Celeste is a very punishing platformer released in 2018. Upon its release, it was very well received by players and critics a lot thanks to its tight platforming, varied challenges, a fantastic soundtrack, and how its story explores mental health. The developers have also said that they developed the game with speed runners in mind, so it is no surprise that it has become a massive pillar of the speed-running community. So, here is everything you need to try it for yourself.
Key Info Up Front
- Category: Any%
- World Record Holder: Isaactayy
- World Record Time: 26 minutes 0 seconds 804 milliseconds
Celeste follows a transgender woman named Madeline as she climbs Celeste Mountain. Along the way, Celeste’s psyche splits, giving birth to Badeline, her negative side. Badeline then starts trying to get in Madeline’s way to hinder her progress. Along the way, Madeline also comes across various NPCs who each try to dissuade her from continuing up the mountain.
Madeline perseveres, however, and eventually confronts Badeline to come to terms with her. The two then reach the summit of Celeste Mountain together, symbolizing her ability to persevere and come to terms with her mental health issues.
The game’s action plays out over 2D platforming levels that are extremely punishing and intricate. Players can jump, climb walls, and dash in the air to get through the levels. These mechanics make a tool kit for players to use to navigate the screens of each level and lead to various maneuvers and techniques.
Before you start practicing the range of movement techniques required for running Celeste, there are some standard key bindings that I recommend using. Whether you play with a controller or a keyboard and mouse, the bindings can be changed, and they are the same regardless. When setting the bindings, make sure to put them to whatever option seems most comfortable.
Regardless of which buttons you prefer to use, I highly recommend having two buttons bound as jump. Having two jump bindings will help make multiple techniques much easier so that you can perform them more consistently.
Demo dashing is a technique we will go through below, but when setting up your bindings, you should set one button to activate a demo dash. You’ll be using demo dashes a ton through your runs, and having it bound to a single key will save you countless headaches. When you set the binding, you’ll be able to select either Hold or Press, but I recommend using Press so that it is more reactive. You also shouldn’t replace your primary dash with a demo dash.
I also recommend re-binding the pause key to one that you can hit very easily and quickly. A faster pause binding can then be combined with the above key binding to reset or skip cutscenes with two fast inputs quickly. So, I recommend putting the two bindings close to one another.
Down and Confirm
If you bind menu navigation down and conform to the same key, you can save a lot of time in menus. Doing so allows you to pause and press the button a single time to skip cutscenes, reset after death, or get in a position you can’t salvage. You can also use this during your death animation to speed it up, saving you up to a full second every time you die, which can add up to a lot of time throughout a run.
A super dash is the most basic movement in Celeste. It is performed by inputting a dash and then jumping immediately after. Super dashes boost the player’s jump, allowing them to travel faster and further than they would from an average jump or dash.
An extended super dash is a more complicated variant that allows players to keep their dash while still getting a super dash. Players must input the super dash’s jump part at the right time to do so. Whenever Madeline performs a dash, her hair turns white briefly before returning to red. Players who input the jump while Madeline’s hair is white will keep their dash and perform an extended super dash.
You can perform a reverse super dash by inputting backward between inputting the dash and the jump. Using a reverse super dash allows players to quickly switch directions and carry the dash’s momentum moving backward.
Wave dashes are a technically demanding maneuver that allows players to travel quickly across horizontal spaces. It is performed by jumping, dashing horizontally toward the ground in the direction the player wants to go, and then jumping when they first meet the ground. This technique preserves incredible speed, although it requires precise timing to pull off consistently.
Hypers are performed by dashing downward and jumping before reaching the floor below. Hypers are the fastest way for players to move horizontally in Celeste. Hypers also require less verticality than a super, allowing players to use hypers in tight spaces where they don’t have much verticality to work with. Once you get comfortable with hypers, you can also practice doing extended and reverse hypers that effectively work identically to their super counterparts.
