Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Celleste is the special kind of mediocre game that initially gives off a good first impression, making its inevitable descent all the more disappointing. While it’s easy to be charmed by its lovely style, it will only turn players away with its tedious gameplay.
Celleste takes place on a series of Super Mario Galaxy-esque tiny planets. Each new planetoid has a small group of cows, and the player’s job is to guide them to safety within the teleportation tree. But cows are slow and not too bright, so getting them to go in the right direction will require some prodding attention from the player. Later they'll even need to physically form a path for their herd by destroying immoveable stone structures with fiery flying space meteors. Fortunately the cows themselves aren’t entirely useless. They can find their own way by chowing down on grass obstacles, although this does slow them down even more.
However, Celleste's nearly 50 levels are so compact that actually making these paths isn’t particularly creative or fun. It’s just a means to an end, getting the cows to reach their nearby exit. Instead, the game wants to excite players by making tense enemy encounters the game’s primary mechanic - and this is where it all falls apart. In most levels, cows are constantly under attack by evil space bugs. Players can destroy these nuisances with a single tap, but so many of them usually spawn at once, and then indefinitely, that players will feel like nothing more than mindless babysitters for their herd. Also, with gameplay so mentally undemanding, suddenly cranking up the artificial difficulty feels especially insulting.
What makes these significant shortcomings so sad though is that Celleste's production values really do deserve gameplay that matches their quality. The soft sci-fi world comes to life in vivid detail with fantastic lighting, great dark pastel color choices, and silky smooth 3D graphics. Meanwhile, the rock-and-roll lullaby soundtrack perfectly complements the gentle cosmic atmosphere.
But alas, all the charm in the universe can’t save Celleste's frustratingly slight gameplay. Games can’t just be nice to look at; they have to be nice to play, too.