Heavenly is the French meaning of the word ‘Celeste‘ and that is exactly what this game is; heavenly. It has been a long time since a game came along that so thoroughly transported me back to my childhood and everything I love about video games. From the nostalgic yet modern visuals and design to the breathtaking score Celeste is full to the brim in every aspect with love.
The story of Celeste is one of fighting depression, self discovery and perseverance over all obstacles before you. Also climbing a very unforgiving mountain. You play as Madeline, a young woman who goes to the titular mountain to get away from it all. Madeline must face her inner fears and do what she set out to do, reach the summit of Celeste. In doing so you meet a cast of lovable, and occasionally, dangerous characters that help you on your journey to the top.
The game play in Celeste may be a little rough for some but it is never unfair (there is also an assist mode for those that need an edge). You move in a linear fashion from room to room, some a single screen and some a scrolling multi room area spanning through eight chapters. Its controls are deceptively simple. Jump, dash jump and climb is all you have to work with. You must use them with precision to get through the perils in each level and when you nail a tough area after several, several tries, it feels oh so good. This is the type of game where you die and re-spawn instantly and try ten to one hundred times perfecting and timing your jumps just right to make it through a section, sometimes out of sheer necessity and sometimes because your going for a hard to reach collectible or shooting for the top of the speed run boards. You will die and die and die again and you will love every second of it.
It doesn’t end there either as each chapter offers b-sides; hidden cassette tapes in each level that unlock harder variants of the level it was found in, complete with remixed music tracks for each one. Hearing new tracks was reward enough for me to play through these and if you thought the regular levels were hard these will really test your will to climb the mountain. Furthermore hidden throughout the game are floating strawberries that you can collect just for the fun of it, or because the mountain (or your brain) demand it. They are often hiding behind secret walls and in very tricky to reach places that give the game even more challenge and replay-ability if you decide go for them all.
The music in Celeste from Lena Raine is among the best video game soundtracks I have ever heard. I’m talking Streets Of Rage II will stick with me for the rest of my life kind of music. Its so good I have been playing it in my car and at work nonstop since the game came out. I listened to the whole score twice writing this review. It is incredibly, incredibly excellent and I will treasure it always.
Celeste has been added the list of my favorite games of all time and certainly one of the best platformers. It earned this because everything in this world is so obviously lovingly crafted, from the beautiful artistic visuals to the masterfully executed soundtrack to the emotional, genuine, touching story. I know this game and it’s music will linger in my mind for decades to come like all my favorite games of old.