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Finished!! – Catherine

System: Playstation 3
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Released: 2011

Completed: February 4, 2014

WARNING: THIS GAME HAS MATURE CONTENT

See that release year? I’m capable of playing current games! Well, current-ish.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this game when I first heard about it. It won a few awards for story and was featured on a list I saw as an underrated game. I’m all about playing underrated games! Catherine was also found on the cheap, so I picked it up for my growing library of PS3 games.

CatherineArt

Take a look at the cover. It pretty much gives you a glimpse into what you are about to get. Sexy anime people having sexy times. They are never explicit with it in the game, so sorry for anyone who is into that.

It feels like the game had a huge disconnect when designing the content. I’m imagining the kind of conversation that must have happened:

Story writers: “We made a game about love and infidelity, delving into the mental anguish one experiences on both sides through literal nightmares. It speaks on the human condition by addressing the meaning of heartache and relationships!”

Game designer: “I made a puzzle game. With blocks. I call it Not Tetris!”

Story writers: “… wow, okay.”

The story revolves around Vincent, Spike Spiegel’s stunt double and overall slacker stereotype. He is in a relationship with Katherine, a well-together woman who grew up with Vincent and became romantic involved with Vincent at a school reunion. This works because magnetic properties dictate that opposites attract and someone felt this translates well to love. This is backed by researching sitcoms. Science!

See you, space cowboy

See you, space cowboy

Katherine is pushing marriage on Vincent, who is not ready to settle down. Again, the plot feels like it needs a live studio audience with how it was written. At a bar after his friends leave, Vincent finds himself in the company of Catherine, a young blonde woman who is cute so we can forego personality. They talk, and Vincent eventually leaves the bar. This is when the crazy starts happening.

Katherine (the girlfriend)

Katherine (the girlfriend)

Catherine (has a game named after her)

Catherine (has a game named after her)

Vincent is the victim of recurring nightmares. He is armed with boxers and a pillow, meaning he is well armed to take on some ghosts and goblins. Our protagonist is surrounded by sheep, which also see Vincent as a sheep. They are all compelled to climb a tower. As time progresses, the bottom row of blocks drops into oblivion. If a sheep happens to be on that row, they drop as well, dying in the real world (explaining the news reports of dead guys and increased sales of mint jelly).

The main gameplay is primarily a puzzle game. To climb the tower, Vincent must push and pull blocks. He can climb up a block or use the edge to scuttle around, getting on the other side if necessary. Since this is a dream world, the blocks do not require proper support; instead, as long as one edge touches the edge of a lower block, we’re good. The player can get stuck if they do not have the foresight to position blocks well enough, though on the lower difficulties, Vincent can reverse the previous step(s) to try again without dying. The puzzles start out easy and rise in difficulty and complexity as the story mode progresses. I felt it was fair in how it increased, leading to a nice difficulty curve.

Actually, I think it was Coil...

None of these blocks are lighting up. Q*bert lied!!

The bosses can be a bit of a pain, though. Before Vincent can wake up, he must face a giant plot-related monstrosity that works to hinder Vincent’s progress. The bosses toward the end will make for some frantic times as the player scrambles around, creating more opportunities for mistakes. It was not very often that I had to restart a normal stage, though the last two or three bosses gave me issues.

When not facing puzzles, Vincent gets his drink on at the Stray Sheep bar. This opens up a second gameplay section that functions more like a dating simulation. Both Katherine and Catherine will send texts and call throughout the night, and Vincent’s answers (if he chooses to answer) will dictate where he falls on a scale. Siding toward Order means he is devoted to Katherine, while Chaos leans toward Catherine. I feel that not making the scale so obvious would have helped in this department (Chaos is represented by a devil, and Order with an angel). From my understanding, the answers have no real change in the gameplay for the puzzle rounds, only a difference in the ultimate ending. Which is cool, I guess.

It's sad how ignoring friends to check your phone is actual gameplay...

Checkin’ mah phone with no friends…

If there was one reason to play, it was for the plot. I honestly felt compelled to continue to discover the next path the plot would take. From my recollection, here is the plot (I’m gonna go ahead and mark this as a spoiler…):

  • Vincent sleeps with Catherine
  • Vincent panics
  • Surprise, Katherine is preggers!
  • Vincent sleeps with Catherine
  • Vincent vows not to sleep with Catherine
  • Vincent sleeps with Catherine
  • Katherine orders Chinese food
  • Knife fight??
  • I think the one guy is voiced by the same dude as Roy Mustang from Fullmetal Alchemist

I may have made some of that up.

Depending on the answers and actions of Vincent, there are several different endings to the game. The one I got during my playthrough is considered the True Katherine ending:

The game is smart in its design. By the time I was finding the puzzle portions monotonous and got bored with the Stray Sheep portions, I was engulfed by the story and wanted to continue solely to advance the plot. The plot twist was one I did not see coming, which is always good. It took me about ten hours to play through the first time, which is short by PS3 standards, yet I do not feel compelled to play it again to get the other endings.

It is a hidden gem, though it doesn’t shine as brightly as the others.

Recommendation:

The story deserves the awards it won. The gameplay is so disjointed that it feels it was a movie with a video game shoehorned in. I feel it is worth a play, but only if you can find it for a deal.

My arbitrary score based on nothing is strawberry-vanilla out of Neapolitan.

Sorry, that was a typo.  Should have read, '@!#?%!'

@!#?@!

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