Return to Celeste Mountain

One of my go-to unwinding games has been Celeste. I really enjoyed playing through it the first time and, while I can’t recapture the catharsis I felt as I watched Madeline work through her problems for the first time, I still spend some time reflecting on how they still apply to my life as I try to get the additional collectibles or set a personal speed record for a level. That’s why I always start from the beginning of the level and, unless I’m doing a speed run, explore the entirety of each level, including talking to everyone again.

This game has plenty of collectibles and even additional levels if you get certain collectibles. These tapes are called B-sides, and you can find one hidden in every level you play through. The rooms they’re in are usually hidden in some way, requiring you to make a split-second decision to alter your course, thoroughly explore all your options, or to notice that a wall isn’t really a wall but a hidden entrance. Each room has a puzzle involving timing your jumps from one set of blocks to another as they switch which set can be interacted with. They’re not terribly challenging once you figure out your path, but they’re not easy, either. That being said, I found it a lot easier to find the B-sides on almost every level than some of the other collectibles.

The hardest things for me to find where the Crystal Hearts. There’s one hidden in every level, though the ones in the B-sides aren’t really hidden so much as the goal of the level, and I found maybe two of them during my first play-through. When I went back and spent more time meticulously combing through the levels, I found three more. I’ve still got two more to find on the traditional levels and then a bunch of B-sides to complete. The Crystal Hearts are used to unlock the last level of the game, The Core, and I only just got enough of the hearts to start exploring The Core, so I’m looking forward to dedicating the time to getting through that level. I’ve already spent half an hour exploring it and finding almost nothing. I got through the first puzzling bit, but it feels like I haven’t gotten that far yet.

The last collectibles are the Strawberries scattered through all but one of the main levels. Like all of these collectibles, they have almost no impact on the main game since only the Crystal Hearts actually unlock anything, but they give you a reason to start exploring and a reason to keep exploring even after you’ve cleared the level. They’re often quick to get and encourage you to do more than just get through the level. Usually, you can find the Strawberries in hard-to-reach, out-of-the-way places that require you to change how you’re getting through the screen in order to collect them. Unlock the Crystal Hearts and B-sides that just require contact to collect, the trick to the Strawberries is that you have to stand on solid ground after collecting them in order for them to stay collected. If you die before then but after getting the Strawberry, it just pops back to its original place.

Thankfully, you don’t actually need to complete the level again in order to accumulate the collectibles you’ve gathered while re-doing a level. If you want to leave after getting that last Strawberry instead of making your way through the entire level, you still get the Strawberry (and your additional deaths), added to your record for that level. While the death total is interesting to see and compare to other parts of the climb, deaths are definitely not something you want to collect. I haven’t found any kind of negative impact resulting from having a bunch of deaths recorded and I’ve reached four figures in the deaths department, so I expect that I’d have encountered it by now if it existed.

I really enjoy replaying the levels. Sure, I’m only racing against my own timer at this point, but the game is really easy to pick up and put down as my time allows. The whole system is super portable and easy to use for short periods of time, but most of the games I have do not work that well in short periods. If I’m playing for only five minutes, I’ve only just finished loading into my Breath of the Wild file. Or I’ve gotten to the first checkpoint on one of the later levels in Celeste. I really can’t emphasize how great the portability of the Switch is and it feels like Celeste was specifically made for the accessibility and ease of use this platform provides. I can save and resume even in the middle of levels without needing to worry about getting sent back to the nearest checkpoint.

A month and a half after I first finished the game, I’ve gotta recommend it again. The levels are fun, there’s so many reasons to keep playing after you’ve beaten the game, the themes are mature, and the plot actually has something difficult to say. If you read, play or watch nothing else I’ve reviewed, you need to play this.