For the GamesBeat Decides podcast this week, we kicked off a new monthly segment where we pick the best game of the month. January had some incredible new releases, and hosts Jeffrey Grubb and Mike Minotti talk about the big three during this episode.
You can listen to our discussion in the video above or in the full audio episode below. Scroll down to see our selection.
January 2018’s game of the month is … Celeste
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Runners-up: Monster Hunter: World, Dragon Ball FighterZ
That was one of the best opening months for a year ever. Dragon Ball FighterZ is an accessible and gorgeous fighter, and Monster Hunter: World‘s satisfying gameplay loop is catching on with mainstream gamers for the first time in its long history. But as the calendar clicked over to February, it was the difficult indie platformer Celeste that stood above everything else.
Celeste is the latest game from developer Matt Makes Games, which made the pixel brawler Towerfall for Ouya (ports hit other platforms). It has you playing as Madeline, a young girl who is climbing Celeste Mountain because … well, she doesn’t really know or explain when you start. But as you progress, you learn that she’s doing this because she hates a part of herself that is riddled with doubt and anxiety. You also learn that Celeste has some of the sharpest platforming in any game ever made.
Madeline has only a handful of moves. She can run, jump, climb, and dash. You get one dash early on, and you can only climb as long as your stamina meter holds out. Matt Makes Games throws one obstacle after another at you to keep things fresh despite a limited set of moves.
The studio built each world around a new platform or powerup that augments Madeline’s capabilities. In one stage, you might discover platforms that respond to your dashes that enable you to build up a lot of momentum. Another world may have turning into a ball of light that can fly around freely for a few seconds.
But while everything around Madeline is changing, one thing remains constant: the difficulty. Every room in every stage is challenging. And that means you constantly feel accomplished as you progress. Of course, the game is so hard that it might turn off some people, so Matt Makes Games made an assist mode that lets you change how Celeste works. You can add infinite dashes or slow down time or turn the spikes into harmless bouncy springs. So I can enjoy the game as it’s intended (and scream in frustration in the process), and others can also enjoy it but on their own terms.
Celeste is special. The gameplay is tight and delightful, the story is thoughtful, and it is visually striking. This is easily the best game of January.