Game Recs

The Best Indie Platformer Ever Is Finally Back on Game Pass

It’s the climb.

Celeste key art
Maddy Makes Games

It’s not about the destination, it's about the journey. But if the journey takes a lot of effort, then reaching that destination sure is a lot more satisfying. The same goes for a good game. If you feel challenged as a player, but work to master the game’s mechanics and finally reach the credits you feel like you accomplished something.

Indie title Celestes pixel-perfect platforming accomplishes this idea beautifully, and for those looking for a challenge on Xbox Game Pass, there is no better option.

Celeste constantly adds new wrinkles to its platforming mechanics.

Maddy Makes Games

The platforming of Celeste occurs under the premise of protagonist Madeline attempting to climb to the top of the titular mountain. I don’t know if you have climbed a mountain in real life, but from experience, I can say it’s really hard! So, it is an apt story for a game whose central gameplay loop is equally grueling.

Platforming as a genre is difficult to do well, considering that good platformers need to feel challenged and inventive in level design while being fair and having responsive controls to make the player feel like they aren’t being unduly punished. Celeste manages to walk this fine line, making the player desperate to understand the perfect string of inputs that will get them past a complicated screen.

Throughout Celeste’s roughly ten-hour story, the game constantly introduces challenges, asks the player to learn how to handle them, and then repeats the process over and over again. Eventually, the game includes moving platforms, reversing gravity, entire levels where you can’t touch the ground and must hit items that refill your double jump, and more. Completing later levels of Celeste often goes by so fast when done properly because there are just so many things to be done in quick succession that your mind doesn’t have time to stop and process what is happening.

The player truly learns to become a better player due to the challenging platforming.

Maddy Makes Games

Now hear me out on what I am about to say. Celeste is a lot like Dark Souls.

Wait! I mean it, and here is why. There is a misconception surrounding Dark Souls (and Soulslike games in general) that they are all about difficulty for difficulty’s sake. But the truth of the matter is that Soulslikes are all about pattern recognition and trial and error. If you are confronted with a boss that you just keep dying to over and over again, approaching it the same way won’t help you make progress. It isn’t just about getting good.

t’s about taking a step back and looking at what isn’t working. By paying attention to enemy moves, or even just respecing your build, you can accomplish almost anything in a Souls game. By the time you finish the game, it isn’t because you got overpowered upgrades, it is because the game taught you how to actively improve your skills. The same goes for Celeste.

In Celeste, the only way to climb to the top of the mountain is to actively take in what the game is trying to teach you. Everything you need to succeed is there, as long as you are willing to engage with it. Sure, it will be challenging a lot of the time, but mostly those challenges are there as moments of teaching to help you progress further into the game. By the time you do reach the top of the mountain (and the end of the game) you get to look back and see how far you have come.

Celeste is available now on Xbox Game Pass. It’s also available for purchase on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, Mac, and PC.

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