Daily Independent: Get Your 8-Bit Metroidvania on in Celestial Mechanica

The Daily Independent is a recurring feature in which we shine a light into the darkened wilderness of indie gaming, illuminating both the good and the bad of what we find there.

Metroid-style platformers are among my favorite kinds of games, which is why I was so interested in Celestial Mechanica when I first read about it. The game takes the “Metroidvania” genre back to its 8-bit roots, dropping players in a 2-D sci-fi world with no weapons and not even the ability to jump. Wits, speed and precision are necessary to traverse its dangers and puzzles, in order to obtain more powers and explore more of the game.

Celesital Mechanica is a collaboration between Roger Hicks, who worked on the game rComplex, and Paul Veer, who served as animator for Super Crate Box. The result is a pretty great-looking and platformer with great original music that feels very much like a classic NES game.

It’s also f—ing frustrating. Celestial Mechanica looks cool, but it’s rife with environmental hazards that murder players if they take so much as a few pixels’ misstep. Death isn’t the end of the game (thank God), but is tracked as part of the end-game readout for how a player fared. During regular play, death just resets you to the place where you entered the room or screen, which sounds fine until you consider some of the labyrinthine areas that need to be traversed in Mechanica, and how stupidly easy it is to die and have to replay them.

One of the things that drives me crazy in video games is doing something over and over again when I don’t feel like I’m gaining anything for the experience, and that happens a lot in Celestial Mechanica. It’s irritating, but I think I probably would have had an easier time using a game pad (which the game supports) rather than the keyboard. That said, I wasn’t so frustrated that I didn’t want to push on and explore new areas — which is kind of the point. Celestial Mechanica might be difficult and frustrating, but it’s no more so than the games it draws influence from that existed way back in the 1990s. Dying a lot and cursing the names of Hicks and Veer comes with the Metroidvania territory, and the payoff of the experience is worth the trouble.

Oh, and there’s the price tag, too, that makes Celestial Mechanica a journey worth taking: $5. The game is pretty fast if you can master it quickly — my run took probably two hours or so, perhaps less, but it still looks great and demands a lot of the player, which is a refreshing change from most of the mainstream games of today.

So in total: Celestial Mechanica looks and sounds great, it’s fun as well as a little irritating, it won’t take up your whole day and it costs less than lunch. Our final verdict: Check it out.

You can snag Celestial Mechanica (and its soundtrack) from its official website: www.celestialmechanica.com.

And here’s a trailer.

Celestial Mechanica from R.J. H. on Vimeo.

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