Catherine PS3 Review
Try It For Yourself
99 Problems And This Girl is One
When a game starts to blur the lines of reality and fiction making you really think about life, your own personality and where you’re heading, whilst at the same time being one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever played... you know you’re in for a treat. It's a mature game in many ways but not as shallow as the on pack design would have you believe - this was the way it was marketed to sell more for a game in such a niche genre.
No Woman No Cry
Relationships are complicated. Victor is a 32 year old guy who has a great group of friends, loves going out to drink and has a seemingly overbearing and serious girlfriend, Katherine. He’s happy with the way things are and is quite aloof – he’s not a big fan of change. She is becoming an increasing reason for his stress and boredom – is this what he wants his life to be like? He’s not getting any younger...
He is the archetypical male commitment phobe which I’m pretty sure most guys around his age or younger would resonate with. Victor has started to have some very strange nightmares involving climbing a tower surrounded by sheep which have dark undertones – some sheep have been dying. Random men, around Victor’s age, have also been dying in real life in unexplained circumstances widely reported on the news. One night Victor wakes up next to another girl after a nightmare who seems to be the complete opposite to Katherine... called Catherine. He’s cheated but was it what he really wanted? Is Catherine who he is meant to be with?
What follows is an intriguing, surprising and emotionally charged game focussing on Victors nightmares and interactions between (now) both girls in his life.
Women are a Puzzle
The core of Catherine is a puzzle element. Every time Victor has a nightmare, it transpires as another level in the tower to climb. The nightmare usually relates to some conversations or themes that have been talked about while in the real world giving it real meaning. It also makes sense as often you’ll dream about things that weigh on your mind. All you are told is that freedom lies at the top of the tower. Freedom from nightmares? Freedom from life i.e. death? Freedom to do what he wants? You won’t know until you get to the top. To solve the puzzle Victor must move blocks to create a pathway upwards - Easier said than done. The puzzles themselves really make you think and as you climb the tower, more and more climbing techniques are revealed to allow you to think more laterally. Blocks inherit certain abilities as you climb increasing the difficulty and adding new layers of challenge to initially a fairly simple premise. Some blocks will have spikes shoot out if you stay on them for too long, whilst others are heavy and slower to move.
As time passes the rows of blocks from the bottom start to disappear so there is a time limit (albeit without a clock in the corner) which adds some urgency and after all, it is called a nightmare for a reason! Sometimes you’ll be getting to the top because the bottom is falling off and other times you’ll be chased by a monster created by Victor’s mind so have an extra obstacle to deal with. Either way the goal is the same, climb the tower until you find the exit.
Even on Normal, the difficulty certainly ramps up. As Victor’s mind gets more and more muddled with thoughts (and your mind does also) the challenge increases and can be frustrating at points but in the same way that Dark Souls could be frustrating, you feel an immense amount of accomplishment and happiness on completing a level and getting to the top of the tower. Exclaiming, ‘Suck it’ at the top of your voice after a monster fails to catch you is one personal example!
In between the puzzles there is a simulation/adventure element which is where things get really quite interesting as well as some very nicely animated anime cutscenes interspersed. Victor spends time with his friends in The Stray Sheep drinking. You’ll talk to your friends (all voiced adding to atmosphere), order drinks and receive text messages. Talking to your friends eats up in game time at which point you’ve got to leave the bar and go home. Ordering drinks will make you more drunk, but can make you move faster in your nightmares. You’ll also get texts from Catherine/Katherine and can reply to them how you wish (or even not at all) with some pre written choices which can be combined in lots of ways having an effect. All your choices matter. There is a Red and Blue bar that appears at the edge of the screen when something you have said/done/activated has had an impact. The slider either moves more towards the Devil or the Angel. Even though you may have an idea of what you want and what is ‘right’ your mind will constantly change, just like Victor’s which creates real emotional depth. It may even question how you feel as an individual.
After the end of every level, you’re ushered into a confessional booth and asked to answer one question honestly. They start off fairly simple but get quite into the ‘grey area’ territory so you’ll be a little unsure of how to answer sometimes and how this would affect the Devil/Angel bar. You become confused, just like Victor and perhaps even a little torn between which girl you really like.
There are 8 different endings to the game so whilst you may be able to work out what the right choice is, are you being true to yourself or simply pleasing someone because you know what they want to hear? It really is subtly very sophisticated in having such a pull on your own way of thinking.
With multiple difficulty settings (hard really is for the most masochistic amongst you), mini games, a cool soundtrack and bags of character, whilst not for everyone I guarantee you won’t have played anything quite like Catherine and for that reason I highly recommend it for those wanting a memorable and enjoyable gaming experience.