|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Release: January 26, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence|
The rules are very simple. Vincent can only climb one block higher, but he can push and pull blocks however he likes and move along the sides of blocks by hanging on the edges. As long as two blocks are connected by one edge they won't fall down, but blocks connected to nothing will fall freely. All you have to do is make a stairway out of these blocks, and climb up to the top.
At least, that's how the nightmares begin. Then you start encountering blocks that can't be pushed or pulled and blocks that move slower than normal. After that, you'll find trapped spike blocks, ice blocks that make you slide, trampoline blocks, and much more. Enemies that can knock you down or outright kill you eventually enter into the mix, and then there are boss battles which not only have the stage crumbling, but also have some sort of horrible demon chasing you, shooting beams at you, destroying the blocks you are on, or worse.
To help you survive, you'll find checkpoints, items, and if you are playing on easy mode you can take back moves. You'll need all the resources available to you because Catherine is hard. Even on the easiest difficulty you'll find yourself dying repeatedly. This is partially due to spotty controls that make Vincent hard to handle when he is hanging on a ledge, or worse, behind a block where the camera can't see him. This is even further emphasized if you have to play the Xbox version while struggling with the Xbox controller's spotty D-pad. It hurts the experience quite a bit, but by no means does it make the game unplayable or even un-fun. It just means you are going to die a lot more than you have to.
Getting to the end of a stage triggers a story sequence, which generally has you answering yet more important life questions before being catapulted back to the real world and doing it all over again. That's pretty much the entirety of the game until you reach its thrilling conclusion.
However, as dry as this may sound, everything about Catherine is there to further the narrative. The in-game graphics are amazing, with character's movements being realistic and fluid and tiny details down to a character's pupil size punctuating their emotions. The graphical style looks like a moving anime, and its use of cel-shading is probably the best I have seen in any game to date. Outside of the in-game graphics, anime cutscenes highlight the most important scenes in the story.
Add all this to an amazing soundtrack composed of jazz, techno, and classical music—and a multiplayer mode which unlocks when you beat the game—and you have one heck of a package. You can even play on randomly created puzzle stages and compare your times and scores with other gamers on online leaderboards. Make no mistake, though, the real meat of this game is in its single-player campaign.
I wish I could tell you more about the story of Catherine, but any more I could say would spoil the plot for you. So you will just have to take my word on this one: play Catherine. If you like strange demonic games like the MegaTen series, mind-bending puzzle games like Q-bert, or if you just want to see the issues of marriage, pregnancy, and relationships dealt with in a way no game has dealt with them before, get Catherine and play it now. It is easily one of the best games—if not the best game—to come out this summer, and it will have you second guessing your relationships and fearing your own dreams for many nights to come.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer