Catherine

George Treviranus

ESRB Rated M – $59.99

Catherine is peculiar title to hit the PS3 and XBOX 360. From developer Atlus, Catherine takes players through the trials of freedom and law, through relationship troubles and even to the other side of nightmares.

You play as Vincent Brooks, a 32 year old man whose girlfriend, Katherine (with a ‘K’), is looking to take things a little more serious. When a certain night at the bar goes awry because of a mysterious blonde woman named Catherine (with a ‘C’), you’re plunged into the trials of your nightmares. But you’re not the only one: people have been turning up dead mysteriously all throughout town. As it turns out, the nightmares seem to affect only men and only those who are unsure or have cheated on their significant other.

Make no mistake. The game has a complicated and mature tone. Atlus matched the dramatic and serious story of the game with an almost equally dramatic game play. When you’re not interacting with friends at the bar (whom you see every night), you’re trying to climb the block walls of your nightmares. The goal is to rearrange blocks during each stage in order to advance to a “landing,” which is essentially a checkpoint between the stages where you can mingle with other nightmare sufferers.

Interestingly, the other people in the nightmare appear to you as sheep. You can help the sheep in each stage to earn other achievements as well.

It’s important to note that Catherine is a fairly complex puzzle game at its core. If you’re unsure of your ability to fair with puzzles, easy mode is really recommended here. It offers more than infinite possible ways of getting through the stages with plenty of retries.

On the other end, the hard mode is so hard that you literally have only one way of climbing each stage, which is quite frankly almost never clear unless you’ve somewhat mastered the mechanics. To give you an idea of what that means, Atlus jokingly added that you should only try Hard if you’re a masochist (which gives an accurate description of the difficulty).

The nightmares last eight nights in total, with two to four stages per night. While there is only roughly 10-15 hours of gameplay, you’ll be spending more of your time unlocking all the endings. The game presents a sort of “karma” system, where the responses you give to characters in-game pushes you towards either “Freedom” or “Law.” Where you end up on this karma scale, in combination with how you answer certain questions near the end of the game, determines what ending you achieve.

There’s various ways to interact with the karma system, including the ability to send texts via cell phone to Katherine and Catherine during nights at the bar. As a small addition, depending on how long you stay at the bar, Catherine or Katherine will send you pictures of themselves, not all of which are exactly PG-13.

The game’s music score and art style is also worth a mention. Shoji Meguro, composer for the popular Persona series in Japan, composed the wonderful score for this title. If you were one of the people who pre-ordered Catherine, you were given a handy art book and a music disc, featuring the many stage tracks featured in the game. Each track is a remix of popular classic tunes, such as Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” and Bach’s “’Little’ Fugue.” They are remixed to appropriately match the tone of the game play, which at times can be rather suspenseful.

As for the art style, it is wonderfully done. The game’s graphics might not be entirely up to date with other popular titles, but what it lacks in graphical power it makes up for in beautiful cell shaded characters and surroundings (however little of that there may be). It would be nice to play this game on a high-definition TV if possible. With the addition of the anime-style cutscenes, the game is as much a sit-and-watch experience as it is a sit-and-play one.

In short, Catherine is a great game for any fan of puzzles, horror and role playing. Don’t pass this up if you’re looking to get the bang out of your buck.

 

4.5 stars out of 5