Image: Matt Makes Games, IGDB

Game of the Year 2018: Celeste

Celeste is a masterpiece that could have stood out for its expertly crafted levels alone, but its utterly relatable story of overcoming self-doubt put this game from Matt Makes Games Inc. at the pinnacle of the medium.

You play as Madeline, a young woman who set out to conquer Celeste Mountain. Madeline is brimming with determination but suffers from depression and panic attacks. She knows that summiting the mountain will require her to face parts of herself she may not be ready to but with the help of friends she meets along the way, Madeline realises she can do this.

The gameplay is very simple, Madeline can jump, dash and climb walls. The game’s challenge comes from mastering these basic ideas and understanding your limitations. Your dash must be recharged by landing on solid ground or snatching a green crystal, and Madeline can only grab a wall for so long before she lets go. Each section of the mountain brings with it a unique mechanic for that area, like a floor which once run along becomes deadly to land on or a bubble which launches you in a direction of your choosing.

No death ever felt unfair, if I died it was my fault so finally besting a section always felt rewarding

The developers take these basic ideas and craft tough levels, something they are upfront about when you start the game. They highlight optional settings to make the game easier but implore you to play as they intended followed by the line, “You can do this”. You will fall along the way and die a lot, but the game never punishes you too hard. Each new screen begins with a checkpoint and the perfect run to the next takes less than a minute. To add to the difficulty, you can find hidden strawberries spread throughout levels. They are entirely optional but are so fun to collect, often requiring you to find an entirely new solution to the puzzle before you. No death ever felt unfair, if I died it was my fault so finally besting a section always felt rewarding.

In every way, Celeste is a game about overcoming yourself. I love the platformer genre but rarely does a game from it stick with me after completion for as long as Celeste has. This game is flawless in every way. If you haven’t yet played Celeste you’ve missed out on a phenomenal title. As an indie, it’s not particularly expensive and it is one of Xbox’s Games with Gold for January 2019. If you pick it up, you won’t regret it.

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