At long last, my review for Atlus’s latest publication, Catherine, is here. This article also marks my first ever full blown game review for GeekTime, so with no further ado, let’s go!
Upon first booting up the game, I thought that I had done the research and knew exactly what I was getting into, but I couldn’t have been more incorrect. On the surface, Catherine, seemed to blend “daytime” events and “dating sim” gameplay styles with “nighttime” action oriented gameplay segments much like the Persona series as of late. Persona 3 and Catherine both feature towers that the protagonists must ascend in order to achieve their goals, and the art styles are very similar, albeit Catherine is much more fleshed out and polished since it is on a more current-gen console. But the similarities ended there. As the days went on, the game presents its plot in its entirety over a course of eight days and nine nights, I felt myself getting sucked into the nuances of the story and the intricacies of the gameplay more and more. And much like the main character, Vincent Brooks, I found myself actually growing more and more anxious. During an animated cutscene, courtesy of Studio 4°C, that occurred roughly half way into the game I found my heart racing and my palms sweating simply because of the situation Vincent found himself in.
I won’t go too far in detail, for fear of ruining pivotal points in the game’s story arc, here, but I will say that this is certainly the driving force of the game. If you aren’t very moved or driven in games to progress simply by narrative alone, this game may not be right for you. Now, that doesn’t mean that the gameplay isn’t addicting, because that it certainly is, but the way the gameplay portions are divided and the actual amount of time you spend in the “main” gameplay mode itself during the story mode is rather minuscule compared to what you might be imagining.
Vincent Brooks is a 32 year old software engineer who has been dating his girlfriend, Katherine McBride, for five years. Just as Katherine is prodding Vincent about the idea of marriage, a strange girl named Catherine appears and makes Vincent question his loyalty. On top of all of this, Vincent is tormented every night by nightmares that he must over come, in the form of block pushing puzzles to get to the top of a tower littered with traps and creatures, or else he will die in reality. In between each stage there is a sanctuary in the form of a landing. At each landing you can save, speak with other trapped men, and purchase items from a shop. Before progressing to each new stage however, the player is asked a question that determines Vincent’s reactions to events in reality. My favorite of these questions appears about mid-way through the Normal difficulty story: “If you found a ghost attractive, would you have sex with it?” (Yes, that was real, and yes the questions change for each difficulty. I know). After being asked each question the game presents a pie chart showing the popularity of each answer with other Catherine players as well. (The ghost-sex question actually had a majority of game players saying “yes”).
The game boasts nine different endings- with each set of three being related to a common moral alignment.
The gameplay can be described as a mixture of Intelligent Qube, Tetris, and The Blocks Cometh with an Atlus and Persona Team coat of paint. During the reality portions of the game you watch cutscenes and speak with denizens of the local bar, The Stray Sheep, and during Vincent’s nightmares you scale a tower that is constantly collapsing behind you along with other unlucky inhabitants and some truly eerie subconscious concoctions. I STRONGLY suggest that you play through the game on Easy mode first, make sure you speak with ALL of the bar patrons when given the opportunity, and consume as much alcohol as you can whenever you are in the bar. If you do these things you will learn quickly, be proficient enough to get through Normal mode no problem on a second go through, and will have a ton of achievements/trophies just after your first play through.
Follow me to the next page of the review where I’m going to go a bit in depth with some things that other reviews seem to have been lacking: “Babel” mode, the Co-op, and the competitive multiplayer modes.