Every once in a while a game comes along that’s so different from everything else out there that you’re compelled to play it. Catherine is that game for this year. On the surface it looks like a mini-game out of some Devil May Cry game but beneath that is a rather engaging story and a lot of fun puzzle solving.
You play Vincent, a computer tech with no real ambition that’s just coasting through life without much thought as to where he’s going. He’s dating a girl, Katherine, who he met at the high school reunion, and hangs out at the bar with his buddies, who he went to high school with. After meeting a mysterious girl at the bar, who you later find out, is named Catherine (which can make things confusing at times if you have subtitles turned off), Vincent starts having nightmares.
The nightmare stages are the meat and potatoes of the game. You push and pull various types of blocks to ascend to the top of the tower and pull the ring. The biggest problem you’ll encounter is the awkward feeling controls. Players will be better off using the d-pad instead of the stick to move Vincent around the tower. On the plus side, the controls are simplistic enough that you won’t have to worry about pushing the wrong button. You’ll only ever need to push one of two buttons while climbing the tower.
Between each stage is a platform where you can meet other NPC sheep and learn new climbing techniques, all of which you will eventually need to reach the end. Each sheep on the platform corresponds to a person you can meet at the bar. They will tell you stories and you can help them out with their problems.
The NPC stories give the story a deeper feeling. It’s not just about Vincent; it’s also about the things happening around him. There are a lot of details of the story that you can miss if you’re not paying attention to the NPCs as they rant and rave about their own problems and panic while climbing the tower.
The choices you make with the NPCs, both inside and outside the nightmare, will affect a meter that pops up. Where the needle is pointing at the end of the game determines which ending you get to see. In total there are eight different endings all based on the questions you answer. You’ll either end up with the Katherine you’ve been dating all along or you’ll end up with the Catherine you’ve been having a steamy affair with. Or you’ll end up all alone, depending on just how you answer the questions.
At the end of each night you’ll face a boss monster. They are supposed to be based on the big issues Vincent has had to face that day but after a few nights they just break down and become odd. In the first night you’re running from a pair of disembodied arms holding a fork, in the second you’re running from a butt with eyes and a mouth, in the third you’re running from a giant baby, they get pretty ridiculous.
While the puzzles in the regular stages can get pretty difficult sometimes, the boss stages are always easier. The attacks and the speed of the monster as it climbs after you force you to react faster instead of sitting around thinking about the best way to get to the top. It makes the game progress faster, which ends up being a good thing.
At first you only have to go through one puzzle level in order to reach the boss level. After a few nights you’ll go through more until you eventually reach the top of the tower, where the game has told you it was ending. At this point you’ll probably feel like the game is ending and that’s what you want, but then they throw in six more stages before you can finally see the end of the game. These last stages are the most challenging and there are two boss stages at the end. They take a lot more skill than any of the previous stages and by the end you’re just grateful that they’re over.
It’s also at this point that the story falls apart. When Vincent finds out who is behind the nightmares it turns from a suspenseful story into an action story where Vincent is the hero fighting against the bad guy. The appeal of the story until this point was the gray area that Vincent seemed to be operating in. It becomes very anime-styled, much more so than it had been up until this point.
In the end, with the game’s controls feeling awkward and the story seeming to drag on beyond the proposed ending, you may feel like throwing this game in the river for wasting your time, depending on the ending you get. If you are a fan of Japanese anime in the first place, you will probably enjoy it a lot more. If you’re not a fan, then you probably won’t like the twist at the end. It’s a very niche game that a lot of gamers won’t be attracted to but it is definitely worth playing. The story is engaging and the puzzles are fun to solve.
Some gamers will want to buy this, but most of them are better off renting it.
You can find Catherine on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC now by visiting any of these stores around Anoka County.