pepsiman's Catherine (PlayStation 3) review

Catherine: A Late, But Great Entrance to the HD Party

Atlus has a habit of seriously biding its time before making its debut on most console platforms. Save for a few exceptions here and there, it's not usually a matter of if Atlus will develop a game for a given system, but rather when. In Catherine's case, that wait has been particularly long, with its release coming five years after the Xbox 360's debut heralded the coming of HD games en masse. With that arrival finally having come, Catherine continues Atlus' lengthy legacy for philosophically complex, humanistically skeptical games. It's not as provocative as its covers might otherwise imply, but if you're game for being a thinking man in solving puzzles both literal and personal, Catherine is certainly worth the trip. That's assuming, of course, you have at least some solid Japanese fluency backing you up. [Reviewer's Note: Since the time this review was published, Atlus USA has taken up the task of localizing Catherine. In addition, a patch was released that made tweaks to the easy and normal difficulty levels, which is said to be applied to international editions from the get-go. Those changes and linguistic swaps aside, while the contents of the game will likely remain the same, this review only references what was originally contained in the Japanese release pre-patch.]

In this world, Vincent wearing horns is sometimes the most normal thing there is.

Despite the game's namesake, Catherine actually has you playing the role of Vincent Brooks, a 30-something ordinary IT worker who's still living up the bachelor life. He goes drinking with his friends a lot after work, sleeps in his boxers, and is generally in a slightly untidy state, essentially living the dream as a man. Vincent also has a longtime girlfriend by the name of Katherine, an elegant woman who, after five years of dating wants the relationship to become more meaningful, ideally with a little marriage. The thought of such a commitment naturally scares him a bit. To make matters worse, he's also been having bad dreams involving a tower that will result in his death in real-life if he doesn't successfully climb it, an effect which is all but confirmed when a string of sudden deaths occur to men in their sleep. Oh, and there's also the matter of Catherine, a girl much younger than him that he randomly meets at his regular bar and, unwittingly, ends up seeing on the side, starting an affair of sorts. Suffice it to say, Vincent is a stressed man.

The actual gameplay for Catherine is similarly nuanced and broken up into a few really distinct parts. The majority of your time playing the game is actually spent in Vincent's dreams as he climbs the tower to avoid dying. Unlike a lot of Atlus' other games in its RPG-heavy library, this part of the game is actually a three-dimensional puzzler of sorts. In order to climb the tower, Vincent has to utilize a lot of different blocks that have distinct physics, properties, and layouts, essentially creating the stairways to the top of each stage himself. In addition to that, a time limit of sorts is always imposed, since the bottom layers of the blocks fall out at a constant rate, adding a sense of urgency to solve things sooner rather than later. While the puzzles themselves can get fairly devious even relatively early on in the game, solving them rarely feels frustrating, due largely in part to the game having well-placed checkpoints and an instant retry option in the pause menu. If you screw up, you usually know what you did wrong and are able to change tactics accordingly for the next immediate attempt. Even when things get especially tough later on in the game, this leads to a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you beat the levels with just your own brainpower. You can, however, lower the difficulty level in-between stages, if necessary.

There's a lot to learn, but with persistence, you will master it all.

But the game doesn't just throw you into the lion's den and expect you to figure out all of the mechanics and techniques for yourself. Catherine includes a lot of straightforward tutorials that do a really good job of acclimating you to the quirks of the gameplay and its pacing, ensuring that you always know about new elements that are coming up before they actually appear. While many of the tutorials are optional in nature, for first-time players, it's probably advisable to take a look at all of them at least once. They usually include helpful videos that show you exactly how to accomplish whatever the game is discussing. Knowing when to actually apply your knowledge out the field is up to you, especially since many of the puzzles are designed to have multiple solutions. Still, the tutorials are nevertheless well-made and bring you up to speed on Catherine's fairly unique brand of gameplay without overwhelming you with too much information at once. This is good, as there's plenty of things new things to learn even up to the very end of the game, surprisingly ensuring that the block moving doesn't actually get stale.

The one main issue to be had with this part of the game, as well as with Catherine overall, is in how it controls. While by and large the actual process of moving blocks around and completing the levels is straightforward and without issues, one certain situation the levels and puzzles present at times just makes the controls flat out fail. This happens when you're forced to climb behind blocks, at which point horizontal controls for Vincent will often just inexplicably reverse, forcing you to fumble around and change how you're orienting him in your mind until he's within view again. What's worse is that sometimes the controls will reverse again before Vincent has even returned back to the other side, turning the times during which he's behind something into a pure guessing game with the controls. Couple the fact that the camera actually doesn't rotate 360 degrees and gets stuck in exactly the spots that block your view of Vincent when he's behind the playing field and you have some situations that can be genuinely irksome. Rarely ever will you fumble along with the controls so long that it will cost you a life, but the consistency with which the botched controls appear later on in the game are just too consistent to ignore.