Demo dashes, also known as crouch dashes, are used to slide through tight spaces. There is a way to input these dashes manually, but binding a key for it is much easier. Since demo dashes make Madeline crouch as she moves, it dramatically shrinks her hitbox. However, it does prevent her from interacting with particular objects like crystals.
A wall bounce allows players to scale walls and jump away from them quickly. It is a pivotal technique for speeding up your vertical movement during speed runs. To perform one, you have to perform a vertical dash while close to a wall. Players can jump off the wall at any point before the end of the dash to complete their vertical movement.
Corner boosts are a complex technique that can make a big difference once a runner can pull it off consistently. To perform a corner boost, you have to start climbing a wall and jump within the first five frames of climbing. Corner boosts are impactful because they allow players to maintain their horizontal momentum while jumping over obstacles and then continuing horizontally.
Coyote Time is a reasonably familiar mechanic in popular speed-running games. It allows players to jump off a platform for a short while after running off it. In the case of Celeste, players can input a jump in the five frames after they run off a platform, which allows players to reach further with their jumps. Once players get comfortable with coyote time, they can even use it to perform hypers in mid-air.
The path that I want to take a look at is for the Any% category. Since it is for the Any% category, you don’t have to complete non-required levels or screens. Running through the levels even slowly to memorize the progression of rooms you need to take will significantly help cut down your overall time. You’ll want to practice most of the rooms repeatedly to figure out the fastest route and get the movements down to muscle memory. Below, however, I will go into general tips and strategies and ones that are more specific to particular rooms.
I also want to mention that once you start getting serious about speed running Celeste, you should begin to make strategies for each room’s entry and death cycle. Doing so means having a strategy to get through each one when you first enter it and a strategy for if you die on your first attempt at the room. Multiple strategies are important because the object locations change depending on whether the player just reached the screen or respawned at the start.
Little is needed to speed things up when playing through the prologue because of how barebones the section is. To ensure you get through it as quickly as possible, hold right and grab and do small hops the entire way. Using this method will get you to the end as soon as possible. You should also confirm your way through the first dialogue, allowing you to get through the prologue in less than 40 seconds.
City is straightforward level. Its puzzles and challenges are relatively basic because it is the first level players attempt after getting their abilities. While it is a simple level, I recommend not trying to do anything too complicated or tricky, at least at first. Once you get more comfortable and experienced, you can mix tricks and daring maneuvers to cut down on time spent in City, but when first starting out, if you play it safe, it shouldn’t take more than two minutes.
Old Site is a straightforward level similar to City but introduces dream blocks and Badeline. Badeline is the main thing you have to be wary of at this level, as she can quickly ruin a run if you don’t have a plan to deal with her. So, I’ll cover how to navigate some of the trickier rooms in this level to help you get through it consistently below.
Four Coin Room
This room has a nice movement string, making it easy to avoid Badeline. Run to the middle of the room and jump through the dream block to reach the coin above it. Then jump to the coin in the top right corner before dashing to the right to fall off its platform and then dash left to get the bottom left coin. Then, you can run right to get the final coin and head to the far right side of the screen, where the block drops down to reveal the exit.
Towards the end of Old Site, you will have to make your way down a highly tall room. This one can be very tricky to learn how to navigate without running into Badeline, but there are some tricks and secrets that help make it more manageable.
At the start, get on the wooden platform against a wall on the left side of the screen. You can dash to the left and down through a hidden passage. The secret passage will drop you down into a small open space, so dash to the left to avoid the spikes and continue falling. You will have to dash right and move Madeline around as she falls to avoid spikes, but this will let you drop to the part with the dream column in the middle and three coins.
You should jump and dash through the dream block to get to the platform by the upper right coin in that section. Grab the coin and slide down on the right side of the dream block. Once you can, dash to the right over the platform of the bottom right coin and then run under the platform toward the bottom left coin. When you get the final coin, go over the platform to grab it and then under to get back out and fall through the hole.
