Have you ever found yourself in a situation where something came along that totally changed the way you viewed your relationships? Well, that exact thing has happened to Vincent, the protagonist in Catherine. He has been going out with his girlfriend for years, and he loves her, but there is something holding him back from giving himself completely over to her. Then one night at the bar he meets a girl named Catherine, and she changes everything. She is mysterious, with an element of danger about her, and Vincent gravitates to her despite his wanting to be faithful to his girlfriend. Before long he is seeing both women and has to decide who he wants to be with. While this love triangle is playing out, Vincent has nightmares every night when he goes to bed, and that is where the gameplay comes forward. You play as Vincent in his dream, climbing an almost endless tower. You struggle to out-climb other people to get to the top first and before the blocks across which you navigate collapse underneath you.
Catherine is a unique puzzle game, and that comes across from the beginning of the game. You have lengthy cut-scenes in between gameplay, and though it may seem like these aren’t engaging, they are. In the cut-scenes, you make decisions that influence the way the story pans out. You choose between Law (“normal” choices) and Chaos (“devious” choices). However you decide to confront the situations or answer the random questions strewn about the game will determine how the story pans out. In between making decisions to mold the game and Vincent’s attempts to keep the status quo, there is an arcade-type puzzle game. The puzzle game is a lot of fun, even though there aren’t any objectives other than climbing to the top of the level as quickly as you can. There will be times where you have to out-climb a boss, but most of the climbing you do is against the clock. You are faced with a wall of boxes, some movable and some permanent, and it is up to you move the blocks around to create a platform for you to climb on. Climb your way to the door at the top of the level and you move on to the next decision area, where the story will continue to unfold. The premise sounds simplistic, but is much more than that.
This game is particularly good in the way it conveys its story. When Vincent is out with his girlfriend, he gets calls from Catherine from time to time, and you can feel the tension. That tension runs wild as the game progresses, and you feel like you are always on the edge of your seat, even when there are cut-scenes playing. Whether the house of cards that Vincent has set up by trying to see two women at a time gets shaken up, or you are running up the endless block tower as you attempt to escape a boss, there is always something threatening to end the game for you. The gameplay and the completely different yet completely appropriate over-arching story blend seamlessly. You are left with an excellent and very tense game. You often feel much like Vincent does, and any game that can bring you into its universe so quickly is special in its own right.
There are a few negative points that unfortunately take away from some of the potential this game possesses. The difficulty of the nightmare levels, or dream-state puzzles, is overwhelming at times, even on the easy setting. Dying is a common occurrence and you only have a certain number of chances at restarting the level before you have to start the game from
scratch. This kind of continue system is a difficult sell to gamers today, and ultimately it hurts the game. It would have been better to see an unlimited number of restarts but leave the difficulty as is. To combine a brutally hard puzzle with a limited amount of continues is just frustrating. Japanese games are generally more difficult than American games, but this just seems to get excessive quickly. I don’t think this should prevent anyone from playing the game, as even though the puzzles are very hard, you never feel like the game is cheating you into death or that your goal can’t be achieved. Unfortunately, the controls get stiff every once in a while and the camera angle gets worse when you rotate the camera too far. Thankfully, these issues aren’t constant.
Overall, Catherine is an excellent game and something everyone should take a look at. It isn’t going to be for everyone, but what makes the game great is its awesome story. Catherine is definitely unlike any game you’ve played before. Western audiences often aren’t fans of eastern games, but this one should be an exception. If you can get your hands on it, you won’t be disappointed.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Catherine by Atlus Software.
- Fun Story
- Interesting for a Puzzle Game
- Extremely Difficult
- Poor Saving Mechanics