We discussed Celeste in a recent VGHVI Symposium; I was happy to have an excuse to give the game a try, since I’d been hearing good things about it.

And I’m glad I spent time with Celeste: good platforming, and the story had things to say that I’m not used to encountering in video games. Or maybe things to show: internal struggles, and relations between those struggles, other people, and the world.

Having said that, I stopped about two-thirds of the way through Celeste. The platforming was hard, but I basically enjoyed it in the isolated rooms; when there were enemies chasing me, though, I didn’t have time to think and plot my strategy, and when there were relatively open sections, the fact that my brain was in “focus narrowly on platforming puzzles” mode made it hard for me to enjoy the exploration.


Celeste does have an assist mode, and I considered finishing the game that way. But I decided instead to take a different cue from Celeste, learning from its hotel level.

In that level, Celeste passes through a hotel that’s a mess and that’s run by somebody who is in denial that the hotel is shutting down, and who instead insists on seeing Celeste as a hotel guest instead of as a traveler asking for directions. Another NPC (an occasional traveling companion) moves on past the hotel and encourages Celeste to do the same; Celeste however decides to play along with the hotel keeper, acting like a guest and even cleaning up the hotel.

And the result is that the hotel keeper ignores the help that Celeste is giving, and acts as if she’s betraying him when things turn bad. Ultimately, what’s going on is that the hotel keeper has his own issues: he’s dealing with his grief from the hotel failing, Celeste really can’t help with that, and it’s not her responsibility to help with that even if she could.


Which, I realized, is basically how I felt about the game: it has its own model for what it wants to be, and while I’m glad I dipped into that model, it’s not something I wanted to continue to immerse myself in. So I took the lesson of the hotel level as my cue, and moved on instead of continuing to struggle or instead of trying to adapt to the game’s model.

But I am glad of the hours that I spent with it.

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.