BENGALURU:Last year, a game touted as the most ruthlessly difficult platformer released. It had beautiful hand-drawn frames and customised jazz music that fitted the in-game sequences. Cuphead was released for the PC, and once we were sufficiently familiarised with the controls (after several failed attempts), the formula could then help us float through the rest of the levels. After playing a bit of Celeste which released this year, I had to concede that this platformer for a handheld console was more unforgiving than Cuphead.
Celeste requires you to master the run and dash — and you need to control the direction of the rapid-moving mid-air dash, and immediately grab hold of a ledge to climb after you do. The whole sequence happens in the fraction of a second. In vain I tried to get a strawberry trapped between 3 walls of spikes (it took me at least a 100 deaths before I gave up). But the funny thing is, the failures aren’t frustrating. You can see where exactly you went wrong (“Aah, I should have jumped earlier, I couldn’t reach the diamond!”), and you’d want to correct it when the protagonist instantaneously respawns. It is less frustrating in that you have infinite lives, and the respawns happens close to the place where you failed — immediately!
In every other way, Celeste overcompensates for the supposed deficiency of less than standard-issue videogame graphics. The music for every location adds life to the gameplay, and each level is non-linear — they involve more than just getting from the left side of the screen to the right (with hidden destructible blocks in places you don’t notice). Each level has a “B-side” which is supposed to be the tougher version of the same location (as if the A-side wasn’t hard enough).
The storyline is a fun part of the story — having conversations with many unique characters. Even with the help of the assist mode (which would let us skip doing the actual level completion), Celeste is interesting enough to keep us entertained through the journey of Madeline reaching the top of the mountain.