MULTIPLAYER: 2-player coop or versus
When I first heard of Catherine earlier this year, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It looked like a Japanese anime with a quirky style that I just wasn’t interested in. When the game released in Japan on February of this year, it garnered so much attention that Atlus decided to bring Catherine to an American audience. Now that I’ve had a chance to play this bizarre 10-12 hour puzzle game, I have to thank Atlus for taking such a huge risk. Catherine is unlike anything you ever dreamed you’d play and I mean that in the best way possible.
Players assume the role of Vincent Brooks who is 32 years old and is currently going through a mid-life crisis. Vincent isn’t your typical hero, on the contrary he’s a slacker who is afraid of change and prefers to just coast through his life without any commitment or responsibility. That is until his beautiful girlfriend Katherine questions Vincent about his life and the possibility of marriage. Vincent feels uneasy about this question and rather than accept a future exclusive to Katherine, he chooses to dodge her questions altogether. Later while Vincent has some time to himself, he begins to question his future with Katherine. Then one night while Vincent is drinking by himself at a local bar, he meets a beautiful and sexy woman who has the same name as his girlfriend. The only difference is that this girl’s name is Catherine with a C rather than a K. Throughout the course of the night the two drink and enjoy each other’s company. Vincent finds out that Catherine and him share a lot in common. It seems Vincent has more in common with this Catherine than his current girlfriend Katherine. The following morning Vincent wakes up shocked to find Catherine naked in his bed…
This is where Vincent’s dilemma begins. It seems that Vincent can’t remember what he does with Catherine and every night he has bizarre nightmares that he also can’t seem to remember. Even worse the news broadcasts a series of murders on a daily basis, which involve men being found dead in their beds. To top it off Catherine doesn’t know that Vincent already has a girlfriend. Vincent has no idea how he is going to be able to juggle two women without the other finding out that Vincent is in fact cheating. It is up to the player to lead Vincent on this highly entertaining journey through relationship hell.
The core gameplay in Catherine consists of Vincent surviving his nightmares by climbing a tower of blocks. Each night Vincent has one of these nightmares that could potentially kill him. In Vincent’s nightmares he strangely converses with sheep that seem to be in the same boat as Vincent; they have no clue how they got there or why. Nightmares are broken up into trials and there are usually about 3 trials or more each night. In between these trials Vincent can form alliances with these sheep and learn new techniques for climbing towers. Before each trial, Vincent must also answer a question about himself that will change his inner conscience meter for better or worse. The puzzle block towers themselves are quite complex and each area gets significantly more difficult than the last. Vincent must climb these towers by any means necessary while avoiding obstacles and the collapsing blocks beneath his feet. Players are given only a certain amount of time to climb these treacherous towers before the tower falls into oblivion. Therefore players must push and pull blocks to form a path to the top of the tower as fast as they can. Prepare to die frequently throughout these puzzles as you try to figure out the best course of action. Thankfully the game offers checkpoints and power-ups to aid in your favor. In addition, if you play in easy mode, you can undo certain block movements so that you can try again. I completely recommend playing in easy mode the first time because the game’s later towers are just brutal. At the very last trial of the night, Vincent will have to escape a boss. Boss battles are awesome and involve some monstrosity from Vincent’s imagination chasing him while he makes his way to the top of the tower.
After each nightmare Vincent is returned to his normal life and players are treated with an animated cut scene that further advances the story. Every evening Vincent also returns to his local bar hangout called “ The Stray Sheep” to relax and recollect the problems he’s been facing. Here players can enjoy conversations with Vincent’s friends and learn interesting information about Vincent’s past life. Vincent can also order drinks and learn interesting trivia about alcohol. Be sure to take advantage of drinking because the drunker Vincent gets, the faster he is in the dream world. Vincent can also leave his seat and speak with other customers who are also having strange dreams they can’t remember. Texting on Vincent’s phone also plays a huge part on Vincent’s conscience meter. During this downtime, Vincent will receive texts from either his girlfriend Katherine or his newly found lover Catherine. Players can choose how to answer their texts and these choices will affect the outcome of the game. There is also an arcade game at the bar where you can play a mini-game called “Rapunzel” which is similar to Vincent’s nightmare towers. Here you can practice your techniques for the difficult nightmares ahead.
Catherine is an amazing experience and is unlike any other game out on the market. It has a catchy soundtrack that will stick in your head and has some of the most beautiful cel-shaded graphics I’ve ever seen. Catherine succeeds in immersing the player in the life of Vincent so well, that you begin to care for him and the characters that inhabit his world. It perfectly mixes addicting puzzles that will test your skill with an expertly crafted story so “human” in nature that you can’t help but feel as if it were you making these difficult relationship choices. There’s a certain feeling of accomplishment when you finally figure out how to make it to the top of the tower and survive another night in Catherine’s challenging puzzles. The world of Catherine and its characters are so deep that once you finish the game, you’ll want to go back and replay the game for one of its many alternate endings. Catherine is something special that is not easy to describe simply because of how bizarre and weird it is. It’s an experience filled with metaphors and twists that keep the story interesting. Even when you think you know what’s going on, there’s something new happening that can make you wonder if what your doing is right. Catherine’s adult orientated subject material is fascinating and at times can hit a little close to home if you’ve ever been in a longtime relationship. Catherine is not intended for everyone and the challenge will definitely turn some gamers off but it has one of the most unforgettable stories I’ve ever experienced in recent memory. Do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in one of the biggest surprise hits of the year! I guarantee that Catherine will spark some kind of emotion in you.