Celeste is a 2D puzzle platformer where the player controls a girl named Madaline as she ascends a mountain, Mt. Celeste, all while avoiding various deadly traps and obstacles. At its heart, Celeste is a platformer that caters to both the casual players with its rich and engaging storytelling, forgiving controls, and beautiful audiovisuals, whilst also offering platforming veterans some of the most challenging and satisfying platforming experiences of its class.
The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad
Celeste makes use of consistent and aesthetically pleasing 2D art that keeps the player engaged through its captivating scenes and visuals. The use of pixel art allowed the game to portray just enough details for the player to recognize elements in the scene, but at the same time leaving much to the player’s own imaginations. The artwork combined with fluid animations, particle systems, and various other visual effects allowed Celeste to keep the player’s attention and interest throughout its levels without ever getting repetitive nor boring.
Narrative & Storytelling
Platformers, especially difficult ones, typically suffer from not being able to generate enough motivation from the player to push through challenging levels. These platformers are often prone to losing the player’s interest as difficulties increases. Celeste was able to keep the player engaged and motivated throughout most of the game by featuring an interesting and unique narrative and storytelling.
Controls & Mechanics
One of the most important aspects of designing a platformer is making the controls feel good. Unresponsive controls, floaty jumps, sloppy physics, and imprecise movements are some of the biggest reasons why certain platformers just aren’t fun to play.
Madeline’s controls are tight, precise, and responsive. It was extremely easy to put her exactly where I wanted with fluidity and accuracy. This allowed some of the toughest challenges in Celeste to feel challenging but not frustrating. Failing a level was almost always due to the approach taken and never the fault of the controls.
The Lens of Skill
Celeste requires little prerequisite platforming skills to be enjoyable. This was accomplished by incrementally teaching the player the movement mechanics that are available to them. Celeste also uses various hidden tricks to assist the player without their knowledge. For example, the game implements a hidden “Coyote Time”, where for a short during after the player has left the ledge of a platform, the jump button would still trigger as if the player was grounded.
When the player is really in need of assistance, Celeste features a difficulty toggle with various gameplay modifications that will make the game more accessible for casual players. This includes the reduction of game speed, extra mid-air jumps, and freezing the game for the player to input a dash direction when executing a dash.
The Lens of Flow
The goal of the game is always made clear to the player at every level. The overarching narrative remains fixed, and getting the player from one area to another is always purposefully driven.
As the player progresses and climbs farther up Mt. Celeste, they also inevitably gain a better feel for the game mechanics by having beaten prior challenges. This allows the level design to become progressively more challenging.
The Lens of Visible Progress
The levels in Celeste gradually changes as the player progresses. These changes include different visual style of level design, more difficult challenges/puzzles, and even an increase in the intensity of the soundtracks used.
Game rules are sometimes also changed when the player makes it farther up the mountain. For example, towards the submit (and subsequently the end of the game), the gravity is reduced and the player is allowed higher jump distances. This allows for new and different challenges to be added throughout the game.