Celeste (video game)

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Celeste
Celeste box art final.png
Developer(s)Extremely OK Games[note 1]
Publisher(s)Extremely OK Games
Director(s)Maddy Thorson[note 2]
Designer(s)Maddy Thorson
Programmer(s)
  • Maddy Thorson
  • Noel Berry
Artist(s)
Writer(s)Maddy Thorson
Composer(s)Lena Raine
Series
  • Celeste Edit this on Wikidata
Engine
Platform(s)
ReleaseJanuary 25, 2018
Genre(s)Platform
Mode(s)Single-player

Celeste is a 2018 platform game designed, directed and written by Maddy Thorson[note 2] and programmed by Thorson and Noel Berry. It is a fully-fleshed version of the 2016 PICO-8 game of the same name,[note 4] which was made in four days solely by Thorson and Berry during a game jam. Set on a fictional version of Mount Celeste, it follows a young woman named Madeline who attempts to climb the mountain, and must face her inner demons in her quest to reach the summit.

Celeste was released worldwide independently on January 25, 2018, on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, and Linux, followed by a release on Stadia on July 28, 2020. It consists of eight chapters, plus a free DLC chapter titled Farewell released on September 9, 2019. Farewell acts as an epilogue to the main story and adds 100 new screens.

Celeste received universal acclaim upon release, and was largely considered one of the best games of 2018. It received high praise for its gameplay, level design, soundtrack, themes, and emotional story, as well as for Madeline's characterization; it was also singled out for being demanding yet enjoyable for both casual players, and those seeking to speedrun it or complete all of its optional achievements. It won many awards, including the Best Independent Game and Games for Impact awards at The Game Awards 2018, where it was also nominated for Game of the Year. Celeste was also a financial success, selling over a million copies by the end of 2019 and largely exceeding its creators' expectations, while also becoming an instant hit in the speedrunning community.

Gameplay[edit]

In this screenshot, the player-character, Madeline, is seen dashing mid-air towards an item that replenishes the dash ability in Forsaken City.

Celeste is a platform game in which players control a girl named Madeline as she makes her way up a mountain while avoiding various deadly obstacles. Along with jumping and climbing up walls for a limited amount of time, Madeline has the ability to perform a mid-air dash in eight directions. This move initially can only be performed once and must be replenished by either landing on the ground, hitting certain objects such as floating crystals, or moving to a new screen; later on in the game, the player is granted the ability to do double-dash. Combining dashes with movement in various ways can be used by the player to gain more speed than usual or access areas before they are supposed to. Some of these advanced movement mechanics are shown to the player as they progress the late stages of the game. Examples include the superdash, hyperdash, ultradash and an unintended feature, the demodash. Throughout the game, the player will encounter additional mechanics, such as springs that launch the player or feathers that allow brief flight, and deadly objects such as spikes which kill Madeline (returning her to the start of the screen).

Players can also access an Assist Mode, where they can change some attributes about the game's physics. Some of these include: infinite air-dashes, invincibility, or slowing the game's speed. Hidden throughout most "A-Side" chapters of the game are optional strawberries, obtained through challenging platforming or puzzle solving sections, which slightly affect the game's ending depending on how many are collected, as well as a cassette tape that unlocks a "B-Side", a secret level which provides harder platforming puzzles using the mechanics introduced in the A-Side.[1][2] Optional "crystal hearts" used to access post-game content are also found in each A-side. Beating all the B-Sides then unlocks the "C-Side" versions, which are very hard but short stages which expand further upon the mechanics in the A-Sides and B-Sides. B-Sides, C-Sides, and the Farewell DLC chapter all teach the player more complicated movement techniques that are needed to clear otherwise impossible obstacles. Upon clearing all C-Sides, the player can access the Variants menu, which allows players to change the game's physics in a way similar to the game's Assist Mode. Some of these "variants" include: speeding the game up, 360 degree dashing, and low friction. The original Celeste Classic Pico-8 prototype can also be found as a hidden minigame.[3]

Plot[edit]

A young woman named Madeline begins climbing Celeste Mountain, ignoring the warnings from an old woman named Granny who lives at its base. Madeline makes her way through a deserted city, where she encounters a fellow traveler named Theo. Madeline camps out for the night and has a dream in which a dark reflection of herself, known as "Part of Me" within the game and Badeline by the fanbase and developers, splits apart from her via a mystical mirror and attempts to stop Madeline's climb. Madeline escapes from Badeline and wakes up from her nightmare.

