According to the nursery rhyme, the cow jumped over the moon. But what if she didn't quite make it over? What if she's laying up on that rock, sleeping and dreaming?
What if, over the decades, other cows attempted to make the legendary jump, failed, and ultimately settled on Luna? What if they eventually went beyond Earth's natural satellite?
Celleste, an action / arcade title from Elevator Games, is all about cows in space. The bovines occupy small, dreamy planets that are subject to hazards including meteors and giant cow-eating insects. Apparently, a rare steak is not exclusively a human taste.
Celleste looks and sounds gorgeous, but its soft atmosphere belies a frantic, sometimes chaotic game experience. You say to yourself, "Wait, what the heck am I supposed to do here?" And when you figure it out, you say, "Oh. That's it?"
Cows, and the bugs that eat them
In Celleste, you take the role of a cow-herder. Your job is to keep the ponderous beasts alive long enough for them to meander towards each stage's exit.
The cows move towards the gate automatically (though they're not shy about taking frustrating detours), but require a tap to get moving since they'd rather nap than make any effort to save themselves.
The path to each level's exit is usually blocked by rocks and "shiny trees" that look like huge lettuces. The cows automatically start munching on any trees they come across, but it takes time for them to clear a passage (never expect a cow to rush its meal).
Meanwhile giant bugs slither from caves and latch themselves onto your spotted charges. You have a few seconds to tap the attacking bug and save the cow. If the cow gets eaten, you're penalised according to the level goal. You might lose a star from your three-star total - or you may fail the level entirely.
Celleste looks and sounds lovely, which makes its unremarkable gameplay all the more disappointing. Most of the action revolves around tapping marauding bugs, though there are some flashes of inspiration, like being required to use meteors to destroy obstructions and bug lairs.
But Celleste's small, spherical worlds make gameplay unnecessarily chaotic. It's difficult to tell what's going on at all times, even with the inclusion of a "cow radar" on the side of the screen.
The playing field is small, and crowded with alien flora and fauna that's meant to give the world of Celleste identity and life. It's pretty, sure, but it's also distracting. Even in the rare moments when you do feel like you have control of the situation, you quickly realise that all you're really doing is tapping bugs.
It's a shame that Celleste's gameplay doesn't live up to the whimsical world it offers. Sad to say, this just isn't a prize heifer.