Tuesday, 17 April 2012 10:30
Catherine can best be described as a love child of an anime and a puzzle game. It is definitely a game like no other.
Strangely, the anime graphics style and story is coupled with adult themes like infidelity and pregnancy scares, while the core of the game is a hardcore block puzzler.
You play as Vincent Brooks, a regular 30-something in a long term relationship with Katherine - with a 'K'. She has been pushing him towards marriage and Vincent is unwilling to commit. One night he meets a blonde bombshell in the form of Catherine - with a 'C' - and after night of drunken debauchery, Vincent wakes up overwhelmed with guilt.
To make the situation worse, when Vincent goes to sleep he is sent into a nightmare landscape. This is the playable portion of the game. In every nightmare, Vincent has to climb a tower of blocks by pushing them back and forth and making a path upward. Simultaneously, the bottom of the tower falls away adding time pressure to your climb. As the levels progress, the addition of various types of blocks - like ice blocks, spike traps and spring pads - makes for very challenging puzzles.
Each night there are typically three or four levels. Between these levels you arrive at a landing area where you can save your game and interact with other victims. You have to answer questions about your infidelity in a 'confessional' before being allowed to the next level. Also, the final sublevel of the night has a boss battle. The levels get increasingly difficult as you progress; unfortunately to the point of frustration. Even though there is an undo option, the puzzles are still incredibly difficult and repetitive.
After the successful completion of the tower puzzles, Vincent wakes up from his dream with only a vague recollection of the night's events. After the end of each day, Vincent meets his friends in the local bar. You're able to walk around the bar and engage with the patrons and the manner in which you respond to conversations and text messages determine his 'alignment' i.e. his tendency towards either chaos or order. Your alignment and how you answer the confessional questions in the dream realm will determine how your story concludes – and Catherine has eight distinctive endings.
Catherine tells the story of a regular guy growing and taking responsibility in his personal life. While the puzzle gameplay remains challenging throughout, at certain times you feel like you're just watching an anime soapie. I found the story a little too over the top and I found the continuous 'climb the tower' puzzles repetitive and boring. Unfortunately, the payoff is not worth the reward of seeing the end of the story.
Pros: Nuanced anime graphics style; deep engaging story; hard puzzle gameplay; multiple endings based on your decisions.
Cons: Limited dialogue options; poor voice acting and direction; frustrating puzzle; limited gameplay with long video sequences and limited interaction.
Time to completion: ~23 hours for core story
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