January 17, 2011 (JP)
July 26, 2011 (NA)
February 10, 2012 (EU)
February 23, 2012 (AU)
Catherine is a brand new puzzle game from Atlus, best known as the developers of the Persona series. Catherine is a puzzle-based, adult adventure that personifies Atlus’ reputation for its quirky, interesting style of Japanese games. It’s also a solid game in itself, that delivers all around.
The game revolves around a 32 year old man named Vincent Brooks. Vincent works for a tech company by day and spends his evenings getting very drunk with his friends. He has a girlfriend, Katherine who has been hinting and pressuring him to make himself an honest man and marry her; however, Vincent is unsure if he’s ready to take that step yet. Things get more complicated when, one night, he meets a girl called Catherine (yes, with a C). After a night of heavy drinking and flirting with this new girl, he ends up waking up next to what can only be described as a blond bombshell: naked and seemingly loving it. This is where the game gets interesting, and marks the start of Vincent’s nightmares.
The unique selling point of the story is its interesting take on a man’s affection for a woman and the troubles of being in a relationship – not many games that are based around this theme work this well. Vincent is subject to his nightmares about the K/Catherines, while at the same time, there have been numerous reports of male deaths, around the same age as Vincent. Rumors speculate that they were subject to torturous nightmares just like his own. Throughout the game, you will be spending your time wandering around the same bar, interacting with friends and strangers, and the rest of the time then you will be in Vincent’s nightmares, trying to wake up and not get him killed.
The gameplay blends nicely with the story. At the end of the nightmares, Vincent receives text messages which can influence his reactions and decisions in the beautiful cutscenes. The way you respond to these text messages can ultimately affect the storyline. This offers a slightly different take on the traditional karma meter. The meter’s graphical design would lead you to believe that it is simply a karma choice, since siding with Katherine will push you to the blue side, while siding with Catherine will push you into the red (marked with a little devil). This seems to label having anything to do with Catherine as a bad karma choice.
Catherine could be considered more of a soap opera with the crazy characters and sex-oriented storyline, but once you have stopped drooling over the drop-dead gorgeous cutscenes and actually start controlling Vincent, it’s a solid game. As stated before, the gameplay has two different aspects: the real world, and Vincent’s nightmare world. When you are in the nightmare world, you find yourself navigating a rather large collaboration of cubes, which you need to move around in order to reach the top. This gameplay aspect does sound boring on paper, but there are many different types of cubes, obstacles and crazy monsters to keep you on your toes. This section of the gameplay will take up most of your time and will, most likely, require lots of trial and error. Each nightmare has different puzzle towers that you need to figure out, keeping your mind on top of its game.
With tense gameplay must come tense music, which Catherine deliveries with no exception. The music brings you into the game and makes you really feel for Vincent when certain things are happening in the storyline. The use of sound effects is well done as well, not skimping on any part of the audio. The anime-style graphics are well-done as well, including the aforementioned cutscenes.
There are one or two problems that I could pin down, mainly to do with the camera movement. If you move to the other side of the block tower, then your view of Vincent is blocked completely. Although this can be a problem, there aren’t many times that you’ll need to go behind the tower. In addition, the puzzles can be too hard for their own good at times, resulting in some frustration as you make your way through the game.
Catherine can be considered an adult’s game, since it does include life challenges that a lot of men will face, regardless of how comically they are presented. As I was playing the game, I felt like I was really making the choices, and I felt like it was my relationship I was trying to repair or throw away. Some people might get annoyed with the game at times and want to throw in the towel, but if you stick with it, Catherine is an engaging experience that’s worth trying.
Catherine isn’t for everyone, but in a industry where developers are scared to produce something different and not stick to already popular brands, it is a refreshing experience. At first glance, Catherine could be considered a wacky Japanese game that appeals to only the perverted minded individuals, but that isn’t true. It’s a fresh take on a puzzle and roleplaying game that combines nearly every element of both genres brilliantly. Atlus is to be commended for bringing something this different to the market, and they are to be commended for the end result.
Can be a bit too challenging.
Awkward camera angles at times.