Tag Archives: MiniBoss

Celeste: jump up, jump up, and get down

I went into Celeste with hesitation. It’s a splatformer, also know as an extremely difficult type of action platformer, and while I somehow was able to beat Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, I’ve never been great at these games. They require steady fingers and precise timing and, above all, patience, a quality I pride myself on having…but only to a point. For instance, I really don’t like unnecessarily aggressive drivers; here, let me tell you a recent story of an interaction I had the other week. A light was turning yellow, and I didn’t believe I could make it through so I slowed and stopped just as it turned red. The car behind me was annoyed at this; the driver was a middle-aged man on his cell phone, and he threw his unoccupied hand up in disgust and then flipped me the middle finger. My response? I waved cheerfully at him. There’s just no need for any of that, sir.

Anyways, Celeste is a platformer in which players control a girl named Madeline as she makes her way up a mountain while avoiding various deadly obstacles, such as spike pits and shadow beings. Along with jumping and climbing up walls for a limited amount of time, Madeline has the ability to perform a mid-air dash in the eight cardinal and intercardinal directions. This move can only be performed once and must be replenished by either landing on the ground, hitting certain objects, such as replenishing crystals, or moving to a new screen. Throughout each level, the player will encounter additional mechanics, such as springs that launch the player or feathers that allow for moments of brief flight.

Celeste is at its core a 2D platformer–you run, jump, climb walls, and air-dash. There’s no picking up special items, upgrading stats, or finding costumes that give you the power to shoot lightning from your hands or spit fireballs. You may occasionally grab strawberries, which are mostly collectibles to boast about your excellent masochistic platforming skills. They serve no greater purpose than tempting you to perform non-mandatory challenges liberally sprinkled onto each stage, and I’ve gotten a few here and there, but have no intention of going after all of them, as some definitely look extremely tricky to grab.

Here’s some light praise: Celeste has some of the best 2D pixel art I’ve ever seen. Clearly inspired by the sprites of the SNES era, the characters and environments are both vibrant and memorable, adding a beauty to a genre known for being somewhat ugly or more focused on killing you so quickly you have no time to take anything in. These gorgeous visuals are backed by a soundtrack from Lena Raine, whose synthy chiptune beats will time travel you back to the days off Donkey Kong Country and, more recently, Fez and FTL: Faster Than Light. Lastly, the adventure is constructed together by a low-poly 3D model of Celeste Mountain that helps to convey the scale and trajectory of the climb, as well as serving as a level select.

I’m not that far in Celeste, just a couple chapters, and a part of me worries that it is only going to get more difficult as I climb higher. I mean, that would only make sense; games often ease you into the challenge, unless you are Dark Souls then there are no rules. Still, there’s something called Assist Mode, which I may need to look into further. Evidently, there’s a handful of options available to cycle through at will, like becoming invincible, extending the all-important air dash ability, and slowing the whole game down in 10% intervals. Assist Mode allows for any combination of these to work at any time; for example, if my redheaded-climber keeps landing on spikes, I could just turn her invincible for a hot second to alleviate the pain and bypass the obstacle, and while some might see this as cheating or cheesing the game…I certainly don’t. In fact, this type of stuff allows me to experience more of the game, which is a good thing.

With that, I can hear the mountain calling me back. May I reach its top in due time, all in one piece, perhaps with a strawberry or two to munch on along the way. Perhaps.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #36 – Out There (Somewhere)

2015 gd games completed Out There Somewhere

Time those jumps, fix ship
End boss is out there somewhere
Don’t ignore the trees

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Your broken spaceship’s parts are Out There (Somewhere)

out there somewhere gd early impressions

Well, the Steam Summer Sale kicked off the other day, and so far, I’ve produced a haiku about it, as well as bought a bundle of four games for $0.74. I’d also like to note that the money used to purchase this bundle was generated from selling digital trading cards on the Steam marketplace, so this is a big win–in my mind–from multiple angles. The Developer Alliance bundle, which was marked down to 95% off, contained the following, all of which seemed interesting and were not already in my library at the time of purchase: Polarity, Beep, Camera Obscura, and Out There (Somewhere). Today, I’ll be waxing on and off about the last listed title there, but I do expect to try out the other three sooner than later.

Out There (Somewhere), a name that feels like it should be attached to a long-lost Asimov short story, is an action-based puzzle platformer clearly inspired by adventures like Cave Story, Super Metroid, and Portal. See, you play an explorer named Yuri stranded on a dangerous alien planet after your spaceship is damaged. Low on fuel and in desperate need of key spaceship parts, your only hope for escape is to explore and see what this planet holds. Thankfully, you have a teleportation gun, though its use is limited based on your environment. I’ll explain.

In this platformer, you can jump, as well as shoot your teleportation gun, which fires a ball of blue light. Technically, that’s you. Once that blue light hits a surface, you’ll be instantly transported there. Of course, there are some exceptions, as different colored beams of light will get in your way: red cancels your shot, blue will teleport you like any other surface, and green takes you for a ride first. This is where a lot of the puzzles come into play, figuring out how to get from one place to another using your gun. Often, you’ll have to factor in momentum too when landing a teleporting shot. Fairly early on you’ll acquire a more weapony gun, a real pea-shooter, which will help you take out enemies like bats and monster slime thingies; alas, having two different guns confused me at first, and I ended up firing the wrong one at the right time far too many times.

Evidently, I’m a sucker for games where every screen you traverse gets a name. I loved this in VVVVVV and You Have to Win the Game, and I like it here as well, though the screen names, so far, are not highly titillating (for example, Basement). The story is fairly thin, but enough to go on. As you explore, you’ll come across NPCs in the form of alien treefolk; they don’t say much, but there’s an Achievement for speaking to every one of them, and so I’ll do it. However, Out There (Somewhere) is more about the action and nifty mechanics, and the difficulty curve is surprisingly tough–but rewarding.

Part of me is bummed to learn that Out There (Somewhere) was released back in 2012. That means I’ve been missing out on this good, wholesome, teleport-your-body fun for three years. There once was a time when only a handful of games came out, and you could keep track of them all; now, not so much. Well, I’m glad then that this Developer Alliance bundle for the Steam Summer Sale caught my eye, and I’m looking forward to checking out the other titles, but only after I finish Yuri’s mission. For the meantime, I have to get back to work, and by that I mean collecting those vital spaceship parts with style.