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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Aug 11, 2011

Review – Catherine (Xbox 360)

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After copious amounts of time waiting, Catherine had finally arrived in my hands. I had finally gotten the chance to check out this new puzzle/adventure game from Atlus that so many were buzzing about. Sitting down to play, I became lost in the story the company had created, and here’s the review for the time I spent with the game.

Presentation and Story

The storyline in Catherine has to be the best part of the game. It’s presented to players through intense cutscenes, and animated in-game cinematics. Players follow Vincent, a run-of-the-mill guy who is working a run-of-the-mill job. He makes just enough to get by, and he seems to be sliding through life, which he has no problems with. When his girlfriend, Katherine, starts talking about wanting to settle down, his life takes a tumble. All of a sudden Vincent is visited by a voluptuous young woman by the name of Catherine (go figure), and after waking up in bed with her, his life begins to become fractured right in front of him.

Very soon after this moment, Vincent falls victim to a plague of some sorts that is infecting the town. There has been talk of a curse that affects men who cheat, which at this time includes Vincent. From this point on, Vincent must fight his way through his nightmares, or suffer death like the rest of the lonely souls of men in the town.

The story is definitely colorful, and it’s easy to get lost in. Atlus presents this game in a more adult fashion, which is exactly what they were aiming to do. The more players progress through the game, the creepier it gets, but it’s got a perfect way of keeping players well immersed in the game, so they can’t put it down.

The only issue I found with the presentation was aesthetic. I know Catherine is a Japanese title originally, so I expect a certain level of animation. But during some points in the game Vincent’s facial features are a bit over-the-top. In every other scene his eyes are bulging, and his face is distorted. The voice didn’t really match up with his level of facial emotion, so it just felt a bit weird for me. I would have liked to see it a bit more toned down, at least to match the voice acting.

Gameplay

The main portion of the game is offered through a sort of adventurous set of dungeons, each with increasing difficulty through the game. One thing I will say about Catherine is that it is in no way meant for the inexperienced gamer. It’s very unforgiving. The level progression is quick and difficult. Allow me to explain.

The nightmares Vincent has come in the form of dungeons in which he must make it to the top exit door in order to survive the night. Using techniques and items to his advantage, Vincent must climb block after block to reach salvation. Over time the lower rows of blocks fall, meaning certain death if you can’t keep moving. Add to that a boss during the final level of each floor, and you’ve got enough adventure for a whole group of characters.

While in these nightmares, other characters appear as sheep, though when back in the real world it’s easy enough to distinguish who they are. You can speak to them to learn new techniques while in the nightmare stages, as well as progress the storyline. This adds a new sense of playability to the game, because each NPC is shrouded right in front of you.

The whole game is based on a meter, upon which Vincent’s demeanor is displayed. You can make choices which will either make him naughty, or nice. Of course these decisions also affect who he will be with in the game, whether it be Catherine or Katherine. Make the right choices and you’ll get the right girl. Make more naughty ones and you’ll kiss your righteousness goodbye. Answering questions, responding to NPCs, and choosing actions all affect the meter.

The dungeons are what really make the gameplay fun, however they can be frustrating. I can’t tell you how many times I had to reload a save because I ran out of continues. That has a great potential to take the fun out of a game, but I found with time I got better and used less continues. The nightmares really force players to use their minds, which is something a bit new that we haven’t experienced in a while. Make one wrong move by pushing or pulling a block, and you can literally strand yourself for death.

That being said, it is a great feature that each level isn’t always beat the same way. Each player will have their own way of going about solving the level, which can really make gameplay interesting. I have even reloaded old saves and beaten previous levels in different ways just to see if I could. It makes replayability interesting and fun, which seems to have been lost among games these days.

Conclusion

I had waited a long while for Catherine, and in the end the wait was worth it. Though some of the visuals were a bit across the line and the game isn’t for the weak-willed, Catherine offered a lot of fun and playability. I am currently playing through it again, trying to split paths and get different endings. If you’re an Atlus fan, or if you’re looking for an adventurous new game, Catherine just may be what you’re looking for. With sexy women, adult themes, and very mature gameplay, Catherine isn’t meant for any young soul. When you get the chance, slither up with this game and give it a try.

The Good

  • immersive and interesting storyline
  • great gameplay, challenging and addictive
  • humorous, yet serious to keep players involved
  • amazing artwork and stunning cutscenes

The Bad

  • the graphics and character animations can be a bit over-the-top
  • game may be too challenging to some players
  • not a game for the younger audience

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