Celeste was designed to be a challenging game.

So states part of the game’s “Assist Mode.” It’s clear about developer Matt Makes Games’s intent: “difficulty is essential to the experience. We recommend playing without Assist Mode your first time.” In an interview with ID @ Xbox, the eponymous Matt asked: “What’s the point of climbing a mountain if it doesn’t challenge you, right?”

Every Player is Different

Yet Celeste understands a simple fact: “every player is different.” This means that the standard difficulty might make the game inaccessible to some players for any number of reasons. Perhaps they have a disability, lower mechanical skill, or simply a limited amount of free time.

Assist Mode offers options that allow players to tailor Celeste’s difficulty to their own ability and preferences. Two concern specific mechanics – stamina and air dashes – and there’s an invincibility mode perfect for practising or just feeling unstoppable while experiencing protagonist Madeline’s story. To answer Matt’s question about the point of climbing a mountain without challenges – maybe you just want to see the view from the top.

Personally, the ability to change the speed of the game is the most interesting. Not only does this give a sliding scale to suit one’s own reaction times, playing the game at half speed seems like an experience that would be gratifying in its own right. There’s no doubt that Celeste is gorgeous – floating through it gracefully and gently is an appealing prospect.

There are also options for those who prefer a greater challenge than the standard game. Hidden collectables (in the form of adorable strawberries) and unlockable challenges promise to push even those with natural platforming skills.

Accessibility in games is so often overlooked, but for many people it’s crucial – and for others it’s just greatly appreciated. With games like Celeste, Even the Ocean, and Dishonored 2 taking the smart approach of giving the players the tools they need to tweak the games to their needs and wants, we may be seeing some welcome progress.


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Jay Castello

Contributor
Jay is a freelance games writer specialising in intersectional feminist critique, how to improve games and use them to improve the world, and cute dogs. She loves inhabiting digital spaces in all their forms, and being constantly surprised by just how weird and wonderful games can be.