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Catherine review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Fun story with multiple endings
  • Gorgeous anime-style art
  • Lots of puzzle variation
  • Getting stumped on Easy setting
  • Occasional wonky controls
  • Solving yet another puzzle

Maybe it was the point when Vincent Brooks, Catherine’s protagonist, grew ram horns from the back of his head. Or maybe it was when we had to ascend a series of seemingly unending blocks to escape a mutant infant that was spewing chainsaws from its mouth. The thing is, we don’t exactly remember when we decided Catherine was one hell of a wtf-mind-trip. We just know we dug it. Crucial changes have been made since the Japanese version, removing most of the gameplay annoyances.


A puzzle game at its core, Catherine is Atlus’ first in-house HD title, and is an odd mix of a narrative-driven dating sim and a complex puzzler that explores the often not-so-simple relationships between men and women. Things start out innocently enough: we are introduced to Vincent, the 32-year-old dude who can’t seem to find his groove. Between a job that feels like prison and a relationship that feels like a job, his ambitions are... lacking. You see, he’s been dating his girlfriend, Katherine, for more than five years, and now she’s pressuring him to pop the question.

Wanting to continue his carefree way of life, Vincent frequently imbibes with his buddies at his favorite bar, Stray Sheep. It’s here we meet the titular character, Catherine: she’s flirty, she’s sexy, and she’s everything Vincent wants but knows he can’t have… until he wakes up one morning and finds her sleeping next to him in his bed. Naked. That’s when the nightmares begin.

The cube-based puzzles that constitute Vincent’s nightmares are, for the most part, frantic and fun. You must reach the top of each towering puzzle by pushing, pulling, and scaling numerous blocks as the floor gives out beneath you. Multiple solutions allow for variation in your approach to each situation, though moving a series of blocks incorrectly can lead to a dead end - luckily, a rewind feature lets you reset your last few moves and try again. Even on the Easy setting, these challenges can become quite difficult.

The nightmares are populated with plenty of oddities and obstacles. Anthropomorphic sheep (a common motif throughout the game) often teach new climbing techniques, but also try to push you from ledges. Special cubes, such as dark blocks (which are heavy and require more time to manipulate), add variation to every puzzle, and we found plenty of items to aid our climb, such as powerups that enable you to materialize a cube out of thin air. Each chapter of puzzles ends with a challenging boss stage in which Vincent must escape the embodiment of some of his real-life phobias.

Character interaction segments and anime-style cutscenes propel the narrative and provide incentive to complete each series of puzzles. Outside of Vincent’s nightmares, the game’s setting exists primarily within the Stray Sheep bar, which acts as a hub for communicating with Vincent’s friends. Most character interaction is done via text messaging. When Katherine texts that she’s annoyed by your frequent bar visits, you can choose from a list of available responses and apologize or tell her to mind her own business. Your decisions ultimately decide which of the many endings you receive, and your responses are tracked through an unexplained meter, which, at first glance, resembles a morality system. Yet it’s important to note Catherine is not about good or bad choices in terms of morality, and we found the experience most enjoyable when we approached each situation as if we were in Vincent’s shoes.

The multiple endings lend themselves well to the game’s replayability, as the story is genuinely fun to watch unfold. However, by the end of the game we were anxious to witness the narrative’s conclusion, and started to feel annoyed by the necessity of completing puzzles before we could move on. Expect to spend around 12 hours or more in a single playthrough. Additionally, puzzle completion times and scores are tracked via online leaderboards, and there are even multiplayer modes for taking on friends head-to-head for those looking for some competitive action.

Yet, aside from Catherine’s quirky, unique style, perhaps the game’s greatest strength lies in its adult themes - not its occasional sexual implications, but instead its ability to confront the real-life, this-ain’t-always-easy world of relationships. Vincent is a very human character. He’s reached a point where he must decide who he is and what he wants. Does he sacrifice his carefree lifestyle and commit to Katherine? Or does he live solely for himself, acting on spontaneous impulses and selfish desires? In a sense, the puzzles become an allegory for fleshing out his problems - our problems. Do we play through the game with the intentions of ending up with a particular woman? Or does Vincent become an everyman, a filter through which our own desires and morals are exposed? Catherine is a breath of fresh air, an experience that is silly, fun, and serious all at once. Whether you’re looking for a one-night stand or a long-term commitment, we highly recommend giving it a shot.

Jul 25, 2011

More Info

Release date: Jul 26 2011 - PS3, Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Adventure
Developed by: Atlus
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence

We Recommend By ZergNet

15 comments

  • IcePotato - August 1, 2011 12:54 a.m.

    I loved this game up until i saw the gameplay. No thanks, i don't want to play Q-Bert.
  • JudeDude92 - July 31, 2011 3:32 a.m.

    I`ve thought about this for a `long` time, and am SO torn on this game! I need a new story based game, and this really seems like it, but something is turning me away at the same time :`(
  • Ravenbom - July 30, 2011 8:45 p.m.

    It gets really annoying wading through the puzzles waiting for the story to unfold, even on easy. But I'm still glad I bought it.
  • Metroidhunter32 - July 28, 2011 4:04 p.m.

    whew. I was uneasy about this, Trailers for it looked like Atlus had descided to create a porno, and I'm glad that's not true. Anyways, Atlus specilizes in riviting naritives, so I'll probally be picking this up sooner or later.
  • gamingfreak - July 28, 2011 12:10 a.m.

    I hope to pick this up when I get a bit of extra cash.
  • philipshaw - July 27, 2011 11:32 a.m.

    Importing this and it's good to know it got a great score from GR
  • waitingforCharlietosnap - July 27, 2011 6:44 a.m.

    I got this today and I really dig it. If it wasn't for GamesRadar's constant coverage of this game, it would have flown completely under the radar, so thank you, Ryan, for this.
  • SpikroddNG - July 27, 2011 4:18 a.m.

    I wanted this game since like February, and if not for work, this would have been a first day purchase. And for those who are like 'what', the game makes perfect sense when you think about it: On the surface (real world), there's the love triangle with decisions that can mirror your real life decisions, but in the dream world, there's a simple on the surface, but everything that appears simple but deep down it gets nearly impossible to get through and understand. I love story-driven games like Mass Effect, Enslaved and Metro 2033, so this game's definitely gonna be a treat.
  • xlyesterdaylx - July 27, 2011 1:48 a.m.

    I think I'll wait until it goes on sale.
  • CancerMan - July 27, 2011 12:56 a.m.

    Different and fun. Must play.
  • soren7550 - July 27, 2011 12:04 a.m.

    I want to get this game, but my boyfriend won't let me play it on his 360 after seeing the demo since it scared the crap out of him.
  • egregious - July 26, 2011 2:54 p.m.

    My friend and I loved the demo. Can't wait to play.
  • Person5 - July 26, 2011 5:51 a.m.

    I have been following this game for a little while and after playing the demo I can say I wanted more, I'm glad it scored well and I can't wait to pick this up, I needed a new game to get me through the summer recaptcha: marital avainec, is it just a coincidence that the recaptcha has to do with marriage?
  • lovinmyps3 - July 26, 2011 2 a.m.

    I've been following this game for a while and I'm glad to see it receive a good score (nah, fuck that. 8 is the worst score ever! LULZ!). Just the amount of bizare shit that's going on is enough for me to support it. I'll definitely be picking this up.
  • santaclouse37 - July 26, 2011 12:44 a.m.

    Excellent to finally see a review from the site that turned me on to the game. I've heard that some later parts in the story, as yahtzee might say, take a left turn at 4th and Bonkers. Did you have any issues with how the game's later acts play out?

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