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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (442)

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Celeste 4.5/5
Dark Quest 2 3/5
Just Cause 3 3.5/5
Guacamelee! 2 4/5
The Incredible Adventur... 4/5
Rise of the Tomb Raider 4/5
Dead Rising 3 4/5
Layers of Fear 3.5/5
Prey 3/5
Zero-K 2/5
Tales from the Borderla... 4/5
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 4.5/5
Hammerwatch 3/5
AereA 1/5
Divinity: Original Sin 4.5/5
The Yawhg 4/5
Sword Coast Legends 3.5/5
Spelunky 2.5/5
We Are the Dwarves 1/5
Seiken Densetsu 3 ( Sec... 2.5/5
No Man's Sky 3.5/5
Shadow Warrior 2 3.5/5
Foto Flash 3.5/5
Warhammer: End Times - ... 3/5
Windward 3.5/5

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Celeste   PC (Steam) 

Celeste Is Certainly a Mountain Worth Climbing    4.5/5 stars

Celeste came about when Noel Berry and Matt Thorson (of Towerfall fame) created the original version in four hours for a game jam event. This version is more of a classic platformer geared toward precision movement and speedrunning in mind (and similar to the mini-game you can find in the completed version of Celeste) and it garnered so much attention and rave reviews that many clamored for a full, polished version. Thus, Celeste as we now know it was born and, while still retaining those original elements, is much more fleshed out with better mechanics and a moving story - not to mention one of the best soundtracks to come out in a long time.

Presentation: Celeste is a retro-styled platformer and superbly charming despite its inherent difficulty. While the characters aren't fully voiced (with "voices" reminding me of the "wob wob" Charlie Brown adults, but much more polished with pitch and inflection matching the characters), there are animated scenes where characters interact that look very nice. That design reminded me a bit of Akira Toriyama of Dragonball fame.

The main game has several levels, from a run-down inn to a Cthulhu-inspired temple to dank caves to an abandoned town. And each level has some unique mechanics - wind, teleporting, flying and more. The mechanics are simple - jump, dash, climb - but despite this simplicity offers a truly impressive range - and, believe me, you will die... a lot. But each death is a lesson, so learn my young grasshopper, adapt and survive.

You can't mention Celeste without talking about the absolutely dynamite soundtrack. From beautiful melodies to heart-pumping boss battles - the soundtrack is probably the first in a long time that has left a lasting impression on me. And it fits the game like a glove - Lena Raine (composer) is the true hero behind Celeste and makes the game that much more worthwhile.

Story: On the surface, Celeste provides you a simple story of Madeline, a young woman who wants to climb the titular Celeste Mountain, despite her clear lack of mountain climbing experience. Early on an Old Woman teases and warns her about the hard and dangerous climb, but Madeline is determined to press on. She meets Theo, an urban explorer/rampant selfie taker who is likewise on a similar personal quest and the two form a friendship. But soon we realize this isn't just a mountain to climb as Madeline is battling something much more profound - herself. A shadow version (Part of Her or Badeline) belittles and follows her on this journey, causing all kinds of problems, including tormenting a poor ghost innkeeper, Mr. Oshiro and turning him bad.

Celeste is a story that will connect with some people more than others, as it deals with surprisingly deep issues like depression and self-worth. For a devious platformer, it actually delivers a heartfelt story with a good message.

Gameplay: As I said, Celeste is easy to learn, difficult to master. You only have a few mechanics to worry about - jumping (easy enough), Climbing (you can only climb so long before fatigue sets in) and the Dash (each direction - plus the four inter-directions). The game is highly sensitive and I often found my dash off by a bit, going the wrong way but what's one more death among thousands, right? Still, these three mechanics are joined by several level-specific designs and mechanics of their own. Take the run-down inn: the levels are covered in a dark substance that instantly kills you, dust-ball type enemies go back and forth that will instantly kill you, wriggling black death sprouts from platforms you land on - and, you guessed it, leads to instant death. Other levels feature wind mechanics, a flying feather, orbs that teleport you, crystals that offer you an extra dash and spikes - just spikes everywhere. Each level adds a bit of spice, not to mention those extra Strawberry collectibles (that offer more challenge) as well as uncovering the more well-hidden B-Sides that unlock tougher versions of each level.

For such a simple premise, Celeste offers a lot of challenge. I'm not usually one to get into these punishing platformers, but I was convinced it would be perfect for THEDisgruntledwarf to stream - and, no lie, did elicit plenty of colorful language as the later stages proved difficult to say the least. But I can also say the challenge wasn't punishment for the sake of punishment - you really feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete a particularly difficult section. And because it has an actual story, that accomplishment feels so much better each time.

Replayability: Now, this doesn't necessarily apply to me, but the game has plenty of reason to return, mostly for those who enjoy a challenge: each level has a B-Side that just makes it more difficult (and even C-Sides if you are a true master/masochist). You can also unlock the Heart of the Mountain by going back to levels. And then there are the hard-core speed runners (my hat's off you you, insane people) who have turned this impossible game into a thing a of beauty - even moreso than it already is. I can't say I experienced any of those things, but they are there if you choose to do so.

Overall: Sometimes a game comes out that hits all the right buttons. Even if you're not a fan of Meat Boy platforming and dying thousands of times, Celeste is worth your time. Everything just coalesces into an amazing experience: game, music, story, mechanics, difficulty - it's all part of a whole and what a whole it is.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 4.5/5
Replayability: 5/5
Overall (not an average): 4.5/5

 

 


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