Over the past few years video games have become formulaic. It feels like most games nowadays fall into becoming 1rst person shooters, 3rd person shooters or platformers. Once in a while a game comes along that does something you’ve never seen before. Something unique, completely different and refreshing. Catherine is that game this year. Catherine is so unique in both subject matter and gameplay, the result is an unforgettable experience.
Catherine comes from Atlas, the team behind the popular Persona series. Some may be turned off by Catherine’s anime-looking cut scenes and some have even deemed the game a “relationship-simulator” but these people are missing the big picture. Catherine is a game that engulfs you into another world like few games have before. Its a truly wonderful and breath-taking experience.
The Story –
The story in Catherine is excellent and wonderfully crafted. You play as Vincent, a man in his 30s who has a small apartments and usually can be found at the bar with his friends. Vincent has a girlfriend, Katherine (with a K) who he has been with for many years now. Katherine begins pressuring Vincent into marriage and family life. Then one drunken-night Vincent meets Catherine (with a C) at the bar. The two end up going home together and Vincent awakes next to a nude Catherine. Vincent then begins to deal with the fact that he’s cheating on his girlfriend. This subject is very unique to video games and is usually tip-toed around but Catherine tackles these subject head on and does it beautifully. There are eight different endings to Catherine and choices through-out the game effect which one you get. As Vincent deals with fact he’s cheating on his girlfriend, he begins to have horrible nightmares every night. These nightmares are where the gameplay comes in.
The main story cut scenes in Catherine are a mix of two graphical styles. Main story cut scenes are primarily told through an anime style. (as seen in the picture above) The animation is great and the expressiveness of each character comes out wonderfully. The gameplay and minor cut scenes have their own graphical style that works well with the game. While the graphics won’t knock your socks off, they have a unique style and makes them feel refreshing. Another thing to point out is the voice-acting. The voice-acting is done great and feels believable. Every character in Catherine feels real and very distinct and Catherine pulls this off with ease.
You may be reading this review and be wondering “where’s the gameplay”? Well during Vincent’s nightmares is where the gameplay comes in and Catherine’s gameplay is truly unique just like its story. The gameplay breaks down in fast-paced block puzzle sequences. The goal is to reach the top and ring the bell or open the door. You do this by pushing, pulling and climbing blocks to form paths. Catherine has a unique “Edge” system where as long as an edge of a block is touching another, it can’t fall. You learn and use many techniques throughout the game to better your skill at this unique gameplay. Each night usually breaks down between 2-3 stages and ends with a boss. The boss fights are thrilling and suspenseful as you try to reach the top as they chase behind you and attacking you. If all of this sounds a bit confusing then check out the video below to get a better idea of how this all works. Now this may sound like this may get repetitive or boring but Catherine constantly introduces new elements to the gameplay including different blocks (such as ice blocks or spiked blocks) or new abilities. The gameplay is introduced gradually so you have enough time to get the basics down before the real challenge begins but Catherine can be challenging. Some may find themselves frustrated during the later stages near the end of the game but with a good checkpoint system and the game always provides plenty of lives, most will be able to beat it on Normal. Catherine also includes questions you must answer at the end of each stage that will help determine what ending you get. The game also includes online leader boards.
Now that is the main gameplay of Catherine but there also parts throughout the game where you are allowed to walk around the bar Vincent usually hangs out in. During these segments you can talk to other customers that may help you figure out what exactly is happening to you and you can also play arcade games or just flat-out drink. You can even respond to text messages in your phone. The gameplay in Catherine truly stands out and adds even more to this already incredible game.
Catherine in a beautiful, unique game. Nothing like this has ever been done before. Atlas should be commended for what they have accomplished with this game. While the gameplay may be difficult, I found myself pushing through it so I can learn about the story and get another sample of Vincent’s life. Catherine tackles mature subject matters with ease and excels in challenging gameplay. This is a game people won’t forget soon and shouldn’t be. If you’re at all interested in fantastic story telling and unique, puzzle gameplay then pick Catherine up. You will not be disappointed.
Overall Score – 9.0
-Matthew Bruce 2011