If you’ve been paying attention, you will know that I absolutely loved Celeste. That game began life as a much smaller, free retro-styled game made in just four days for the PICO-8 Fantasy Console which is now known as Celeste Classic (and is playable from within Celeste itself). This week, to celebrate the third anniversary of the full Celeste, developers Maddy Thorson, Noel Berry and Lena Raine released a sequel to the original classic version, this time made in just three days for the PICO-8. It’s Celeste Classic 2: Lani’s Trek, it’s free, and of course I played it.
The premise of Lani’s Trek is immediately familiar: our protagonist is determined to climb a mountain, and must overcome some tough platforming challenges to do so, perhaps attempting some extra difficult ones in pursuit of elusive strawberries. There’s even a similar opening, with a familiar house and broken bridge near the start. But the way Lani traverses the mountain is very different to Madeline from Celeste. Lani doesn’t have Madeline’s fancy dash ability, or her ability to grip and climb walls. Instead, Lani quickly finds a grappling hook that enables a lot of tricky maneuvering.
Unlike most grappling hooks in games, which are used to grip ceilings or other attachment points overhead, this grappling hook always fires directly forward. Latching onto a wall, it will pull Lani in to effectively grip the wall (but not climb it). The possibilities really open up once players learn that Lani can jump mid-grapple. Since the grapple accelerates Lani forward, jumping at the right time can propel her across long distances, and repeated grapples and jumps allow for fancy airborne climbing maneuvers. Soon, Lani will hardly need to stand on platforms at all, which is good because they’re probably covered in spikes anyway.
Celeste Classic 2 doesn’t shy away from Celeste’s high difficulty. In some ways it feels more punishing, because there’s no way to save progress between sessions (at least in the downloadable version, not sure about the browser one). During play, Lani will restart quickly at the start of the current section if she dies, but players need to conquer the entire mountain in one sitting or start over from scratch. Lani’s trek isn’t too long, however, so it’s not a huge problem, as long as you know to set aside enough time to play. My first few attempts were abortive, as I took a long time to figure out how to effectively use Lani’s grappling hook, but upon starting over I found I was able to clear earlier stages much faster.
In fact, players are already having fun speedrunning the game, sometimes rushing to the end as quickly as possible, sometimes taking the time to grab every strawberry along the way. The fastest of these runs are only a few minutes long, which is impressive. They also reveal some interesting mechanical quirks, like the fact that Lani’s grappling hook can, if attached to the side of a platform just below the top, propel Lani directly into a blisteringly fast run across the platform itself and let her make extra-long jumps off of it. Tricks like this allow players to bypass certain challenges and shave precious seconds off of their time.
I’m not even close to feats like these, but I did manage — eventually — to collect all the strawberries and finish Lani’s trek after many, many deaths. My time was 14:45, if you’re curious. Some strawberries are placed off the main path and become impossible to find if players move too far past them, so they provide another reason to replay a few times, beyond just aiming for faster times. But I might be enticed to try for a faster time, actually, now that I know where everything is. Even if you aren’t interested in repeat plays, Celeste Classic 2 is fun and remarkably polished for something made in just a few days. In fact, it’s been updated since I played it (within the last 24 hours, at the time of writing), I presume with tweaks to tighten it up a little. Maybe I should grab the update and see if it helps (or hinders) my speed.
If you’re a Celeste fan, you should definitely check this out. If you haven’t played Celeste yet, why not try the original Celeste Classic for a taste? And if you bought the gigantic itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, the full Celeste is included, so you already own it. And should probably play it immediately.