Playable Perplexities: Catherine

Game: Catherine

Platforms: Xbox 360 and PS3

Genre:  Action/Adventure/Puzzle

Publisher: Atlus

Rating: M

Single Player, Online Enabled

Let me start off by saying that this game is weird – if you aren’t into weird even a little bit, I would stay away.  That being said, it is one of the more interesting games I have played recently, despite its flaws (but I’ll get to that).

Our unwilling hero.

I love Atlus, I love the Persona series and I was super excited to hear that they were finally making a game for the current generation consoles.  Catherine stars a sort of shy, loserish guy named Vincent, stuck in a dead end job and dating a girl that he still isn’t sure he wants to settle down with.  Most, if not all of the story exposition takes place in a bar or a coffee shop, sitting and chatting with either Vincent’s friends or his girlfriend Katherine.  Pretty basic.

Shortly after you’re introduced to his life and girlfriend, things take a turn for the sour.  He meets a super-cute hottie at the bar after his friends leave and the next thing you know, he wakes up with her in his bed. This implies that you definitely cheated on your girlfriend with this new girl, Catherine.  If that isn’t weird enough, she then proceeds to threaten Vincent and abuse the crap out of him and generally be terrible. And this is just the normal daytime stuff.

What the fuuuuuuuck?!?

At night is when the creepy puzzles start.  Vincent ‘wakes up’ in a nightmare with horns and just his boxers on, hanging out with a bunch of sheep that you soon discover to be other people, who see you as a sheep too!   You must ascend the tower puzzles and make it to the next platform before the blocks drop off and you die.  Every 2nd or 3rd tower level leaves you with a boss battle, which is just the tower ascending puzzle level with something climbing up from the bottom to kill you.  The first one, for example, is a freaky demon version of Katherine attempting to spear you with a fork.

Although I played through this game on easy, there was enough pressure in the boss fights to make me want to pee my pants.  Nothing says horrifying more than a dead baby with a chainsaw coming up and sawing you in half if you aren’t climbing fast enough.  Easy mode has an undo button that can be used up to 9 times, and normal difficulty and onward things just get harder and faster.

Technical Stuff

The controls were pretty straightforward.  I had a few problems when trying to move around blocks while hanging, and accidentally pressing the “let go” button when I was dangling over the abyss and falling to my death.  But I figured that was just the pressure getting to my pansy-ass.

You can save at every platform in the nightmare world, and you can save with your cell phone when you’re at the bar.  Saving is frequent, which is great, especially since some of the nightmares end up being 3 or 4 puzzles long.

Vincent's attractive but otherwise pretty terrible girlfriend, Katherine.

The music in the game was awesome.  It was eerie remixes of classical songs along with a few mellow bar tunes.  The bar has a jukebox you can listen to the tracks on, and the game came with an art book and soundtrack, which are worth buying the game brand new for in my opinion.

The game is fairly short.  I rushed through it in about 12 hours.  I missed a bunch of the side quests that involved saving some of the other bar patrons, and I refused to play the 100 level puzzle game in the bar.  I found out after I beat the game that there are a grand total of 9 endings (3 true endings) so if you really like the game, there is some replay value up in there.  They make it pretty obvious throughout the game which decisions lead to which ending, but there are a few options when texting both Katherine and Catherine that are a little confusing.

Graphics are a cool cell-shaded anime style that I personally like, and the cinematics are all anime.  Vincent looks a little goofy sometimes as they tend to exaggerate his emotions to an almost comical level, but it’s very nice to look at.  My only beef with the audio is that the cinematics are super quite while all the in-game stuff is really, really loud.  It was jarring and annoying to keep changing the volume.

Overall

Morning after a typical night of binge drinking.

Apart from the few technical concerns, and the game being a bit on the short side – I enjoyed playing it (but I’m willing to put up with a lot).  The puzzles are fun and challenging and I always dig strange Japanese games. I was on-board with the story (even though it was a terrible gender stereotyped mess) until about 3/4 of the way through when they change up the ‘villain’ in a twist.  It sort of ruined the whole ending deal and took away a lot of the motivation, plus, all of the women in the game were pretty awful.  I wanted to be done with the whole abusive lot. I am having a hard time recommending this game, but if you like weird Japanese games, and puzzles and anime mind-fucks, then this game is for you.  If you are looking for something with any substance and aren’t willing to put up with the whole ‘weird anime’ thing, then I’d stay away.  It’s short enough to be a rental, but if you’re really curious and lazy, all the cinematics are up on YouTube.  The “Catherine True Ending” is my pick to watch.

Graphics:  7/10

Story: 6/10

Music: 9/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Replay Value: 9/10

Worth It?: Yes, But conditionally.

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