SALT LAKE CITY — When somebody wants to tell a story that they feel is important, most people choose to do so in books or movies.
These mediums are focused entirely on telling a story. Video games, however, have gained a reputation of watering down plots and focusing on game-play.
Which is because most stories wouldn’t work as well in video game form, but "Celeste" — a platform game released earlier this year by Matt Makes Games — wouldn’t work as well as a book or a movie. "Celeste" is an intense platformer about a young woman named Madeline, who decides to climb Celeste Mountain. She deals with depression and anxiety, and hopes that facing the treacherous climb will help her get a grasp on herself. When she comes across a mysterious mirror, Part of (her) escapes.
"Part of Madeline" is the physical manifestation of Madeline’s anxiety, depression and self-doubt. This other side taunts her, telling her that she isn’t a mountain climber and she can’t make it. It is this aspect that makes "Celeste" have great motivation and character development.
All the characters are amazing, but Madeline, as the main character, is as engaging as you’d hope. The tough-as-nails platforming makes gamers feel connected to her — every failure and success you achieve in this game feels important and exciting. If we were only watching Madeline scale the mountain, collecting floating strawberries as she goes, I doubt I would feel as connected to her as I did.
She meets equally interesting characters along the way, like the lovable hipster photographer Theo and the stressed-out ghost Mr. Oshiro. Gamers can talk to these characters as much or as little as they want, but I found myself coming back and conversing as much as I could with every character I encountered.
The conversations are very well-written. Some characters might crack a joke, and some might give you a piece of their back story or words of wisdom. The presentation is astounding. The pixel art mixed with the hand-drawn character animations was off-putting at first, but I quickly found it a charming and unique style. There were multiple times during my play through "Celeste" where, after a frame-perfect series of jumps, dashes and wall jumps, I stopped and took in the beautiful pixel art and the astounding music before continuing on.
The main campaign took me just over 10 hours to complete, but there are hundreds of collectibles and a couple of secret worlds that I have yet to explore. I think "Celeste" is a masterpiece and I highly recommend it.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac
ESRB Rating: E10+ for fantasy violence, alcohol reference and mild language