsoever. Telling you that you got "+1000 score" in a game that doesn't have score, is humor to me.

+ Confident mechanics that's built around three central moves: dashing, attaching to vertical surfaces, and recharging your stamina, by touching a crystal ball or landing on a horizontal surface.

+ Atmospheric, stream-of-consciousness type visuals. I would describe it as a colorful, pixel-art Limbo.

+ It's simply a must-play. It's one of those "video games as art" things that everyone should at least try and see if they like it. This is one of THOSE games, up there with INSIDE, The Witness, Antichamber and such.

The Bad

The controls in Celeste are broken. Now, I am aware that I'm making a very bold claim, and you probably won't find this opinion anywhere else on the Internet. But I feel that someone needs to say this, because this is my true opinion. I am a long-time player of the McMillen games -- Super Meat Boy and The End Is Nigh. I can tell you that there is a vast difference between how the controls feel in those two games, and how they feel in Celeste.

The controls in Meat Boy are slippery, and the levels look very dangerous, but the levels were designed in such a way that the most natural path you take is often the correct one -- you will often avoid the dangers naturally, without even consciously trying to avoid them. As a result, the slippery momentum usually works in your favor, and does not actually kill you.

The controls in Nigh are very simple, with only a jump button, left, right, and dive. As a result, not much can go wrong here, you just practice these 4 buttons repeatedly until you get it right.

In both of the McMillen games, you have fine control over your character while he is mid-air, allowing for precise adjustments.

Celeste throws away pretty much all of the good points above, then comes up with a new, very awkward style of gameplay. Let's see.

- You have 3+4 buttons to control Madeline: Jump, Dash, Cling to surface, and the four directions. In Super Meat Boy you have 2+2 buttons, and in The End Is Nigh you have 1+3 buttons. This is already feeling very wrong. The existence of all these buttons means that your brain needs to constantly try to remember the correct button to press, and it's a lot of stress, and a lot more ways that things can go wrong.

- Did I say 3+4 buttons? Let me correct myself. There are actually 3+4+4 = 11 buttons, because you see, the "Dash" move can go in EIGHT directions, not just four. So, the 4 additional "diagonal" buttons should actually be considered individual buttons.

This is a really, really bad thing. Note that on a typical game controller (Xbox One or PS4 controller), you use the analog stick to select one of the eight directions and you press the Dash button. But the problem is, the analog stick isn't precise enough to point to the correct direction every time. The "Up+Right Dash" can easily turn out to be an "Up Dash" or a "Right Dash". You can't adjust your position in the middle of a dash. Once the dash move has been issued, you cannot change it until the move ends.

Is there a solution? Of course. Use a keyboard. Pressing the Up+Right keys on the keyboard is clear, unambiguous, and precise.

You know what? I personally know four people who have said that they love Celeste. Two of them use the keyboard to play. That's 50%. It proves my point. The use of a keyboard is a major requirement of a person enjoying this game.

- Your control over the character while mid-air is very, very limited.

- The level design is quite punishing, such as having spikes everywhere in the room except for the one narrow, correct path. This path often feels like a very unnatural path to go. I often get the feeling that after 30 minutes of practice, I didn't improve at all in a particular level, because all this time I spent, I was essentially fighting my urge to do things the most natural way -- I had been practicing on how to do this the awkward way! I don't like this feeling.

- In Super Meat Boy, you generally have some "resting areas" in the middle of levels, where you are safe from the dangers, so you can take a short break, figure out what's in front of you before continuing. In Celeste, you have spikes after spikes after spikes, with no resting areas in the middle, so you have to execute 4 or 5 difficult moves *IN A ROW*, without any breathing room in between.

- Ultimately, the problem with Celeste controls is that they don't fit the level design at all. You can either have punishing levels, and precise controls (like in Super Meat Boy), or you can have forgiving levels, and loose controls (like in Castlevania games). Mixing the two together can only result in disaster.

Aside from the broken controls, I also find the difficulty curve, or learning curve, to be terrible. The game often throws a new mechanic or difficult puzzle in my face without properly preparing me with introductory, easier puzzles first. The McMillen games never had this problem. The End Is Nigh has a shocking amount of 60 levels which could be considered easy introductory levels to new players.

The music is average. The sound effects are alright, nothing special.

The Bottom Line

Celeste is the latest universally acclaimed indie platformer. You can find out about its greatness, anywhere on the Internet. People really love it. But let's say the Internet didn't exist, I'm presented with this game and have to judge this game based solely on how much I enjoy it, and how well it plays *to me* -- it's not really that good.