Catherine/ Format: PS3, XBOX 360/ Rating: Mature/ 1-2 Player/ Release: 7/26/11
Let’s Play a Love Game
Catherine will grab you and suck you into its story. Atlus has really outdone itself here with stunning visuals, addictive puzzles, and cut-scenes that will leave you breathless. While most games like Heavy Rain and L.A. Noire try to make their characters as life like as possible, Atlus’s graphic designer 4 Degrees Celsius does a great job with the anime style Catherine has to offer. Rarely does a cartoon seem like a better fit than life-like but in this case, the anime does a great job capturing emotion and other personality traits that aren’t expressed as equally with life-like characters. When Catherine’s protagonist (Vincent Brooks) is worried or extremely nervous, you can really tell with the over dramatized eye popping, and the sweating he does like a wet sponge was just squeezed over his head.
Originally released early in 2011 in Japan, Catherine was criticized for being crushingly difficult. Although the game still is difficult, the “easy” difficulty should be fair enough for every player to be able to get through. If you do decide to up your game and try the more difficult campaigns, prepare for some intense frustration and possible game over with losing so many lives. Don’t expect to beat Catherine within a few hours either. There are eight different endings to Catherine’s story, some better than others. One particularly upsetting fact is to see all of them means playing through the entire 14-18 hour story all over. While that does give the game some good replay ability, I can’t see too many gamers wanting to log all of those hours in just to see each ending when you’re not guaranteed to see a different one each time.
The anime visuals are stunning.
The game starts with Vincent and his girlfriend Katherine having a conversation over lunch. Katherine begins by talking about all of the boring stuff that girls like to talk about, like what their mother thinks and how Vincent is wasting money by buying the new model of his phone. The first time we get to see Vincent’s panic attack is here when Katherine tells him that she thinks she’s pregnant. The story then cuts to Vincent at the bar (Stray Sheep) with a couple of his friends telling them about Katherine’s news. From here is when the gameplay can be very enjoyable. While you continue to get drunk and talk to your buddies, every empty drink means a new fact about that specific type, like beer. There’s a jukebox to play music from, people to talk to, a texting wheel that will reveal Catherine’s naughty side, and an arcade game that is based off the game’s real gameplay.
After Vincent’s friends leave, the story finally unleashes its prized character, Catherine. She comes in and immediately finds her way to Vincent’s booth. After some flirtatious lines you’re clear on what Catherine’s goal is. Vincent wakes up the next morning in a shock to see that he had indeed brought Catherine home with him. From here the true gameplay really takes place as each night Vincent has to go through a series of trials (puzzles) that will let him live another day.
Catherine’s story twists and turns like a roller-coaster at Cedar point.
The puzzles have you pushing, sliding, and climbing blocks in order to reach the top. The blocks aren’t the only thing in your way from reaching the top. Sheep are placed in and will at times block (pun intended) your way. Make it to the top and get rewarded… with another puzzle. But before that you will be at a cathedral with other sheep. These sheep are just like you; they see themselves as human and everyone else as a sheep. You can try and talk to them, but some are not friendly. Don’t ignore the sheep, however as your influence on them will have a big impact on the story. Before you’re allowed to solve your next puzzle, you will be asked a moral question, like “Does life begin or end at marriage?” Your answer will ultimately impact your moral meter and go on the blue or red side, the blue meaning good moral and red meaning bad moral.
The final level of the each night will result in another ‘you-gotta-see-this’ cut-scene, but will be the most challenging. From a scary version of Katherine, to a mutilated, horrifying baby chasing you the final puzzle will have you scurrying to the top until you finally get that sigh of relief.
Catherine also surprisingly dishes out a multiplayer experience where you can either compete or play with a friend. If you play together be prepared to both make it to the top because if one dies, you both die. There is also the Cathedral gameplay which you unlock after beating the story once. This mode consists of only the puzzles and is more challenging as you put your skills to the test. Trick blocks are at an extreme in these levels and cause you to make more careful decisions. To unlock the other levels you have to beat the ones that precede them, so beat level 1 to unlock level 2, and etc.
This should be on top of your ‘to-play’ list.
Overall, Catherine is a great game that should be experienced by any puzzle lover and guy that thinks about cheating on his girlfriend. The game will put your actions up for grade and determine which ending you deserve. It almost judges your personality to see if you have good morals or not. I was fortunate enough to have a birthday just before the release of Catherine, and could afford to buy it. However, I would not be writing this review if it weren’t for the extra cash around my birthday. For the average empty wallet gamer, like myself, I wouldn’t recommend running out and spending the $60 it’s going to cost you to own it. I highly recommend renting this title or borrowing from a friend and experiencing a truly one of a kind game. It ranks at the top of my favorite PS3 games, and games of all time.
- Geoff Barry