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Celeste is the next pure platformer to keep an eye on

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Move over, Meat Boy

Platforming has been around for so long, it's ingrained in us as a basic skill. It's like walking or breathing. We just do it.

It's such a basic skill, many games these days use it as the vehicle to get to where they really want to go. Puzzle platformers are about the puzzles. Rhythm platformers are about beat. Metroidvanias are about the exploration.

Celeste brings us back to pure action platforming. Run, jump, get to the end. Touch the strawberry if you're good enough. Jump on enough platforms, and you'll eventually summit the mountain. It's not the means to another end, it is the end. Judging from its PAX West showing, it is a very good end indeed.

Celeste's jumping has a satisfying weight to it (which isn't surprising considering this is made by Matt Thorson, the same guy who did TowerFall). The hook that sets it apart from other action platformers is the air dash. Not just a double jump, the air dash gives a linear boost in one of eight directions for a split second before gravity takes over again.

The main character can do one air dash per jump and has to return to solid ground, feet flat on the floor to recharge it. It can lead to situations where in a long sequence of climbing and wall jumps, there are decisions to be made about when to use the air dash. Can you spare it near the beginning for an early boost, or will you need it for that last push to a ledge?

The air dash gets explored further as Celeste progresses. In an early demo level, there are glowing pickups that will recharge the air dash in mid-air, leading to some pretty gnarly dash chains. (It reminded me of the old Game Maker game Jumper, which in doing research for this preview, I realized was also made by Matt Thorson! Dude is prolific.)

In a later level, there are areas of cosmic weirdness, where the air dash shoots our climber through, then either smashes her into a wall at the other end or grants a quick jump and a recharged dash. The levels almost become a puzzle with multiple paths and doubling back, but it still always comes down to the skill to execute once they've been mentally solved.

While Celeste is highly skill-focused, there are rewards for those who go off the obvious path as well. The first are the strawberries, which act as optional challenges. Either they require a particular platforming feat, or they are hidden behind breakable walls or false pits. The other things that can be found by doing a bit of exploring are entirely new sections of the mountain. Each screen is basically its own challenge, but they aren't all laid out in sequential order. Some take a bit of curiosity to find. Most also have strawberries.

The PAX demo also showed off how each level has a "remix" to it, which is essentially a much harder version. I watched as one con-goer sat for a good 45 minutes taking on the remix of the second demo level. It looked to be on par with mid-to-late Super Meat Boy in terms of difficulty. The attendee did eventually make it through, with something like 400 deaths on the way.

But it's punishing in all the right ways. Maybe it's just been too long since the last action platformer I've played, but I'm so down for this right now. I went through all the PAX 10 games, and this is the only one I came back to play again later. This is going to be a perfect game for Switch (but it's coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One too, I guess.)


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Darren Nakamura
Darren NakamuraAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more + disclosures


 



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