|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: January 26, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Catherine is honestly a game unlike any other. While many people are calling this a puzzle game with a gripping story, I would disagree. This is a story game first, a brilliantly woven narrative that uses puzzles to express the main character's inner turmoil, and, you know, to chase him with giant robot death babies. Catherine is great because it uses all of its gameplay elements to make you feel what the main character is feeling. It's a game with a purpose, to tell a tale of a bizarre love triangle and one man's struggle to come to terms with what he really wants with his life. Simply put, Catherine is pure art in the form of a sexually demonic Q-bert. What part of that sentence didn't you like?
Vincent is a pretty average guy in his thirties who lives in a modest apartment and has a standard underpaying job just like every other working schlub out there. Vincent has a longtime girlfriend, Katherine, who is looking to tie the knot and start a family with Vincent. Vincent, on the other hand, is okay with how things are. Marriage and fatherhood are both things he'd like to keep out of his life, at least until he can get it on track.
Enter Catherine, a much younger girl who seems to take quite a liking to Vincent. Even though Vincent has been faithful to Katherine for all these years, it only takes a night of drinking and a fevered nightmare for Vincent to end up in bed with Catherine next to him. The rest of the game revolves around how Vincent deals with the fact that he seems to be accidentally cheating on his longtime girlfriend and the life choices Vincent makes as a result of these ordeals.
The main gameplay in Catherine is actually social. Vincent will spend his days at the local bar, talking with his friends and fellow bar patrons. Time constantly passes while you are in the bar, and many conversations can only take place during certain time periods. You get to control how Vincent responds during conversations, and what you choose will affect the lives of both Vincent and the characters he interacts with.
Vincent's other main distraction during the day is his cell phone. He will frequently receive text messages from both of the K/Catherines and many of his other friends. To answer these text messages, you press one button to type and another to delete, cycling through your possible responses as you do. This seems tedious, but it effectively mimics what it's like to have a real text message argument, constantly second guessing what you just typed. It provides an emotional impact you wouldn't get from simply choosing your response from a menu.
As you speak to people, answer text messages, and generally make important decisions, you'll notice Vincent's morality meter change, but unlike other games that measure a spectrum of good and evil, Catherine measures a spectrum of "Freedom" and "Order." Freedom is essentially Vincent's tendency to think of himself before others, and Order is basically his tendency to think of others before himself. Neither is good nor evil, and there are important events and multiple endings for each end of the morality spectrum. Of course, there are various shades of grey in between.
Then, after all the social drama, booze drinking, and poorly planned text messages, Vincent returns home to catch a good night's sleep, and a whole other side of the game comes out to play. Every night Vincent will have nightmares which take him to a strange hybrid of Silent Hill's nightmare world and Q-bert. Here, Vincent is stuck on a pile of blocks that is slowly crumbling from the bottom up. The only way to survive is to climb faster than the pile can fall into the black void below.