Your only friends here are ones that all kind of look the same.

Puzzle solving isn't all that you do in Vincent's dreams, though. In between each level is a rest area, home to other hapless people who are stuck in the same boat as you. Since they all look like sheep in this world, however, it's impossible to tell them apart, aside from individual personality quirks and a few distinct pieces of clothing that they adorn here and there. More importantly, though, these rest areas also have a confession booth of sorts, where Vincent is always asked seemingly random moral questions. The questions, which can range from opinions about marriage to how you treat your romantic partners and beyond, always have just two selectable answers to pick. While they seem relatively innocuous at first, they actually contribute to the game's morality system, which affects Vincent's overall outlook about his current life situation, as well as which of several endings you'll end up viewing. This might makes it sound as though the system is yet another two-dimensional interpretation of good and evil, but the answers sometimes come with unexpected ambiguity that will affect your morality meter in ways you don't expect without some further contemplation about the implications of your choice. Catherine essentially wants you to never be purely good nor purely evil because of this. Also, the loading screens that come after these questions always generate a pie chart that shows what percentage of Internet-connected players chose which option, sometimes providing bemusing implied commentary about the player base in their own right.

The culmination of all those puzzles and philosophies, however, comes in the form of bosses, which always come last in every set of levels that Vincent has to tackle for the night. While the specifics of what actually appears should be discovered by the players themselves, they're essentially grotesque manifestations of Vincent's various problems. These bosses all come with unique abilities and attacks that, in addition to the usual crumbling nature of the level, makes you especially keen to race to the top for the sake of survival. Since you have no means to actually fight back against your pursuers, all you can do is keep running and improvise your route to the end in the midst of the bosses' sabotaging tactics. When you reach the finale and haven't been bested by your fellow climbing stalker, your job to keep Vincent alive is done for the night, scheduled to continue again in the next one.

You'll have plenty of excuses to drink. Just you wait.

The other main segment of the game naturally takes place during Vincent's waking hours. During these times, a lot of plot development happens as Vincent recovers from his dreams and socializes with his friends and Katherine about what to do with his life. Much of this happens during cutscenes, but you still have things to do when the game inevitably brings you every evening to the Stray Sheep, Vincent's bar and main spot for hanging out with the men. During these times, a lot of optional gameplay opens up and is largely revolved around socializing. You can drink a lot of alcohol with Vincent's friends to help him cope with the day's events. Doing so has no real benefits, although if you finish off a drink, you actually get to hear various pieces of trivia about what you just downed. You can then order additional booze of several different kinds, should you desire it. There are also other patrons to visit sitting elsewhere in the bar with whom you can have chats. Doing so allows you to befriend and familiarize yourself with a lot of the regulars, who all have stories to tell. Since time actually passes while you talk to people and drink, it's impossible to get to know everyone in one run, coming and going according to their own schedules. But the ones you do decide to take the time to talk to consistently all have distinct perspectives and personalities that make Vincent contemplate his prospects and how to move forward all the more. There are also actual rewards in the game tied with these optional meetings, although the specifics of which are best left unsaid.

Most importantly of all, though, you'll receive text messages while inside the Stray Sheep. Sometimes they're just congratulatory messages in the game for beating the last batch of levels, but more often than not, they're from Vincent's friends and companions. The contents of them are usually nothing serious, but they reveal sides of the characters that you might not otherwise see over the course of the game. Your lover might ask you to come over for some cake or to see how work is going, while a friend will (mistakenly) ask you out, thinking you're actually the game's one and only waitress. You can reply to messages from Vincent's two love interests, Katherine and Catherine, the contents of which can be changed depending on your mood, what you feel about them, and how you want them to think about you and what you're doing. This does include lying, sometimes to make them feel better and other times just for your own benefit. These replies also tap into the game's morality system, with the contents of your responses and how you choose to say things affecting whether they turn out good or bad. Much like with the questions you get at the rest areas, though, the morality behind what you say is rarely straightforward, therefore keeping your relationships with the women appropriately ambiguous. In addition to regular texts, Catherine will also sometimes send provocative pictures to Vincent's phone that express in no uncertain her burning hot lust for him. While the actual replies to those work in exactly the same way as regular texts, you can't actually view the pictures "out in public," so to speak, forcing you to go to somewhere secluded to bask in its intended sexiness.

