Catherine ReviewPhillip E. Price
At first glance, Catherine seemed like an innovative game that would lend itself well to the video game industry by showing other developers a new way to deliver puzzle games; I am sad to report that, although very interesting, Catherine was not as entertaining as I had hoped it would be. Although it takes a while to notice (four or five hours in), the setting of the game is extremely repetitive. The core mechanic of this game is a block pushing/pulling, stair climbing puzzler that I found to be very fascinating. The main storyline is mediocre at best; alternate endings do make it a bit more captivating, but not enough to warrant a second play through let alone a third or fourth.
Catherine is a game about Vincent Brooks, a thirty-two year old man who has one too many drinks, meets Catherine, and ends up "cheating" on his girlfriend, Katherine. You are then prompted to make decisions that affect the outcome of the game over a course of eight days and nights. The next eight days take place in one of four settings: Vincent's apartment, the bar that Vincent and his friends frequent (the Stray Sheep), a bathroom stall at Vincent's job, and a restaurant. The nights occur in a nightmarish world, where Vincent and other "man-sheep" are forced to figure out a way to climb a puzzle-block mountain. While there are several things to do at the bar, such as practice climbing via the arcade/mini-game, converse with other patrons, and interact with your cell phone, the bar is the only place you can actually play the game (during the daylight hours). I would truly like to see a PSN or XBLA release of the arcade mini-game Rapunzel, located in the bar.
During the midnight hours, once you leave the bar, Vincent enters his nightmare world. This is where the game truly grabbed my attention. The puzzle-block mountain was like nothing I had ever seen before. You have to push or pull blocks to either the left or right, or into the foreground or background. The mechanics of the game allow for very unique scenarios, some of which cannot be solved. This puzzle aspect of the game is so incredibly difficult that even easy mode will be the subject of many rage-quit sessions.
The weakest point in this entire game was the main plot and its delivery. Throughout the course of the game, you discover what the mysterious deaths of young to middle-aged men have to do with the nightmares you are experiencing; you figure it out way before Vincent does so his eye-opening moments seem dull and uninspired. This game also suffers from what I like to call Metal Gear Solid Syndrome. Video games are interactive stories, so you can understand how frustrating the unrelenting 5-20 minute cut scenes that took place during Vincent's waking hours were. The controller even turned itself off at one point in time. Let us not forget the unrealistic outcomes and reactions from choices Vincent makes, you have little to no say in these choices by the way.
Ultimately, this game boils down to being a puzzle-adventure game with an afterthought of a story line shoved in. The game is beautiful, the puzzles intriguingly fun for the masochistic and very refreshing. Catherine is something completely different from anything out there right now. I truly commend Atlus for this brave venture at innovation; too few developers are willing to take this kind of a risk. This game is not for everyone, but I highly recommend everyone play this one to find out.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Phillip E. Price has been a "hardcore gamer" for as long as he can remember. His earliest memories of gaming were playing Pole Position and Frogger on his father's Atari 2600. Since then, he has owned almost all the systems from NES to PlayStation 3. Phillip loves single player games and misses the days of split screen co-op.
About the Author: Phillip E. Price
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