Game-related ramblings.

Tag: Matt Thorson

Keeping Score: Celeste

This is Keeping Score, a series about games and their soundtracks. This particular post is also the honorary fifth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, because Celeste was added to the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality when I was nearly finished playing it. Don’t worry if you missed the bundle, there are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Longtime readers may remember that I am a fan of Matt Thorson’s games, which I highlighted as part of a post celebrating super-hard platformers way back in 2012. Matt Thorson came to more prominence in 2013 with Towerfall (or rather, the multi-platform reissue Towerfall: Ascension in 2014), but I never played it as I’m not set up for local multiplayer. But Matt Thorson’s next game, developed with a larger team, had me quite excited: Celeste is a return to their earlier style of single-player, highly challenging platformers, but with much higher production values and finesse. Critics heaped it with praise, and I nabbed it soon after release, but as often happens I was distracted by many other games and didn’t get around to playing it until recently.

After I’d played for some time, and conquered all but its toughest challenges, Celeste was added to the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. I’ve been picking things at random from the bundle and writing about them in my Scratching That Itch series, but of course, my choice of Celeste was not random, and indeed was made before the bundle launched. Still, since Celeste is included in that absolutely massive bundle, consider this post — which I was fully intending to write anyway — an honorary entry in the series.

Celebrating Super-Hard Platformers

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s latest game, Poacher. After taking a break to revisit The Desolate Room, I went back to Poacher and found the secret ending. As expected, it involved an incredibly difficult multi-stage boss fight, followed by a hilarious special ending. It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for these kinds of challenges. I think the reason is that they reward my inherent stubbornness. Encountering a seemingly impossible hurdle, I keep trying, getting a tiny bit closer each time, until my persistence is vindicated. It’s the same satisfaction of solving a tough problem in real life, but miniaturized and accelerated, something that can be solved in hours or days rather than months or years.

Of course, my love of roguelikes has similar roots, but in that case it often actually is a matter of years before victory is achieved. And the challenge of roguelikes is fully cerebral, a matter of strategies and the weighing of options in harsh situations. The extra-tough platformer is a different kind of challenge, one of pattern recognition, timing, and motor skills. It’s faster and more active, requiring one to learn and adapt quickly, and it provides a different kind of satisfaction.

The problem, of course, is that once such a platformer is mastered, there’s little reason to revisit it. This means I’m always looking for new games that fit the bill. Fortunately, there’s a lot of them out there, and I’ve got quite a few favorites to recommend.

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