HCF videogame review: Catherine

Atlus – Deepsilver – PS3/Xbox 360 – Out Now

In a generation of games dominated by shooters and other violent fare, it’s always refreshing when something original comes along. Luckily for those yearning for something different, Catherine has (finally) come strutting along in a genre blurring title that has been the source of much anticipation here at HCF.

The game is presented, curiously, in the style of a late night TV movie called Golden Playhouse, which is introduced by a woman with the biggest hair you’ll ever see. It centres around Vincent, who is in his early 30’s and in a steady relationship with his girlfriend, Katherine. Katherine decides she wants to take things more seriously and wants Vincent to be fully committed. Vincent isn’t a fan of this, as he loves his easy going lifestyle, where he can occasionally see Katherine, but also spend time with his friends at the bar. After a bizarre dream, Vincent wakes up next to the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, with no recollection from the night before. Freaked out and overwhelmed with guilt, he has to get to the bottom of his apparent infidelity, without letting on to Katherine, and also get through each night, with increasingly disturbing and dangerous dreams.

The dreams come in the form of a puzzling tower ascension, in which Vincent must survive in order to wake up the next morning. There is a spate of mysterious deaths in the area, and the dreams have something to do with it. The dreams are dominated by blocks and sheep, and while everything is explained in the dream realm, nothing is remembered the next day. Although the boozy philosophers in Vincent’s local make stark comparisons between the blocks and life in general.

To label Catherine as just a puzzle game would be doing it an injustice. The core game play does revolve around puzzle stages, which require the player to ascend a mountain of blocks, navigating and manipulating them in the best possible way to enable access to the exit. While things start off rather simple, it’s impossible to get complacent as the difficulty increases so drastically, very quickly, throwing in different environmental dangers and various other obstacles on each new level. However, although integral to the story, the puzzle element pales in comparison the extremely impressive anime video cut scenes and similarly styled RPG-lite sections in the Stray Sheep Bar. It’s in the Stray Sheep Bar, where Vincent socialises with his friends, the staff and other patrons. Depending on how Vincent acts, and who he talks to, can affect the outcome of the story, and the fate of the characters in the game.


Vincent is constantly exchanging text messages between Katherine and the mysterious Catherine, as well, which also determines the outcome of what happens the next day. If everything gets a bit too much, there’s always the escape of the arcade cabinet, featuring Rapunzel. This is an 8-bit style arcade game which is a puzzler in the same vein as the block ascension game that dominates the main stories game play. The game could be better described as a soap opera/RPG-puzzler. It’s like Eastenders meets The Twilight Zone! While the story surrounding Vincent’s love life may seem like something from a melodramatic television serial, the fact that the players actions manipulate the story’s outcome as well as getting to the bottom of where the mystery girl came from and the fantastic animation, make it all the more compulsive viewing/gaming.

As great as it all may seem, it’s definitely not a game for the easily frustrated. The puzzles get extremely fiendish as you progress through the game and you can end up repeating several stages many times over, which can get extremely infuriating, as once you pass each level, a new day starts, thus continuing the brilliant story. If you haven’t got the patience for repeating stages over and over to get it right, you may not get any enjoyment from this. Catherine will test you as much as she will tease you! The sense of achievement once a particularly challenging ascent has been completed is unrivalled, especially the last stages of each level, where speed is the key, as Vincent is being pursued by the levels’ boss.

Catherine is a rare game. The combination of tricky gameplay and compulsive story telling makes this one of the better cinematic gaming experiences available. It’s definitely not a game for the casual player, as the aforementioned puzzle games will no doubt induce a bout of gaming tourettes, or projectile controllers, and although something of a curiosity, Catherine should really hit the mark for those looking for an altogether different gaming experience.



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