Continuing the climb, Madeline reaches an old hotel named the Celestial Resort. The hotel's ghostly concierge, Mr. Oshiro, tries to persuade Madeline to stay despite the damaged condition of the hotel. She reluctantly entertains him by cleaning part of the resort, but he is keen on having her stay for a night in the presidential suite. Upon reaching the suite, Badeline unexpectedly reappears in the real world, taunting Mr. Oshiro before creating a hole for Madeline to escape through. Mr. Oshiro, enraged by Badeline's words, chases Madeline out and destroys much of the hotel, and Madeline continues climbing.

At the Golden Ridge, Madeline again encounters Granny. Granny tells her that she is surprised she has made it this far and offers to tell her about a shortcut back down if she wants to give up. Madeline refuses, and after powering through the harsh winds of the Ridge, meets up with Theo at a gondola. Partway up the gondola ride, Badeline appears again and stalls the lift, causing Madeline to have a panic attack as the lift shakes wildly. Theo calms her down, and the gondola begins to move again, arriving at an ancient temple. Madeline and Theo are separated and trapped inside mirrors, but Madeline escapes and finds Theo encased inside a magic crystal. Monsters created from Madeline and Theo's insecurities attack them, but Madeline carries Theo out of the temple and frees him from the crystal.

Madeline and Theo set up camp, and she confides in him about her mental health issues and Badeline's interferences before resting. Later that night, she seeks out Badeline and expresses her wish to leave her behind. In a fit of anger, Badeline throws Madeline down to the base of the mountain, where she once again finds Granny. She suggests that Badeline might be scared and says that Madeline should try talking instead of abandoning her. Madeline searches for Badeline again, apologizes for pushing her away, and vows to climb the mountain together. Badeline initially lashes out at Madeline, but relents and forgives her. Madeline and Badeline recombine and work their way back up the mountain before finally reaching Celeste Mountain's summit.

An epilogue shows Madeline celebrating her success with Badeline, Theo, Granny, Mr. Oshiro, and a strawberry pie. The size of the pie and the number of strawberries within it depend on how many collectible strawberries the player acquired throughout the game. In two post-ending chapters, Madeline explores the core of Celeste Mountain a year after the main story in the chapter "Core" and copes with missing Granny's funeral – revealed to be named Celia and a friend of Theo's grandfather – in the Farewell chapter.

Development and release[edit]

Noel Berry (Skytorn) and Maddy Thorson (TowerFall), who programmed Celeste, created the original Pico-8 Celeste[note 4] in four days during a game jam.[4] The result was a difficult platformer with 30 levels designed for speedrunning and precision reflexes. Kill Screen noted that the game was a departure from Thorson's TowerFall, and had more in common with the game mechanics of their older games and Super Mario Maker work.[5] The developers also took inspiration from difficult NES and Super NES-era platformers, such as Super Mario Bros. 3.[6][7] Berry and Thorson developed the game into a standalone release with over 200 rooms spread between eight chapters.[8] They livestreamed parts of their development process on Twitch. The game was also demoed at the 2016 PAX West Indie Megabooth.[9] Celeste released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Linux and macOS on January 25, 2018.[10][11] The game was later released on Stadia on July 28, 2020, later becoming a Stadia Pro game on October 1.[12][13] According to the game's credits and Noel Berry, the game was developed with XNA (on Windows), FNA (on Mac OS and Linux), and MonoGame (on Xbox One, Switch, and PS4).[14] The developers also utilized FMOD for sound effects.[15] The original Pico-8 prototype is included in the game as an unlockable minigame.[16] The game received a limited collector's edition on January 1, 2019.[17] On September 9, 2019, the Farewell DLC was released, adding a ninth chapter, 100 new levels and 40 minutes of new music to the game.[18][19][20] It was the last addition to the game, and no sequel to the game is planned, as the team members behind it plan to move to different game projects.[21]

The game is recognized as having several platform game elements that appear difficult, often involving combinations of multiple jumps, dashes, wall jumps and other abilities, but yet has been considered approachable. Thorson revealed in a series of tweets that in developing the platforming logic, they created wide "windows" for a player to make an action as to give the player a better chance to succeed, such as allowing the player to be able to jump a few moments after moving off a ledge instead of falling immediately. Thorson called all these elements part of the "game-feel" of Celeste and made the game more forgiving to players.[22]

On January 25, 2021, the third year anniversary of the release of Celeste, a sequel to Celeste Classic, titled Celeste 2: Lani's Trek, was released for free.[23]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Celeste team at the 2018 GDC Independent Games Festival, where they won the audience award.

