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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DrLitch
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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.

pacman000
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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. ;)

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

Postby brent » May 14th, 2019, 4:52 pm

Retro STrife wrote: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.


I agree and this immediately puts it in A territory. The following is very interesting and gives you perspective into how much they put into the level design and layout the areas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RlpMhBKNr0

Retro STrife wrote: 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.


I do think it could be tedious if you're going for all the strawberries and crystal hearts and the b-sides, BUT I think it is a perfect length and difficulty if you skip the strawberries and just run to the summit. My first play through I was trying to go for more, but decided early on... namely when the game instructs you to "only collect them if you really want to"... to skip the strawberries. I can run levels 1-7 in under two hours so its hard for me to say its a laborious chore. Given the option to go wander through botw for the next two hours or play through celeste for my fifth time I'd do the latter.

Retro STrife wrote: 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.


I appreciate a contrarian review, but completely disagree. Finally, a story that isn't about saving the world or a princess. The themes probably do resonate with many that know someone with anxiety or depression. Even if they don't, at least it is a creative story that has a reasonable arc. Lastly, you can easily skip the cutscenes and ignore the entire story if desired.

Grade: A

On the Switch, I'd personally only rate Mario Odyssey and Hollow Knight higher.

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

Postby Retro STrife » May 16th, 2019, 8:58 am

Thanks for the feedback, brent. Your thoughts are definitely more in line with the norm- since the game received rave reviews. If I loved it, I probably wouldn't have reviewed it at all. I decided to write it as a counterpoint, since I found it surprising that there weren't more reviews with lower scores out there. And keep in mind, my review is not a "negative review" since I gave it an above average score (B-).. rather, I focus more on the flaws because I think the game is overrated, despite still be an above average game. To follow up on your points:

brent wrote:I agree and this immediately puts it in A territory. The following is very interesting and gives you perspective into how much they put into the level design and layout the areas.


I disagree, because having the best level design in the history of 2D platforming -- a title I think Celeste is worthy of holding -- doesn't mean squat without a fun game surrounding it. It annoys me when critics give a game a 9+ score just because it's extremely polished and well designed, without a fun game to back it up. It happens way to often. And I think it happened with Celeste. Celeste is fun in spurts, but not enough to earn an A-range score IMO.


brent wrote:I do think it could be tedious if you're going for all the strawberries and crystal hearts and the b-sides, BUT I think it is a perfect length and difficulty if you skip the strawberries and just run to the summit.


Very tedious. I'm a completionist. You need the strawberries to get the best scene at the end of the game. You also need to get some crystal hearts to unlock the last level. So my mindset is that I need to get those strawberries and hearts as I play in order unlock those features, and I want to do that without multiple playthroughs. If the developer wants me to skip these items, and experience less of the game in order to have fun, then I think that's a flaw with the game. I think a lot of the critics that reviewed this game also skipped getting the strawberries (due to their publishing deadlines), and that's a flaw with their reviews IMO.


brent wrote:I appreciate a contrarian review, but completely disagree. Finally, a story that isn't about saving the world or a princess. The themes probably do resonate with many that know someone with anxiety or depression. Even if they don't, at least it is a creative story that has a reasonable arc. Lastly, you can easily skip the cutscenes and ignore the entire story if desired.


I generally appreciate unique story premises and I think battling anxiety/depression could be a good theme for that story. Again, my problem with Celeste was I think the characters are terrible and their dialogue is juvenile and whiny. It grated on my nerves the whole time, especially toward the end. Plus, I don't think the ability to skip cutscenes should excuse a bad story or let developers off the hook. I think some critics genuinely loved the story, but I think others gave Celeste's story a pass because they felt it would look bad to criticize a story about mental illness.

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

Postby VideoGameCritic » June 3rd, 2019, 8:13 pm

Brent brought this over today and while I admire the imaginative stage designs, this game is not for me. It's very masochistic, and while Brent could whiz through each stage with great skill, I find it nauseating just thinking about how much effort it would require to actually get that good.

He also showed me Cuphead which looked very creepy and wasn't very fun.

