Catherine Review

A quick look at Catherine: it’s out of left field. It involves a love triangle with two women named (K)Catherine, sheep men, and nightmares that lead to real-life deaths. Bizarre is certainly an adjective that can be applied here, but an even more appropriate word is unique. From the relationship-centric plot to the menacing block puzzles, Catherine is a game willing to take bold risks. The strange premise and steep difficulty may not be for everyone, but those willing to give the game a chance will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind experience.

CatherineThe game revolves around Vincent, a man in his early 30s who’s been in a relationship with Katherine (with a “K”). He is someone who enjoys taking things easy, while Katherine seems to be more driven and ambitious. After a night of drinking Vincent finds himself in bed with Catherine (with a “C”). It turns out that he’s cheated on his girlfriend with the attractive and carefree Catherine, and he quickly realizes it was a mistake. These personal issues lead him to have terrifying nightmares where he encounters talking sheep and huge block towers that he must climb. Vincent then learns that young men have been dying in their sleep recently, and he must try to find a possible connection while dealing with his complex personal relationships.

Despite being a game with talking sheep and killer nightmares, much of Catherine‘s story is grounded in reality. Deeply personal issues such as love and commitment are explored, giving the game an “adult” feel that’s not often captured in videogame narratives. In addition, the prevalent themes surrounding romance and relationships are handled comfortably and in a mature manner. These topics can often come across as awkward and out of place in video games, but Catherine manages to strike a chord that few other games do. Also worth noting is the impressive characterization of Vincent. Although he makes some questionable decisions throughout the course of the game, his feelings and responsibility seem genuine and relatable.

Catherine‘s premise marks a distinct departure from Atlus’ Persona series, but the structure remains largely unchanged. Part of your day is spent socializing with Vincent’s friends at a local bar, talking about the protagonist’s issues among other topics. You can also converse with fellow patrons and help them deal with their own personal quandaries. Other activities include an arcade machine that features a spin-off of sorts on the game’s block puzzles, and a jukebox where you can sort through the game’s music.

Catherine puzzle

Perhaps the most important activity at the bar, though, is responding to text messages. You will often receive them from Katherine and other acquaintances, and you can respond in a number of different ways. Each response affects the order or chaos meter, which acts as a morality system of sorts. Also effecting that meter are a series of questions you will be asked, but more on that later.

The social aspect of the game helps showcase the solid cast of characters that make up Catherine. It also provides a much needed break from the block puzzles, which are brutal. The majority of time in the game will be spent with these devious contraptions, and they seriously test mental willpower. Things start out simple enough, pulling out blocks to find the correct path to the top of staircase. But with each new stage a new type of block is introduced. They include ones made of ice that are easy to slip off of, and ones that explode after standing on them. Special items can also be used, like an energy drink that lets you climb two blocks at once. In addition, each staircase is a race against the clock as the floor quickly falls out from under you.

If there’s one thing that needs to be pointed out about these nightmare stages, it’s that they are incredibly difficult. Catherine is punishing in every sense of the word, and figuring out the solution to each staircase is a hefty challenge. Add in a strict time limit and you’re left with some very stressful situations. This helps elevate the sense of satisfaction after completing each stage, but the game comes off as frustrating a little too often. This is especially true of the boss stages, where your enemy usually has an attack that completely ruins the progress you’ve made. Also, the steep difficulty doesn’t help mask the fact that the majority of Catherine is spent with these block puzzles, and they can sometimes become tedious. Particular stages do stand out out from the crowd, but it’s hard not to get a little tired of them by the game’s end.

Catherine cutsceneIn between each puzzle is an area for you to talk to the game’s many sheep that inhabit your nightmares. They are in the same position as Vincent and echo many of his concerns. They also offer techniques to help you solve each new stage, though implementing these strategies can be hard considering the time crunch. After talking to the sheep you enter a confessional and answer questions. These questions range from the serious to the absurd (“Do you envy actors who often participate in sex scenes?”). Your choices dictate which of the game’s multiple endings you will receive, but that doesn’t translate to looking for the “right” answer. The game does a good job of throwing questions at you that inspire honest answers, which is a refreshing change of pace from most other games’ morality systems.

Catherine is the first game developed by Atlus for next-generation consoles, and it really pays off in the visual department. The colors seem more bright and defined than past PS2 titles, and the fully animated cutscenes are especially impressive. Also great is the voice acting, which is consistent throughout. The voicework for Vincent is the real standout, giving him that sense of stress and anxiety. The music is a mix of original compositions and classical music, which is appropriately ominous during the nightmare stages.

Describing a game like Catherine can be hard considering there are few titles out there even remotely similar to it. Despite that, most of the risks taken work in the game’s favor, resulting in a truly unique experience. The block puzzles aren’t always engaging, and sometimes the gameplay can prove to be a bit too difficult. But the distinctive story and top notch writing make Catherine an easy recommendation.


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Author: Anthony LaBella View all posts by
My first experience playing a video game blew me away. The fact that Super Metroid was that game certainly helped. So I like to think Samus put me on the path to video games. Well, I guess my parents buying the SNES had a little something to do with it. Ever since then my passion for video games has grown. When I found that I could put words together into a coherent sentence, videogame journalism was a natural interest. Now I spend a large majority of my time either playing video games or writing about them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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