And with everything said and done, it’s time to talk about my #1 game for 2018. We have a game that managed to be a casually fun experience, a brutal technical challenge, and everything else in between.
Celeste is a game that can mean different things to different people. We already talked about the challenge above, but the game also has a message about depression and figuring out who you are. While the game does talk about some pretty heavy topics, it never feels exploitative or voyeuristic. Our heroine wants to climb the Celeste Mountain to prove to herself that she can do it and feel better about who she is.
Along the way, she meets an eclectic cast of characters that help to push her out of her comfort zone and start connecting to the world around her. The slight twist of the game is that she eventually has to face her “shadow self,” and where other games would have turned it into a battle of good and evil, Celeste keeps things grounded and personable.
The other half of the game is the platforming, and Celeste is far and away one of the most technical-challenging platformers released in some time. Your main ability is a dash that propels you in your chosen direction. When combined with walls and surfaces, it allows you to carry that momentum and even increase it.
Over the game’s three difficulty levels, the amount of technical skill required increases dramatically; almost to the point of being a Kaizo game. The B and C-Side challenges were some of the hardest platforming I’ve ever done in a commercial game.
Combined with the game’s great music, that would be enough to put Celeste on anyone’s top ten list, but what separates the game from the pack is what the developers did for accessibility. Despite being designed around overwhelming challenge, the game was also designed so that anyone could see it through to the end.
That was accomplished by giving the player a full-on difficulty modifier system that allows them to adjust the core mechanics of the game at any time. Are you having trouble with dashing? Then turn on infinite dashing. You could turn off the ability to fail a challenge and completely remove the challenge of the game.
The beauty of this system is that this is the only time where a game truly feels like it was designed so that anyone could play it. At no point in Celeste will the game reward or condemn you for how you play it. If you want a hardcore challenge or a cakewalk, you can do anything you want.
The mission statement for the game was to make something for everyone to enjoy, and they have certainly succeeded. At no point, does the player ever feel like they’re being forced to do something they don’t want to do. This is definitely a game for people to study in terms of accessibility for skill-based titles.
With its success, I’m going to be interested in seeing what’s next from the developers and if more companies try their own hand at making their games accessible to all.
And with that said, we’re done for 2018. Have a great New Year’s Eve and we’ll be back in 2019.