Sonicx9
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Re: Celeste (2018) - just another overrated indie game

Postby Sonicx9 » June 3rd, 2019, 9:38 pm

VideoGameCritic wrote:Brent brought this over today and while I admire the imaginative stage designs, this game is not for me. It's very masochistic, and while Brent could whiz through each stage with great skill, I find it nauseating just thinking about how much effort it would require to actually get that good.

He also showed me Cuphead which looked very creepy and wasn't very fun.


Which versions of Celeste and Cuphead, Switcb or other systems?

As for indie games it a big hit and miss, depending on the dev and experience. You did give good scores for Axiom Verge and Hollow Knight and even gave a surprisingly positive review for Yooka-Laylee a game that gets lots of hate from critics and gamers thanks to the JonTron controversy/mixed reviews and negative reviews from Jim Sterling who also considers Unity a crappy engine thanks to shovelware junk that comes from it. The problem with Indie games is they are style over playability with the few examples mentioned.
Last edited by Sonicx9 on June 3rd, 2019, 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Postby ActRaiser » June 3rd, 2019, 9:53 pm

VideoGameCritic wrote:He also showed me Cuphead which looked very creepy and wasn't very fun.


Cuphead's awesome! I don't know what you're talking about. It's hard as heck and I suck at it, but totally loved it until I hit the wall. You've got to give the game a full letter grade for its art style.

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

Postby velcrozombie » June 3rd, 2019, 11:34 pm

ActRaiser wrote:
VideoGameCritic wrote:He also showed me Cuphead which looked very creepy and wasn't very fun.


Cuphead's awesome! I don't know what you're talking about. It's hard as heck and I suck at it, but totally loved it until I hit the wall. You've got to give the game a full letter grade for its art style.


I really enjoy Cuphead as well - especially the 1930's aesthetics. I hit the wall with it (for me it was the dragon about halfway through the game, which seems to be the boss that caused a LOT of people to give up), but about 6 months later I started from the very beginning and got all the way up to 92% before hitting the wall a second time on a run-and-gun level. I could actually advance to the endgame at this point but I want to beat everything in the game - and this is from someone who almost never finishes a game anymore. It's definitely a "beat your head against the wall" type of game, but isn't that what Contra and Metal Slug are as well (two games I'd compare it to)? Having said that, the Critic doesn't seem to like boss battles very much and something like 70% of the game consists only of boss battles, so I can't necessarily recommend it to him.

I do want to try Celeste one day, but I'm actually more interested in A Hat in TIme at the moment (a game that does have JonTron in it, since @Sonicx9 never shuts up about the Yooka-Laylee situation).
Last edited by velcrozombie on June 4th, 2019, 10:06 am, edited 3 times in total.

Sonicx9
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Re: Celeste (2018) - just another overrated indie game

Postby Sonicx9 » June 3rd, 2019, 11:39 pm

velcrozombie wrote:
ActRaiser wrote:
VideoGameCritic wrote:He also showed me Cuphead which looked very creepy and wasn't very fun.


Cuphead's awesome! I don't know what you're talking about. It's hard as heck and I suck at it, but totally loved it until I hit the wall. You've got to give the game a full letter grade for its art style.


I really enjoy Cuphead as well. I hit the wall with it (for me it was the dragon about halfway through the game, which seems to be the boss that caused a LOT of people to give up), but about 6 months later I started from the very beginning and got all the way up to 92% before hitting the wall a second time on a run-and-gun level. I could actually advance to the endgame at this point but I want to beat everything in the game - and this is from someone who almost never finishes a game anymore.

I do want to try Celeste one day, but I'm actually more interested in A Hat in TIme at the moment (a game that does have JonTron in it, since @Sonicx9 never shuts up about the Yooka-Laylee situation).


I only mention about the Yooka-Laylee/JonTron situation is because many people hate on Yooka-Laylee because of that controversy. Also I was surprised critic gave the game a B- considering it mixed reviews and controversy surrounding the JonTron situation, not to mention that Jim Sterling 2/10 review who also considers Unity a crappy engine thanks to shovelware junk that comes from it. It sales figures where hurt because of the controversy and reviews alike.


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