Catherine weaves a tale of seduction, adultery and horror, complete with death puzzles. The game is unique in its own merit, and you would be hard pressed to find a game this year that matches the moral questioning the story poses. You will laugh. You will struggle. You will die. Not many games give you the moments of “YES!” like Catherine. When you finally beat the game, hell, when you finally beat certain stages, you will likely throw your hands up in the air as if you never thought you’d succeed. That’s why I love Catherine.
A Man With No Backbone
You play Vincent, a man in his early 30’s who doesn’t quite know what he wants in life. He spends his days talking with his current girlfriend Katherine and working on computer software, and he spends his nights talking with his friends at the local watering hole, The Stray Sheep. Vincent is a man who is plodding along with no real plan until Katherine presents a serious set of questions which makes him question whether or not he wants to continue with this relationship.
He spends one fateful evening at the Stray Sheep when he meets Catherine. He quickly finds himself in over his head way more than he could have ever imagined.
A Living Nightmare
The game play presented in Catherine really involved two different game modes. The first is interaction with friends and patrons at the Stray Sheep bar, and the second are towering puzzles in Vincent’s nightmares. Vincent quickly finds that he’s not the only one suffering from terrifying nightmares, and to make matters worse he finds that those who die in their nightmares aren’t waking up.
The Stray Sheep gives Vincent an opportunity to begin uncovering the mystery behind the deaths among men. Time is always working against you. People come and go as Vincent drinks alcohol and speaks to patrons around the bar. It’s important to manage time and information with patrons because you can very well miss key people. As if things didn’t seem dire enough, Catherine, whom he only met a few nights back, constantly makes contact with him and continues to seduce him.
You will get to control how you interact in many of the conversations, and many of them will have an impact on your morality meter. The morality meter indicates how you, or Vincent, feels about the situation and his values.
The seduction of Catherine is the most important plot of the game. Her seduction wages a moral war on Vincent and his relationship with Katherine. His friends and other patrons have their opinions on the subject, but Catherine’s “perfect qualities” make the decision even harder on Vincent. He can’t seem to shake her, and her persistence makes for an ultimate challenge.
Don’t Go To Sleep
The nightmare sequences are where Vincent is forced to solve a series of puzzles in the shape of a tower. The puzzles are solved by moving blocks around to find his way up the tower. As you climb the tower, blocks will fall away, forcing your constant vigilance in your climb. As Vincent progresses through the stages of his nightmares the towers become more complicated in both the complexity of the puzzles and trap blocks. Trap blocks range from breakable blocks to spikes to bombs to ice and so on. You will also soon find others who are trapped in these nightmares, forced to climb the towers. I would be mistaken if I didn’t mention the killer soundtrack during these stages. It’s a glorious mix of rock and classical music which puts a unique spin on music we’ve all heard at one point.
In between stages you will have the opportunity to meet other “sheep” who are trapped in these nightmares. You can uncover techniques to use in dealing with the puzzles as well as uncover some of the mystery revolving around your situation. Before advancing to the next stage you will take Vincent to a confessional to answer a question about love and relationships. This questioning will have a direct impact on your morality meter. It’s also interesting because you’ll get a glimpse on how the player community feels about the same question. I advise you answer honestly your first time through to see how your morality stacks up with other gamers.
At the end of each night, Vincent is forced to climb a boss stage. The bosses are representative of the subject of the day’s events as well as Vincent’s anxieties. Each boss is different in its own way. Half the fun is finding out what the bosses are and how to reach the top despite them so I won’t give any away, but I will let you in on a little secret: when you meet the “Immoral Beast” you won’t forget about any time soon.
Play With Friends
There is some co-op and versus availability for players who want to test their mental prowess. You can work together while scaling the walls or you can see if you can beat your buddies. This mode is limited, and it does lack some of the fun and unique qualities of boss characters and the storyline-driven puzzles.
“Babel” mode is a challenge mode which allows a player and a buddy to attempt to complete the different tower stages as quickly as possible. These challenges are massive and make some towers from the story look tiny in comparison. These modes are unlocked through efforts in the main story.
“Colosseum” pits players against each other as they try to reach the top of the tower first by completely inconveniencing or destroying their opponents.
The game isn’t all seduction and happy fun time. There are moments in the game in which you question what just happened. While scaling the towers you can move Vincent behind the wall in order to avoid traps or dangers, but the camera doesn’t quite rotate all the way with you. This can make for some interesting problems, especially when you’re in a hurry. The other problem with going behind the wall is the controls. The controls will reverse if you let up at all. If you stop moving and try to move again, the direction controls must be reversed. When you’re in a hurry, that’s the furthest from your mind.
The meter which tracks your morality throughout the game is also a little sketchy at times. There are times when you think you know a response from Vincent, but then he says something that doesn’t quite match the morality meter. It isn’t clear until the end of the game when you find out which of the many endings you’ll get where the meter really comes into play.
A Tough, but Fun, Climb
Catherine is not for everyone. It’s definitely for a specific audience of gamers. The game is hard, unforgiving, and requires a lot of critical thinking. Between the puzzles, there is a cohesive, beautifully animated story which draws you in and puts a nice context around the events of the game. The boss characters are a lot of fun, and at the same time some of them are just as infuriating as you’re trying to solve the puzzle of the tower. Catherine is an entertaining, sexy, gory, puzzle-fest that came out of nowhere to really impress me.
Giant Bomb (images)