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Celeste Celeste


‘Celeste’ – Pitch-Perfect, Impeccably Conceived and Replete with Subtext and Meaning

Celeste is horrific and Heartfelt in the Way it Addresses Trauma Through the Eyes of a Little Girl



By now you’ve probably heard of Celeste, the latest game from developer Matt Makes Games. For the unfamiliar, it’s a retro-styled platformer about a young girl named Madeline, as she attempts to climb the titular Celeste Mountain, for reasons yet unknown. Along the way, she encounters several other characters including Theo, an aspiring photographer from Seattle, Granny, an old woman who lives at the foot of the mountain and Mr. Oshiro, the concierge of a nearby abandoned hotel. Each new section of her climb forces Madeline and those she encounters in her journey to confront the things that currently stand in their way.

At first glance, the game may seem like a typical 16-bit adventure, but as the game progresses it quickly becomes clear that Matt Thorson and his small team of collaborators have created something truly special. Celeste is both an excellent platformer and an engaging meditation on the perils and methods of tackling depression and anxiety. It is not pretty, but it is, sometimes, very beautiful.

For a game originally created as a prototype in four days during a game jam (and later expanded into a full release), Celeste looks great and features one of the most memorable soundtracks in recent memory (courtesy of composer Lena Raine). Its also blessed with tight controls, intricately designed levels and loads of secrets to discover – and despite its difficulty, Celeste has received nothing but high praise from critics since its release.

In fact, most gamers are so in love with Celeste that the game is one of the best-reviewed indie titles in recent years. Of course, not everyone is in love with the game. On a recent episode of the NXpress Podcast, my co-host Patrick Murphy addressed his frustration with Celeste, mostly due to the way the game controls and its punishing game design. In Celeste, you die a lot, and as Patrick stated, it should be clear to anyone reading a review of Celeste, that playing the game can be extremely frustrating and not every player will appreciate its difficulty. Moving across the mountain is typically an intimidating experience since hazards such as spikes and traps scattered across each level will kill you with a single touch. Each of the eight chapters – a linear series of rooms that range in size – have their own unique platforming mechanics that require patience, determination and an ability to complete a sequence of precise jumps and dashes without a single mistake. Needless to say, the game is tough.

To the credit of the developers, however, Celeste may be difficult but it is simple enough in that it barely has to teach you its simple controls. What I mean by that is Madeline’s abilities are limited: You can run; you can jump; you can dash in mid-air and you also have the ability to cling to vertical surfaces for a short period of time – all of which is mapped to just three buttons and a joystick. And learning these movies is no different than any other 8-bit or 16-bit platformer. Furthermore, respawning is just as quick as dying, and since the checkpoints are scattered across every room, you never find yourself having to replay an entire section over and over again. Also, as Brent Middleton wrote, the game offers a judgment-free “Assist Mode”, which can either make Madeline invincible, give her infinite stamina, or increase the number of air dashes at your disposal. You can even skip entire chapters if you like, which is useful if a particular room in one area is giving you trouble. Simply put, Assist Mode lets you break the game.

“Celeste first and foremost tells a story about mental health and self-actualization…”

Celeste Game Review
Changing the difficulty settings does come in handy for those who struggle with sequences that require precise platforming skills in quick succession but unfortunately, it may also alter your appreciation of the game as well. This is, after all, a game intentionally made to be difficult, with 30 levels designed for speedrunning and precision reflexes – and by making it too easy, you may be doing yourself a disservice. The reason why I mention this is simply because everyone I know who dislikes Celeste, played the game with the help of Assist Mode.

You see, what makes Celeste stand above its peers is how it indistinguishably ties its difficulty to its message. In the end, the mountain at the center of Celeste isn’t just an obvious metaphor for Madeline’s struggles, but for our own. Each time you die can no doubt be frustrating but the game encourages the player to never give up. Not once does it mock you, instead, it places you back to where you died allowing you to try again, hoping this time you will succeed.

“Celeste is a wildly creative game that plays on your heart and your head, stunning in its rich imagery and ambitious in its themes…”

Celeste GameCeleste first and foremost tells a story about mental health and self-actualization, and using the titular mountain as a representation of a young woman’s struggles is downright genius. Madeline suffers from depression and panic attacks, and as she climbs the mountain, she is forced to face and overcome her inner demons.

Madeline goes through an incredible character arc rarely seen in games and when it comes to telling a story, Celeste does more in its short running time than most triple-A blockbusters do, despite having hours of cinematic cutscenes, professional voice actors and million dollar budgets.

One of my favorite moments comes when Madeline stumbles across a strange mirror and sees the negative version of herself in the reflection. When the mirror shatters, her self-image escapes and her doppelganger then proceeds to haunt her every step endlessly. It’s a simple metaphor for her character’s psychotic breakdown but the execution is what makes it memorable. This dark version of Madeline is abusive, unforgiving and manipulative but no matter how hard she fights, Madeline realizes she can never fully escape her double’s shadow (much like someone can never fully escape mental illness). It is only when she comes to accept her darker side, that she is able to move on with her life.