Toward the end of Old Site, Madeline will wake up, and you’ll have a straight horizontal path to go through to the end. For this section, my only tip is that you should keep it simple and focus on avoiding the springs sprinkled throughout it, as they will only serve to slow you down in the long run.
Resort is likely the first level you must practice to get your time down. The level is a serious difficulty spike and can stack up deaths for underprepared runners. So, here are some specific tips to help get you through it.
Grabbing The Key
Early on, a key is high on a platform near the left edge of its screen. To make grabbing this key faster, you can take advantage of the mechanic that restores dashes whenever the game loads a new screen. So, start on the first screen and then jump and dash upward and right to cause the transition. Then, dash up and left to go back to the first screen, and you’ll be able to repeat this process to climb that area and reach the key.
When you get to the part of the level that sees you helping Mr. Oshiro clean up the resort, there is a highly optimal order to proceed in. You should go to the screen heading down, up, and finally right. This order is critical because Mr. Oshiro will move around whenever you go to a screen away from him. Following this order makes his movement predictable and positions him optimally so that he is on the way to your next section.
Escaping Mr. Oshiro
The section of the level where Madeline flees from Mr. Oshiro is the second significant hurdle you’ll have to overcome when it comes to speed-running Celeste. You’ll likely have to practice this entire section a ton. Thankfully, the area does not require too many intricate techniques. Instead, focus on learning the timing and use basic movement to get through it. There are plenty of more advanced ways to cut time off this section, but for now, focus on consistently getting through it without any deaths.
This level does not have too many specific tips for any of its screens, at least not for getting a sub-hour run. Like most levels in Celeste, the worst part of the level is its final stretch. So, practice the last group of screens to get it down pat. Since this level uses bubbles a lot, it is also important to note that you can dash when entering a bubble to speed up its movement and save valuable time.
You should also use a technique known as spring canceling later in the level to dodge the snowballs in the final stretch. You can spring cancel by dashing immediately after bouncing off a spring. Spring canceling will stop your vertical momentum, allowing you to cover more distance between snowballs.
A typical exploit used for the Temple level can severely cut down on the time it requires to beat. The exploit requires players to obtain the level’s b-side cassette tape and complete that level instead of its original version. Completing the b-side still unlocks the next level and is much faster, but since it is a b-side, it is a massive spike in difficulty. I will be focusing on the a-side of Temple so that you can don’t have to practice a level that is much harder than the rest of this run.
One big time saver for the regular version of Temple comes from being able to skip the second locked door. When you reach the second locked door, there will be a red bubble to the left. If you take that bubble, it will pass under the hallway platforms with spikes on top of them. Jump up from the bubble into the bottom of the middle platform, and you will land in a secret bubble that will carry you up to a passage. This passage leads directly over the locked door, allowing you to ignore it completely.
The section of Temple known as Search is a massive area. However, you can entirely skip it. To do so, you’ll need to do a reverse super dash to dash into and then double jump through the hallway filled with red tentacles that exit this screen. This skip may take some time to get down since it requires a reverse super dash, but it saves so much time that even if you fail it in a run, you should try it at least nine times because you’ll still save time.
Reflection is a challenging level with a lot of space for creative time reduction and strategies. When you’re starting, however, I recommend just playing through it safely and consistently. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your run and are looking for ways to start getting closer to thirty or forty minutes, you should focus on the advanced strategies for this level.
However, a one section is a long hallway where players can choose to go to a higher or lower room six times. To get through this section quickly, the standard that speedrunners use is to choose the high or low room in this order:
Vertical Room Skip
After you get through the section with six choices, you’ll enter a tall column room. Luckily, there is a handy skip to get past the part with the circular enemies that crackle with electricity. To do the skip, you must get on to the green square block above the pink spikes and growth. Then, you can jump and grab onto the right side of the block. Releasing the block from there will allow you to fall right through a gap in the pink hazards and drift to the left to land on a safe platform.
