Catherine Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Catherine Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Sexy Art Imitates Sexy Life

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.

Catherine Screenshot

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.

Catherine Screenshot

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.

Catherine Screenshot

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.

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.

Catherine Screenshot

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.

The characters in Catherine are some of the most expressive characters ever to appear in a video game. The game is so well done graphically you will forget you aren’t watching a high-quality anime. 3.0 Control
The controls take some getting used to. It’s easy to push a block where you don’t want it to go or fall off a ledge because you pressed the wrong button, and usually this leads to death. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
You’ll get to hear awesome remixes of orchestral music at the high points, and at the low point you’ll get “I Never Felt Like Da Da Da.” The voice acting is also top-notch, far better than most Japanese dubs on the market today. 4.8 Play Value
Catherine is incredibly hard to put down, if only because of how well the story is written. You really want to see what happens to Vincent next, and with multiple endings and story paths, the game will keep you busy for multiple playthroughs. 4.6 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • The Horrors of Love: Vincent’s waking fears, doubts, pressures, and growing guilt about commitment and fidelity now gleefully follow him into his dreams, manifesting as horribly disfigured monsters and a ticking clock.
  • Between a Rock and a Soft Place: The player must navigate Vincent through heavy moral decisions. As in real life, hardly anything is black and white. What is the value of honesty? What is the right thing to do? Either way, someone’s going to get hurt. Worse yet, someone could die.
  • The Nightmare of Your Dreams: Famed character artist Shigenori Soejima and master composer Shoji Meguro create sights and sounds unlike anything else. As unforgettable and original as the game’s narrative, Catherine’s visual direction and musical score define and perfectly complement Vincent’s terrifying ascent into the dizzying perils of love.
  • Escape With or From a Friend: Local competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes, in addition to leaderboards, ensure that the many thrills and horrors of racing through twisted stages can be enjoyed by more than one player and add hours of extra gameplay to the overall experience.

  • To top