Celestial Mechanica is a quietly impressive platform adventure (a.k.a. "metroidvania") game along the lines of Knytt Stories and the Robot Wants series of games. Created by Roger Hicks (author of rComplex) and Paul Veer (animator of Super Crate Box), it's the sort of game that sits quietly off to the side, never begging you to play it, but once you do, you'll be hooked 'til the end.
In the distant future, Earth grew tired of the abuse brought to it by humans, and so it shattered itself to pieces. Within seconds of the event, a race of celestial beings appeared and restored the planet's stability. For 100 years afterwards, the beings maintained the planet's integrity from a fortress high in the clouds called Mechanica. Nothing was known about the inhabitants of the Mechanica. That is, until one fell from the sky. Meeting with another fallen being, the two of you work together to find a way back to the clouds.
Controls are quite straightforward and involve the [arrow] keys for movement and one button for jumping. The special abilities you discover are explained as you obtain them, but they're usually very simple things like the double jump or gaining the ability to push blocks. As you progress through the map's distinct, interconnected areas, you'll learn to use your skills in every way possible to get past the game's obstacles and solve the puzzles preventing your progress. The map, found by pressing [enter], will come in very handy.
Even though it looks all cute and inviting, Celestial Mechanica can be a very challenging game. There are two saving graces keeping the old school difficulty from ruining your day: infinite lives, and close proximity respawns. If you die (well, "when you die six times at the same spot"), you simply reappear where you entered the screen. No penalty other than having to do a short spurt of the game over again.
Analysis: Celestial Mechanica is a representative of the growing group of games that borrow from Cave Story, Knytt, and many other sidescrolling action games of a similar ilk. It's all about the adventure, but with a strong influence of exploration, character upgrades, and puzzles that usually involve pressing buttons to move things in the environment. Simple construction, but the results are highly engaging!
The only real issue in the game (unless high difficulty is a problem for you) is the camera in full screen mode. The screen likes to follow you precisely, and when you do a lot of jumping, this can hide parts of the ground below your view, leading to a number of deaths because you couldn't see what was coming. It doesn't seem as jerky when played in window mode, so your mileage may vary, and it's not something you can't get accustomed to by looking before you leap.
Visually, Celestial Mechanica looks like a 16-bit SNES game, which will draw absolutely no complaints from the nostalgic retro crowds among us. Everything looks simple but gorgeous, from the backdrops to the soldiers firing homing missiles at you. The soundtrack by Roger Hicks is also something stunning, and you can listen to it in its entirety as well as purchase for yourself.
With a low price tag and a great presentation, Celestial Mechanica is a sound investment for an afternoon's worth of entertainment. It's great to watch in motion and even better to play!
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