The Summit level at the end of Celeste makes up most of your Any% run. If you have the other levels down well, you should be sitting at only around 11 minutes of total playtime if you’re hoping to get a run under an hour. Luckily, the massive level splits into five checkpoints. So, I’m going to give general tips for each checkpoint and point out any of their particularly troublesome screens so that you know which ones you’ll have to practice.
The first set of levels is straightforward, but you’ll need to practice your spring cancels. In particular, you’ll have to do horizontal spring cancels. These can be trickier than their vertical counterpart, which you’ve already used earlier in the run. You occasionally must wait a brief moment before canceling to line up your dash correctly. However, if you play conservatively, you shouldn’t have any problem making it through 0m.
Once you reach the 500m checkpoint, you’ll start going through screens with elements you don’t need to use, like springs or dash crystals. You can work these into your route if you want, but for these screens, ensure you take some time to experiment with ignoring them, as that is usually faster in the long run.
The most challenging screen in this section is the final one because of the large block that players have to deal with moving up and down. The best way to handle the block is to wait for it to rise and get in one of the alcoves on either side. Then, it will throw Madeline in the air when it goes up. When it does, hold jump the entire time, and she will jump when she can, allowing you to reach Badeline without having to do anything else. However, doing this trick will require you to drift right over the spikes so you can reach Badeline on your first try. Don’t worry; the jump will come out in time.
Early in this section, you will come across a room with a massive dream block column at its center. While there are routes on either side that you can wall jump through, it is easier to dash up and right through the dream block, followed by up and left, then up and right, and then straight left. Then, you can hold onto the side of the dream block and dash up and left to transition to the next screen. The hardest part of this strategy is timing your dashes correctly, as you need to ensure you are out of the block when they go off but not too late, or you will lose momentum.
The most challenging screen in 1000m, however, is the horizontal room, which is the section’s second to last. To get through it, dash through the first dream block and dream jump to get over the spikes on the other end. Then, dash through the second dream block and fall before dashing right to go under the pillar. Then, dash up and right through the next dream block. From there, you can dash right through the remainder of the screen.
The second room of this section is an absolute monster. Luckily, to get a run under one hour, you won’t have to do anything too tricky and can play it safe. To get through the room, jump slightly from the starting area before dashing up and then to the right to make it to the first platform. Then, wait just slightly before jumping up and right a second time. On that platform, wait a bit for it to fall while standing on the left side of it. You can then dash right under the next obstacle to make it to the last platform. All left to do then is dash up and exactly one more time to reach the end.
This checkpoint is easier than 1500m. The biggest thing to remember is to use the fast bubbling dashes from earlier in the run to get through its screens as quickly as possible.
To make the beginning of this checkpoint go much faster, take the red bubble at the start to the left before taking the one above it to the right. This will help you skip the beginning of the section. Then, you will have to play safely and consistently for the rest of it. It is a long section, but if you avoid trying to do anything tricky, you’ll be able to get through it.
This section is a long vertical climb to collect 30 flags. The biggest advice that I can give you for this section is to use quick jumps off the wall when you can and to make sure you use both of your dashes before each dash crystal you grab. I also highly recommend practicing this section because it messes with the physics of your movement throughout it. If you don’t, you can easily be thrown off by your jumps going further or not as far as you are used to.
Question: Are there plans for a sequel to Celeste?
Answer: While the developers have said that a Celeste 2 is not impossible, they did announce that there are no current plans for a direct sequel.
Question: What mental health issues does Celeste explore?
Answer: While the game’s themes can be applied to nearly any mental illness, Madeline struggles explicitly with depression and anxiety throughout her journey.
Question: How hard is Celeste?
Answer: Celeste is a challenging and punishing platformer, but its difficulty is fair in that deaths can always be traced back to mistakes made by the player.
Playing through Celeste is a challenging but enriching experience. Doing so while speed running and optimizing your paths is even more so. So, if you have the patience to master punishing platforming levels, I can’t recommend picking up Celeste enough. Even better is that the game is available on a range of platforms for speed runners to choose from.