Video games are not usually a media where social ideas and moral situations are discussed. Catherine, however, is a game that tries to break free from the mould and deal with that age old issue of the cheating boyfriend. At the heart of this game is a truly deep puzzle game in which our main protagonist, Vincent, climbs blocks in a tower in a vertical fashion. The story and the way the game is played out is set in such a way that you will also have lots of elements of a RPG. This is really worth a look people.
To cheat or not to cheat, this is a question many a boyfriend has been confronted with, I am, however, very sure the vivid and sometimes horrific nightmares Vincent suffers on a nightly basis is one that does not happen to those that do. Since I’m a good boy I wouldn’t know about cheating anyway. Vicent is a 30 something with a steady job and a long term girlfriend Katherine (with a K). He loves going out with his friends to his local bar called the Stray Sheep and enjoying a few drinks. Katherine feels like their relationship has got to the point of marriage and she keeps pestering Vincent, now being the man he is, Vincent doesn’t want anything to change.
During a night out with guys, Vincnet stays late at the bar and begins drinking when suddenly an amazingly stunning girl walks in and asks to sit on his table. We then get a nightmare level where he must climb up to the top of a block tower (more on this below). Once finished, you wake up and see that Vincent has done the unthinkable and slept with the new girl who is rather cleverly named Catherine (with a C). To his shock the story plays out and you are faced with the guilt and all the fallout from his actions.
Firstly, the graphics are just pretty. I love manga and all things like that and there are a few ways this game is set out. During the actual nightmare levels, the graphics are smooth, artistic and everything is rather dark and sometimes scary. The part of the game where the story is told is presented in a manga film animation style and the RPG aspects are again presented in a managa style, but this time brighter and fresher than the nightmare levels. The character expressions are just lovely. The eyes, mouth and body movements are detailed and perfect. The story moments are sometimes very erotic it has to be said and sometimes slightly hentai in tone. The menus are bright and every option is narrated in a deep Barry White-like voice that reads out the title of the option highlighted.
Gameplay-wise Catherine is a delight for puzzle fans and, dare I say, casual gamers will also enjoy this a lot. The basic idea is to climb a tower of blocks where you move up one block at a time. You can push and pull the blocks both left and right and out and in. This sounds easier than it is because there are many different types of blocks, as you would expect. Some blocks crack and as you step on them, some don’t move, some have traps in them, while springs and ice blocks are also seen. The blocks also have a neat feature that is fall edge, this means as long as the blocks are touching on one edge they won’t fall down. This gives a tactical feel to the game as the puzzles are at times very difficult to figure out. It has to be said I died a lot, but I never found it to be frustrating, every time I died I actually had a smile on my face because I knew the way to go next time.
To add to the intensity of the gameplay during these nightmare levels, the lower rows of blocks keep falling away so you have to be quick in thought and execution. There are also boss battles after every two sub-levels where you need to climb very fast while avoiding such bosses like the immoral beast or a crazy 50ft zombie woman with a fork who will stick you if you are to slow. The RPG aspects of this game are also very well done, these mostly revolve around Vincent and his friends drinking at the bar and dealing with the problems they have. This can be very text heavy, but to break this up Atlas have given Vincent a phone to get texts from his girlfriend and respond to these. The gameplay is further spiced up by the moral meter which changes depending on desicions you make during texts, conversations and interactions with the world around you.
During the nightmare levels you have a lobby where you can buy items such as blocks that create blocks or destroy enemies. Now you’re not the only person in these nightmares, other boyfriends have also been sucked in and these are represented as sheep. Vincent himself has horns like a ram during these levels. It’s an interesting play on words to have cheating men as sheep and also plays well into the idea of counting sheep to sleep. The music is very well implemented as the nightmare levels are scary and quick and this is matched with the music. The RPG sections have a tune playing in the backround which is fine but this can be changed via a juke box in the bar . Did I mention the arcade game you can play in the bar? Well, you can play an old school game called Rapunzle, which involves the same basic idea of climbing as in the main game but with a more fun twist. Playing a video game in a video game is a nice idea. As you play you earn trophies and rewards which allow you to unlock various features, including different songs in the juke box.
There is also a two player mode where you and a buddy can try work together and solve the puzzles of the tower. The moral meter gives this game more replay value as there all multiples endings to unlock and view. One of the trophies is to view all the endings. The trophies you get during gameplay also give you more of an incentive to replay to get the gold award. Hell, just playing this game for the sake of playing it gives the game a replay value in itself.
Overall, Atlas and Deep Silver have produced a very smooth, polished game that deals with an important issue in a fun and sometimes scary way. The characters are perfect and this story is set out in such a pleasing way you really don’t want to stop playing. The puzzle aspect has a good balance of difficulty and fun, it’s rather addictive, trust me. Catherine is a different game and I commend the developers for doing this. The main story mode takes quite a while to finish so you’re getting real value for money here and with the added replay value its a real treat. The manga-style is very appealing and if you can get past the dialogue-heavy sections there is a very sweet game here. Your choice: Katherine or Catherine?
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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