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Celeste outlines the tricks that make its tough platforming feel fair

High jump

Have you ever wondered why some platformers feel excellent where others feel, well, not? Turns out, designing some top-tier running and jumping takes a little more work than you'd think. This week, Celeste developer Matt / Maddy Thorson took to Twitter to run through some of the clever deceptions they used to make the nails-hard platformer feel fun and - more importantly - fair.

As far as platformers go, Celeste is pretty bloody hard. As Adam said in his Celeste review, it's a "difficult game about overcoming difficulties". But there's a world of difference between the challenge of Celeste and joke-hard side-scrollers like I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden. That difference is fairness.

In a thread this Friday, Thorson explained some of the tricks Celeste uses to push things in the player's favour. Some, like the fittingly-named "Coyote time", are practically ubiquitous - giving players a few extra frames to hit a jump at the edge of a pit.

But others are more tuned to Celeste's particular brand of precision platforming. Here, for example, we see how not only does wall-jumping come with a 2-pixel margin for error, but super-wall-jumping (a much harder trick to pull off) bumps that up to five. If the player's already trying to nail a complex manouver, it's fair that they shouldn't be fighting against something as relatively minor as precise pixel placement.

If there's a throughline, it's that all these tricks are about removing the need for pixel-perfect accuracy. As Thorson themself notes, it's important that even a game as hard as Celeste is able to skew things to keep from feeling needlessly cruel.

"All are centred around widening timing/positioning windows, so that everything is fudged a tiny bit in the player's favour. I think this is a big reason why Celeste can feel kind even though it's very difficult - it wants you to succeed."

If you're more technically-minded than I, Thorson has previously shared Celeste's 5,400-line player control script, giving devs and fans an insight on Madeline's masterful momentum.

Of course, that doesn't even take into account the game's wonderful accessibility tools that let you tweak countless aspects of its platforming challenge. Celeste might be right bloody tough, but it's a game that ultimately wants you to succeed. It's considerations like these that make Celeste one of the best platform games on PC.

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Natalie Clayton avatar

Natalie Clayton


Writes news when everyone else is asleep, sometimes