Celeste: A Game, But Also An Experience

Hazel Mewett, Staff Writer

In an age where less games exist for the sake of storytelling and more for the sake of financial gain for the company who makes said games, Celeste is a rare type that throws the player off their feet completely, one that will hit them in the feels yet have them begging for more. It has a level of emotional impact not often associated with video games, unexpected from a humble story about climbing a mountain. Celeste’s gameplay, music, and most especially it’s messages are unlike almost any other in how beautifully executed they are, and for me personally, it was a life changing experience.

The game centers around Madeline, a young woman who seeks to climb Celeste Mountain with the hopes of being able to prove that she can do anything that she sets her mind to. However, the physical mountain is only a small part of the game, for it soon becomes apparent that what Madeline really needs is to scale the mental mountain of her own depression and anxiety, which haunt her in the form of a dark alter ego; Badeline. Games that address mental health are few and far between, but Celeste explains the struggles of being neurodivergent almost perfectly, while not being preachy. Anyone with anxiety or depression can relate to Madeline’s struggles as she climbs the magic mountain, but neurotypical people can still enjoy the game and feel for Madeline just as well, and still experience the game’s message of “you can do anything”.

The game is hard: it’s very easy for the difficulty to initially catch an inexperienced player off guard, as some later platforming sections become particularly brutal. However, it’s not impossible, and after a while, you start flying through the various sections with ease that seemed impossible all the way back at the first level. Furthermore, the art style and soundtrack make every level worth it. The Celeste OST has my favorite pieces of music ever, due to the stunning way that they display emotion and the journey in the notes alone to form a one of a kind experience from the game’s songs alone. I absolutely recommend it.

For me personally, Celeste was borderline life changing. It shook me as a person, harder than any other piece of media ever had before, and changed my view of the world in a way that is impossible to describe. Being both neurodivergent and LGBTQ, I felt for Madeline far more than I expected I would. There’ll be no spoilers here, but seeing Madeline’s journey play out brought me to tears by the final level. It’s amazing how the game makes you feel for her, and how attached you become to the young climber as the two of you make the journey to the summit together and learn alongside one another. The game doesn’t end with the story, either; there are extra levels, such as the B-Sides (drastically harder versions of every level unlocked via a collectible found in each), two chapters after the story, and even more challenges past those. As a character in Celeste says once you’ve finished all of these, “It’s funny how we get attached to the struggle.”

Celeste is available for Nintendo Switch, Playstation, Xbox, PC, Mac, and Linux. Absolutely try it out; it is more than worth your time.