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CATHERINE



 
General Description

Catherine is a unique adventure/puzzle game hybrid developed by the Atlus Persona Team and released for Xbox 360 and PS3 in July 2011. It centers around a young man named Vincent who begins to have horrific nightmares when he betrays his girlfriend Katherine with another woman named Catherine. The game is split into two parts. In one players control Vincent as he hangs out with his friends and other patrons of the Stray Sheep Bar, talking with people to help them with their problems and collecting information about the strange dreams that Vincent and other characters are having.

The other half of the game takes place inside Vincent's nightmares, and this is where most of the player's time is spent. Each night Vincent must climb a series of towers, each of which is made up of dozens of blocks that can be pushed and pulled around. New tricks are added over the course of the game, like bombs that damage surrounding blocks and ice blocks that cause Vincent to slip forward, but the real challenges come from the layouts of each level. As players begin to understand the rules dictating the way Vincent can move they are constantly tested with more challenging arrangements.

Both halves of Catherine offer wildly different experiences for the player, and the shift from one to the other gives the game a beautiful pace. One of the game's strengths is in people skills; though the main game is single-player, it challenges players to lead Vincent through the sticky situation that he's found himself in, and the player's choices can lead to several different endings. Creativity is another of the game's strengths. The game's premise is a total change of pace from any other mainstream title, and both halves of the game encourage players to think for themselves in very different ways.

 
Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
C+ C
Ratings at a Glance
 
Facts: 1 Title: CATHERINE
Creativity: 8 Publisher: Atlus
Business: 2 Developer: Atlus
People: 5 Year: 2011
Problem: 6 Genre: Platform/Puzzle
Simulation: 0 Strengths: creativity, popularity, people
Popularity: 8 Platforms: PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts

Catherine does not include many classroom facts. One strange place they do come through is at the bar. Whenever Vincent finishes a drink, the scene pauses and players are treated to a piece of trivia about one of the various types of real-world beverages in the game.

Creativity & Imagination

By the Player:

The game's puzzle levels offer plenty of freedom for players to experiment. Blocks are arranged to encourage specific routes, but it is often very difficult to tell exactly what path needs to be taken. This allows players to experiment with their own ideas, and the stages become more devious as players obtain more experience. The introduction of random attacks on the stage during boss levels adds another layer of challenge, as players are forced to change up their strategies when blocks randomly become damaged or destroyed outright.

The game's challenge levels are unlocked by earning gold trophies in the main game. They are incredibly lengthy stages that are randomly generated as players climb, each with its own theme. Here, even more than in the main game, players must think quickly and come up with their own plans, with the game's online leaderboards as a goal.

Outside the puzzle segments players will have to decide which characters to spend time with at the Stray Sheep, as well as how to respond to texts from Katherine and Catherine, all of which will affect the game's conclusion. The game does not call any of these options good or evil; instead, players are encouraged to decide for themselves what might be right or wrong.

By the Developer:

In premise alone, Catherine is a totally unique game. Both the game's puzzle-solving elements and its social-sim bar scenes shine on their own, and together they make for a remarkable experience. The game's puzzle mode seems like other games on the surface, but it quickly begins to show its depth when its clever rules become clear. The same can be said of the scenes set in the Stray Sheep, as it eventually becomes clear that players will be able to influence the direction of the story.

And the game's story, of course, is one of its biggest selling points. Its subject matter and protagonist - a man scared of being caught cheating on his girlfriend - are totally original as far as videogames go, and the way both halves of the game work to build this story is remarkable. Plenty of well-voiced dialogue, over-the-top imagery and fully animated cutscenes keep the game surprising.

Most of all the game has a remarkably distinct sense of style, brought together through the game's dark plot, confident art design and perfect, jazzy soundtrack, that will almost assuredly make it stick in the minds of most players. Other playful elements constantly pop up - pieces of music or other references to previous Persona Team games, or polls which compare the player's answers to every other player in the country, for a few examples - that keep players surprised and prevent the game from ever having a dull moment.

Business Skills

Players can collect coins that are scattered about on the game's towers, and these can be used to purchase items at the landings between stages. These items are optional and are intended as extra help for players that are struggling.

People Skills

People skills are an important part of Catherine. Though it is a single-player game, it revolves around Vincent's interactions with other characters and the player's own feelings about his situation. During any given conversation players usually only need to make one simple dialogue choice, but over the course of the eight nights Vincent spends at the Stray Sheep these choices will decide the fates of the characters that populate it.

Vincent also has to answer texts from the game's female leads. These offer players a handful of branching options that will affect how each girl feels towards Vincent. The plot eventually splits into eight separate endings depending on the player's choices throughout the game. This is handled differently than in other games in that these choices are not labeled as "good" or "evil." Instead the game openly states that there is no correct way to move through the game, and that different people are bound to have different desires for their lives.

As a side note, the game contains a couple of two-player modes that allow players to tackle some of the game's stages either cooperatively or in competition with each other. These are local multiplayer only and are a small part of the game, but offer an interesting take on the game's mechanics for pairs of interested players.

Problem Solving

For the most part this lies in Catherine's brutally clever block-pushing puzzles. Players always need to climb from the bottom of a tower of cubes to the top. Players can push and pull the blocks in and out of the walls, and a few basic rules dictate the way Vincent can move around; when he pulls a block over a gap he can hang on to the seam between two rows and grapple around with his arms, and a block will remain suspended as long as it rests just one of its edges on another block. With these ideas in place players will quickly develop the complex maneuvers that the game demands.

New blocks add plenty of other interesting challenges in certain stages, but the real kicker is that players are always heavily pressed for time. Every few seconds the bottom floor of the tower drops off, meaning Vincent needs to be constantly moving upward in order to survive. This is particularly stressful when many stages require players to carefully push and pull blocks to rearrange a tower and, often, backtrack a bit to fix mistakes.

Catherine's tower-climbing mechanics are revisited two other ways. A handful of enormous challenge stages offer randomly-generated blocks suited to different themes for players to attempt. In the Stray Sheep sections of the game Vincent can play an arcade game called Rapunzel that offers these puzzles, only here there is no time limit. Instead players have to solve each carefully designed puzzle using only a certain number of moves.

These different looks at the game's already deep puzzle mechanics all challenge players in different ways.

Simulation

Catherine is not a simulation game.

Popularity

Catherine has been received extremely well since its release, though in some cases its eccentric combination of different styles has proven divisive. Overall it has been praised as a particularly unique videogame. The level of difficulty found in the puzzle stages has been criticized and praised in turn. Catherine has had the most successful launch of any game in Atlus' history.

Controls & Options

Catherine offers three levels of difficulty up front. As the puzzle stages of the game can be extremely difficult even in normal mode, each of them changes the game considerably. The lower difficulties allow players to take back their last nine moves at any time, and a hidden "very easy" mode offers players extra block-climbing items throughout the game.

Tips

Catherine was rated M by the ESRB with descriptors for Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol and Violence.