Celeste received "universal acclaim" from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic, on all versions of the game except for the PC version, which instead received "generally favorable reviews".[24][25][26][27] Video game journalists named Celeste among the year's best games.[37] Polygon named the game among the decade's best.[38] Destructoid's Kevin Mersereau called Celeste "An essential gaming experience," saying "For the first time in ages, I have absolutely nothing to complain about."[28] Tom Marks from IGN praised the game's story, and the way it was blended with the gameplay, saying "I cared deeply about Madeline's struggle and empathized with her in a way I wasn't expecting."[31]

The soundtrack of Celeste composed by Lena Raine and released by Materia Collective was highly praised by critics.[28][31] An official piano sheet music book and accompanying piano album was announced[39] and released on January 25, 2019,[40] and a licensed album of lullaby music based on the soundtrack, Prescription for Sleep: Celeste, was released in November 2018.[41]

Sales[edit]

By December 21, 2018, Celeste had sold over 500,000 copies, with Thorson stating "We never expected it to reach so many people."[42][43] Although sale figures for each platform have not been released, Dual Shock reported that the Switch version was the most successful.[44]

In a September 2019 interview with IGN, Thorson stated that the game was "coming up on a million copies [sold] soon."[45] In March 2020, IGN confirmed that the million copies threshold had been reached before the end of the previous year.[46]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Result
2018 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards 2018[47] Original Light Mix Score, New IP Nominated
Independent Games Festival Awards[48][49] Excellence in Audio Nominated
Audience Award Won
Golden Joystick Awards[50][51][52] Best Indie Game Nominated
Ultimate Game of the Year Nominated
The Game Awards 2018[53][54] Best Score/Music Nominated
Game of the Year Nominated
Games for Impact Won
Best Independent Game Won
Gamers' Choice Awards[55] Fan Favorite Game Nominated
Fan Favorite Single Player Gaming Experience Nominated
Fan Favorite Indie Game Nominated
Titanium Awards[56] Best Indie Game Nominated
Australian Games Awards[57] Independent Game of the Year Nominated
Game Informer April 2018 Game of the Month Won
2019 New York Game Awards[58] Big Apple Award for Best Game of the Year Nominated
Off Broadway Award for Best Indie Game Nominated
22nd Annual D.I.C.E. Awards[59][60] Action Game of the Year Won
Outstanding Achievement for an Independent Game Won
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards 2019[61][62] Game of the Year Nominated
Control Design, 2D or Limited 3D Nominated
Control Precision Won
SXSW Gaming Awards[63][64] Excellence in Narrative Nominated
Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award Won
Excellence in Musical Score Nominated
Trending Game of the Year Nominated
Video Game of the Year Nominated
Game Developers Choice Awards[65][66] Best Audio Won
Best Design Nominated
Game of the Year Nominated
2019 G.A.N.G. Awards[67][68] Best Music for an Indie Game Nominated
G.A.N.G. / MAGFEST People's Choice Award Won
15th British Academy Games Awards[69] Best Game Nominated
Game Beyond Entertainment Nominated
Game Design Nominated
Game Innovation Nominated
Music Nominated
Italian Video Game Awards[70] Game of the Year Nominated
Best Indie Game Nominated
Game Beyond Entertainment Nominated
ASCAP Composers' Choice Awards[71][72] 2018 Video Game Score of the Year Won

Legacy[edit]

Celeste, which was designed with speedrunning in mind, became an instant hit in the speedrunning community.[73][74][75] USgamer called the game's popularity within the community "a huge part of Celeste's success."[73] Celeste sound designer Kevin Regamey stated that the team received a lot of mail from fans claiming that the game led them to try speedrunning for the first time.[73] It also became a staple at Games Done Quick events.[73]

The ending cutscene of the Farewell DLC features various items in Madeline's bedroom, such as pride and transgender flags, that led to speculation from fans and media outlets that Madeline was a trans woman.[76][77] Thorson confirmed that Madeline was transgender in November 2020, stating that they never formally announced this before as they were figuring out their own gender identity at the time, and because the team did not want to make a spectacle of the reveal.[78][79] The fact that Madeline is canonically transgender was met positively by the LGBT community, but also received some backlash, with hateful, political or religiously-charged messages aimed at the character and the game's creators.[76]

In other media[edit]

Both Madeline and Badeline are playable characters in the Nintendo Switch version of TowerFall, another game by Thorson originally released in 2013; the Switch version was released on September 27, 2018.[80]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The game was originally released under Matt Makes Games but was updated to Extremely OK Games in 2021.
  2. ^ a b Thorson was originally credited under their birth name Matt Thorson in the game, but adopted the name of Maddy Thorson in 2020 after coming out as non-binary in 2019. The game was updated to include this name in 2021.
  3. ^ The game also supports the FNA Game Engine, and is the default on platforms other than Windows
  4. ^ a b Informally known as Celeste Classic since the release of the 2018 game.

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]