Video games have a terrible track record when it comes to addressing mental health issues, but Celeste avoids the trappings of melodrama to produce a message that is both pragmatic, and positive. And that is what makes Celeste so unique – here’s a game that says, you might not be able to escape your illness, but it is possible to find ways to live with it.

Celeste is a wildly creative game that plays on your heart and your head, stunning in its rich imagery and ambitious in its themes ranging from the dangers of social media to abusive relationships, general insecurities and not letting go of the past. The central metaphor of the mountain is not subtle in the least, but that’s okay. What’s remarkable is how it seamlessly blends the allegories and story beats into the level design with many of the different characters manifesting their anxieties and traumas in creative ways. And that these themes are never hammered home, makes them all the more powerful.

If you haven’t yet played Celeste, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s so breathtaking in its artistic ambition, so technically accomplished, so morally expansive, so fully realized that it defies the usual critical blather. Buy it, play it, and celebrate each and every death. Just remember that Celeste is meant to be hard, and Assist Mode is an option (not the default) added in last minute due to the backlash Cuphead received. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with adjusting the settings, but by not at least trying to play the game as it was initially intended to be played, you are missing out on a truly unique experience.

– Ricky D

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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Watch the Trailer for ‘The Mandalorian’ the First Live-Action ‘Star Wars’ Series




Thanks to the arrival of the D23 Expo, Disney has revealed the first trailer for its long-awaited Star Wars original series, The Mandalorian.

Created by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), the series is set after the events of Return of the Jedi and follows Pedro Pascal as a mysterious, gun-slinging Mandalorian bounty hunter who navigates the seedier side of the Star Wars universe.

Along with Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian stars Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog, and Taika Waititi. The first season of episodes will be directed by filmmakers like Dave Filoni, Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow.

the mandalorian trailer

Here’s the official description of The Mandalorian:

After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.

The Mandalorian begins streaming on Disney+ on November 12, 2019.

Check out The Mandalorian trailer below.

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Soundtrack Gets a Vinyl Release




While we don’t publish music news or music reviews here at Goomba Stomp, we are huge fans of vinyl and since we cover film, we figured this announcement would interest some of our readers.

Back in 2017, Jordan Peele’s Get Out topped our list of the best films of 2017 and while the year isn’t yet over, there’s a good chance his follow-up Us, will land somewhere on our best of the year list as well. There are many reasons why we love Peele’s ambitious sophomore film including for the suspense, cinematography, performances, and direction, but one thing that doesn’t get enough praise is the soundtrack by Michael Abels. And if you like us, love the original score, you’re going to love this bit of news.

After giving his Get Out soundtrack a vinyl release last year, Jordan Peele is now doing the same for the soundtrack to Us.

WaxWork Records announced the news earlier today and if you’re planning on buying a copy, you don’t have to wait since it is now available to purchase through the label’s website.

The soundtrack, which received a digital release earlier this year, features composer Michael Abels’ score, in addition to songs from Janelle Monáe, Minnie Ripperton and the “Tethered Mix” of Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It” that appeared in the film’s first trailer. The album artwork was created by illustrator Edward Kinsella and features an interactive die-cut mirror board back cover, a heavyweight art print and an exclusive essay from UCLA Professor, scholar, and activist Shana L. Redmond Ph.D.

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Trailer for the Twisted Dark Comedy thriller ‘Villains’




Alter has released the first poster and the official trailer for Villains, the upcoming dark comedy thriller which stars Bill Skarsgård (IT) and Maika Monroe (It Follows) as a couple who rob a gas station and scores enough cash to start a new life in Florida. Unfortunately for them, their getaway plans turn upside down and the young couple end up stumbling on much more than they bargained for.

Villains hits theaters on September 20th and was written and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. In addition to Skarsgard and Monroe, the movie also stars Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick. It’s co-produced by Bron Studios, Star Thrower Entertainment, Creative Wealth Media Finance, and The Realm Films. You can watch the trailer for Villains below.

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Beanie Babies: The Collectables with Heart

Toys We Love Spotlight



For our Toys We Love Spotlight, I’m looking at one of my personal favourites: Beanie Babies. I had collected so many of these growing up, and households worldwide in the 90s and early 2000s were sure to have at least one Beanie Baby in their possession (was it even the 90s if they didn’t?). These plushie companions were cute, cuddly, and collectable, so it’s not a surprise that the Beanie Babies craze swept the globe, forcing parents and toy collectors everywhere to dig into their wallets.

