Celeste (2018) - just another overrated indie game

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Retro STrife
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Celeste (2018) - just another overrated indie game

Postby Retro STrife » March 3rd, 2019, 3:43 pm

Every year, one or two indie games really stand out from the crowd and gain critical acclaim on par with the biggest blockbuster titles. In 2018, perhaps no indie title was bigger than Celeste. With that in mind, I had to try it out. I enjoy indie games, and Celeste has been the main indie game I've worked on the past few months. My commitment to the game speaks for itself: 20+ hours, beat all 8 levels and 1 B-Side, collected over 150 Strawberries to get the best epilogue, and died over 4000 times in the process. I'm ready to give it a final verdict.

Bottom line: Celeste is just another overrated indie darling - it's absolutely genius in its design, but doesn't translate to being fun. I rank Celeste down there with other overrated indie games like Inside and Limbo- not on par with classic indies like Shovel Knight and Journey.

Let me start with the positives. Celeste's level design is absolutely genius. This is the most expertly crafted 2D platformer I have ever experienced. Celeste trumps anything Nintendo or any other developer has done in 2D, and trumps it by a mile. In Celeste, you have only one move -- JUMP. And yet, the developers have taken that one move and used it to create endless platforming scenarios that gradually build upon each other. There is always something new; every room is a new puzzle to solve. The control is flawless -- every movement is fluid and effortless. Nothing ever feels cheap and the controls never betray you -- when you die (and you will die over and over and over), it is always your own fault. Beating some of the hardest levels, and especially getting the tougher strawberries and collectibles, is a real feat that gives you a sense of accomplishment that almost no other game has ever matched for me.

Now the negatives... All of the above sounds great, and it truly is, but at the end of the day I play games to have fun. The problem for Celeste that it never gets all that fun. What fun it does have peaks by about level 4 or 5, and otherwise, it is an incredibly laborious chore to play for most of the game. Dying 2000, 3000, or 4000 times is not fun -- especially for completionists like me who are going to go after the toughest collectibles. The game just wears on you and becomes incredibly tiring -- each level becomes tiring -- and I just couldn't wait for it all to be over.

But sometimes a great story can save a game, and I had heard tons of praise heaped on Celeste's story. How did I feel about it? Celeste is among the most annoying stories and has one of the most annoying band of characters that I've experienced in years. I hated it in every respect. The themes of depression, anxiety, and other mental illness did not resonate with me as the developers intended -- instead, the main protagonist (Madeline) and the battle with her inner demons just comes across as whiny and juvenile, like teenage girl nonsense. Her loser/hippy travel companion, Theo, isn't any better... get your life together Theo, and stop being a bum. The dialogue, especially between Madeline and her inner demon counterpart, is so annoying that I think it was written by a high schooler... it's like on par with bad NES dialogue. It's like two high school girls talking to each other on the phone, or listening to your younger sister whine about how mean parents are. The only character I liked was the cackling old grandma, who constantly told everyone that their quest is hopeless. I kept waiting for some big twist to come toward the end that said, "gotcha!", and turned the story into some amazing thought piece. But that never came... no, this is just boring teenage girl drivel all around. I think I'm in the minority here though, since somehow everyone else seems to think this obnoxious story is great...

In the end, I have to give Celeste heaps of credit for the genius at work in its level design - the best I've ever seen in 2D. I just wish the execution translated into a more fun game, or at least had a good story to keep propelling me forward. As it stands, the design is an A+ and the fun is a D+. Combine the two, and I'd give Celeste a B-.



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Re: Celeste (2018) - just another overrated indie game

Postby DrLitch » March 15th, 2019, 8:47 pm

I enjoyed reading that, thanks.

I did chuckle when you spoke about the story/characterizations. Reminded me strongly about a debate I had after watching The Force Awakens and how just a few irritating plot points brought down an entire movie. The free spirited yet dependable Han Solo was now a loser Dad after suffering a mid life crisis, his son was going through a menopause and an identity crisis, and Leia was doing her best roadhouse boozer impression.

Celeste, with it's bunk story and narrative, is not immune to well deserved criticism. For this sort of game/genre, such an exposition into neuroses is unnecessary and indulgent.

As for this game, I treated it as I would a B movie, without the expectation of grandiosity or substance. As you point out, the game is well designed albeit with caveats. Your grade is fair, a more generous soul would perhaps award it a B+/A-. It is not a bad game. As you point out, it is very praiseworthy if broken down into it's parts. Problem with this one is the sum of parts.

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Re: Celeste (2018) - just another overrated indie game

Postby pacman000 » March 20th, 2019, 10:04 am

DrLitch wrote:I enjoyed reading that, thanks.
As you point out, it is very praiseworthy if broken down into it's parts. Problem with this one is the sum of parts.

That's the same problem ET (2600) has. ;)

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