Celeste is a game that his sweeping the internet by storm at the moment. Why? what is so special about it? We touch on the a lot of highlights of the game in episode 35. If you haven't listened to it yet I would highly recommend it first before diving into this article.
First, something that may not be immediate to the player is the level design. Something that may be going unnoticed by the player is how the look and feel is of each level was treated in such a way that it enhances the story. This game is tough, it is not easy in anyway. There is an assist mode within the game which I thought about turning on myself. If you try and turn it on the game recommends AGAINST it! Why? Because the game is meant to be a little hard. Madeleine gets in her head quite often, constantly being told she cannot make it to the summit of the mountain. As a player the same thing can happen to you trying the same thing over and over again, failing each it time. Turning on assist mode will get in the way of this aspect of the game. How can you go through what Madeleine is going through if the game is easier for you? What is also noticeable about the level design is how it really reflects Madeleine's frame of mind as she is going through everything. I love how cluttered things can get, how hard things can get, even how dark things can get. There is a section of the game where you cannot see much unless you touch the light so you can illuminate a small portion of the screen. Finally when Madeleine sees the importance of making herself whole again and working with her doppelganger the level design gets bright and is no longer as hard as the rest of the game was. It was really neat thing to experience in a video game. Not only did the story see the main character go through a lot of hard obstacles both physical and mental but you as the player go through these things as well. Almost empowering you as you go along. I can not accurately convey how great the level design is unless you go through it yourself. Other games have tried to be tell a message or story like Braid. I feel like Braid fails in that it requires the player to be paying attention and maybe go through it a few times in order to get the story. I'm not saying Braid fails in the way it tells it's own story but I think rather the impact may get lost on someone who may become disinterested in it's message. Celeste is able to tell its story in multiple ways including it's level design in a way that makes the game as a whole more impactful.
Next we have how the game chooses to convey mental illness. Not only does Madeleine literally have her own demon in a way tormenting her. Voicing things that we all think and allow ourselves to get in our own head but all the other characters do as well. We see one character, Theo, who is on the mountain for his own self exploratory self on a journey. You see him almost obsessed with trying to get the perfect selfie. In the world where we are surrounded by social media and some of us addicted to it for various reasons. Theo almost embodies the person who on the outside seems like they have everything going for them, going to exotic places to post it on social media. But deep down inside he has his own demons that he is dealing with, not everything is as it seems. Theo often talk about how people compare him to his sister and the career she has, he feels like he cannot live up to the bar she has set. So Theo quits his job and climb the mountain as well so he feels like he can say he accomplished something. I think this is something that is important to the story of Celeste. Something games try and touch on but ultimately fail. Celeste is able to convey it's story and message through all of it's characters not just the main character. Also, by having only 4-5 different characters the creator was able to focus on these characters and not be all over the place trying to make sure every character has their "moment". Rather they are all on their own journey in order to accomplish their own personal goals.
Mental Illness seems to be something on the rise in this world. Maybe it is something we are just more aware or maybe the conditions of this world is getting to people easier causing people to be anxious, depressed, etc. In the game Madeleine is constantly being told she can't climb the mountain, why she shouldn't be climbing the mountain. All the characters are always telling Madeleine this. Either because it is too dangerous or because she should be doing other things with herself that are better suited for her. In life, we are trying to live our lives to the fullest in the way we seem fit. We are all striving for certain goals or dreams we have in life. People we either don't know or that are very close to us are always telling us how we can't do something because it isn't realistic. Are we as people going to listen to others? Or are we going to be determined to press on like Madeleine? I think that Celeste does a really good job with making the player feel they can accomplish anything as long as they keep going, keep trying, working hard in order to achieve what seems like the impossible. Most of them time it is really ourselves and our demons getting into our own heads stifling our own growth. Madeleine realizes that she accomplish more if she becomes whole with her doppelganger. In a way we as people need those voices in our heads telling us to stop achieving our dreams and goals in order for us to keep moving. Using it as motivation. In a way Celeste is also telling us that it is okay to feel this way but not to let these feelings get in our way. Rather taking these feelings of self-doubt and turning it into motivation, making yourself more powerful and more determined. A bit cliched? Maybe. But it does get this message across very well. So much so that it helps the Player have that same effect. Empowering the player to do the same in their own lives, to go out and experience something they have never done before.
These are some things that I have thought about with Celeste. I wasn't able to fit everything in the episode unfortunately. This is why I think this article is important and why all this had to be said. Hopefully you can go out, play Celeste and feel what I felt. This is why I think this game deserves to be Game of the Year. This is why this game got a 10/10 from me. A 10 rating doesn't mean it is the perfect game but rather it is an amazing game in all aspects. I have no complaints about it.
I would love to hear from you and what you think. Feel free to comment below or use our contact the show to discuss it with us! We will even discuss it on our show!
As always, have a rad day!
Karrington "Desertfury" Martin