Beanie Babies had a few aspects to them that made them stand out from your average plushie. Firstly, they did not have as much stuffing as most soft toys. Whilst some thought that this made them look cheap, it also made them light, posable, and gave them a realistic feel and look. The bear Beanie Babies were particularly good to pose, and this set them apart from run-of-the-mill teddy bears. Another element that made Beanie Babies more unique was their special tag. Each toy had a tag attached which had the toy’s name, date of birth, and a quotation etched inside. The former was something that could have been a risky choice, as although it wasn’t completely taking away the child’s choice of name — there was nothing stopping them from just calling their Beanie whatever they wanted — a pre-selected name can be difficult to sell, as kids can often take great pride and pleasure in naming their toys.

It was a great success, however, and worked as a nice finishing touch for the Beanie Babies, adding a dash of personality and flair (something much needed in the often critically over-saturated soft toy market), as well as making each Beanie Baby feel like their own creature with their own little stories. Adding to that was the wide variety of animals that were available, such as Tiny the Chihuahua, Pegasus the Unicorn or Swampy the Alligator. This means that the desires of each individual child or enthusiastic collector could be catered to (I myself favoured the dogs and bears).

The puppies were my Beanie Baby of choice. They were all such good boys and girls.

The Beanie Babies also had their own way of tackling difficult issues in society, showing them to kids through the guise of a soft toy. I’ll give you an example through my own experience: I had a Beanie Baby that (as odd as it may sound) gave me more of an understanding of the horrors of September 11th. Weird, right? Allow me to explain. I was only just nine years old on that now-historical day when the twin towers in New York were attacked and so many innocent people lost their lives. I had come home from school (it was afternoon time here in the UK when it happened), and I remember my mum watching it on television in complete shock. She had watched the whole thing whilst I’d been at school.

I didn’t really understand what was happening to be honest. Even when I was watching the repeats of the plane crashing into the side of the tower, I was somewhat oblivious the gravity of the situation (though as a nine year old child, I suppose I could be forgiven for that). The news continued to report the tragedy for a long time, and my school held assemblies to discuss the matter. I knew people had died, and that made me very sad, but I remember thinking that people died all the time, so why was this one incident reported on so much? About a month or so after, TY released three Beanie Babies as a tribute to those lost during 9/11. One of these was a Dalmatian Beanie Baby called Rescue, and I wanted him the moment I saw him, not really knowing the true nature of his purpose. My mum obliged happily, knowing what he represented. I remember taking my little Dalmatian with the red collar and American flag on his leg home and reading his tag. It read:

To honor our heroes
who lost their lives in the
national catastrophe that
took place on September 11, 2001.
We mourn for them and express our
deepest sympathy to their families.
God Bless America

Rescue the Dalmatian was joined by America the Bear and Courage the German Shepherd. The Beanies were a set of three released to honor those who perished in the tragedy of 9/11.

I found Rescue in my room recently, and the memories flooded back to me upon reading it again. I remember looking into all the acts of heroism and bravery after reading Rescue’s tag, and that’s when the situation really hit home to me. I looked into the stories of firefighters and first responders and those who had died, as well as all the search-and-rescue dogs attempting to save people among the chaos. As a child, it can be hard to see past your immediate opinion and truly consider the sheer weight of a situation, but with Rescue’s help, I was able to see just how this event was indeed very different to anything I had ever seen before, and how serious it was. It was the first time I felt like I was thinking like a grown up. I looked at the world differently from then on — obviously as I got older, but also from my ability to think harder and search deeper. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have even bothered if it wasn’t for Rescue reminding me of exactly how much was lost on that day.

Rescue, perhaps the goodest and bravest boy of them all.

Beanie babies will forever be ingrained in culture. They are still bought, sold and collected even now and will remain a timeless staple of most of our childhoods. They certainly are for me. Especially you Rescue, the bravest firefighting Dalmatian the world has ever known.

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‘Shenmue III’ Gamescom Trailer Details a Day in the Life of Ryo



The original Shenmue games pioneered the open world genre, in part through their inclusion of many different minigames and side activities. The Kickstarter-funded Shenmue III looks to continue that legacy, as developer Ys Net and publisher Deep Silver have debuted a new trailer at Gamescom 2019 entitled “A Day in Shenmue.”

The developers provided the following description of the trailer via their latest Kickstarter update: “Exploring the town, playing minigames and battling! We hope it feels just how a Shenmue day should!” Sure enough, the footage showcases the series protagonist Ryo participating in a number of minigames, such as a boxing game and a pachinko machine. The end of the trailer also includes a good look at the series’ signature kung fu combat.

Beyond the new trailer, the Kickstarter update also noted that Yu Suzuki, the famed creator of Shenmue, will be present at Gamescom for autograph signings.

After numerous delays, Shenmue III will finally launch on November 19, 2019 for PS4 and PC via the Epic Games Store.

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