Who would have thought that a game with so many adults would actually have them, you know, act like adults?

Catherine as an overall experience, however, wouldn't ultimately hold up if the storyline wasn't compelling. To that end, Atlus has once again done an excellent and engrossing job in making the game's plot interesting and engaging up until the end, whatever that might actually entail for you. This is due in large part to the writing, which is consistently great, making even the most surreal events comprehensible and enjoyable to watch. The characters, likewise, are all really well fleshed out and relatable, including the side ones you meet only at the bar. They all have their own bits of individuality that make them stand out and create interesting dynamics when they're in a group with other people, which makes getting to know them over the course of the game's 20 to 30-hour playtime consistently fun. Most of all, though, they all act and sound like real adults. Unlike many of Atlus' other games, which tend to skew towards younger casts, the entireity of Catherine is populated with adults of varying ages. Their age isn't just for show, either; they all talk, act, and live like the mature people they're supposed to be, making it easy for the game's older players to relate to them. For once, the adults in a video game aren't just glorified manchildren. While Catherine's storyline ultimately isn't Atlus' best, it's still incredibly thought out and elaborate, with plenty of things both symbolic and otherwise to pore over. It's an incredibly solid start as the company's first HD game, if nothing else.

That being said, though, if you don't actually have relatively high fluency in Japanese, don't expect the game's events and conversations to be intuitive enough to figure out just based on what's superficially happening on the screen. While you can actually complete the game without being able to read or listen to anything, you'll definitely miss out on critical points in the plot developments and characterizations that will greatly help explain things that will otherwise seem incomprehensible. Presumption based solely off guessing games and body language is too dangerous of a route to take with a game like Catherine in order to get the most out of it. Plus, dialog and text choices just become purely random without a good Japanese comprehension, something the game hardly intends for you to do. Assuming you're not already a native Japanese speaker, you'll probably need at least a few years' worth of solid, intense university-level studies in order to have a solid understanding of the game. The nuances conveyed in Japanese during the plot are enough to recommend against purchasing that over the English edition. Although the experience is great, you're going to miss out on a lot of the little things in the game if you don't understand what it's actually saying.

Catherine is hardly the only pretty little thing to see in this game.

Much like the writing, Catherine's presentation as a whole is incredibly strong and constantly joyous to behold. The graphics are incredibly vibrant, powered by a new cel-shaded engine Atlus employed specifically for the game. Combining a rich color pallet with an anime visual style and high quality motion captured animation, Catherine's visuals are extremely pleasing to look at and make everything look lively and distinct. The character models in particular are probably the most expressive of their kind amongst cel-shaded games since Wind Waker first did it on the GameCube nearly a decade ago. Their facial expressions are capable of contorting in a variety of different, natural-looking ways, never entering the uncanny valley. Even the user interfaces within Catherine are sleek, with everything from Vincent's cell phones to the main menus to the confessional sequences all being situationally stylized, each one complementing the game's overall tone in a unique way. There are also a fair number of anime cutscenes that appear with regularity throughout the game. These are also sleekly produced and just as enjoyable to view as their polygonal counterparts.

Music in Catherine hardly slacks off, either, being beautiful to hear as well. As with most of Atlus' other games within recent years, veteran composer Shoji Meguro was brought aboard once again to bring the game to life through sound. With his signature piano and electric guitar in tow once again, as well as an organ for one particularly distinct end-game track, he's once again crafted a soundtrack of a high caliber. It captures the mood of the game extremely well no matter what the occasion is, whether it's deep melancholy, confused turmoil, or just jazzy relaxation. The voice actors also put in similarly good work, voicing every single line of dialog in the game, consisting of a cast that goes to great lengths to make their respective characters stand out. Those who know their Japanese voice actors will recognize some heavy hitters from the industry, although knowing their identity is naturally not key to enjoying their work in Catherine at all. Catherine's sound design also works well, hitting all the right notes when needed and even cluing you in to conditions on the playing fields, thanks to no recycling whatsoever between different situations.

Actually, this arcade minigame has really good Olde English. No joke.

While Catherine isn't definitively Atlus' absolute best work to date, it's still an incredibly strong start to their line of HD games. With an original and hauntingly engrossing storyline, intriguing and intellectually satisfying gameplay, and a presentation that's great on both artistic and technical levels, Catherine does a lot of things right. It's a distinct experience that's thoroughly Atlus-style in genetics and provides a lot of hope for future console games that will be coming out of the company. While it's wise to just wait and buy the game's English localization for non-Japanese speakers, if you have the means to play the game and possess a solid grasp of native colloquial Japanese, you're in for a game that's definitely distinct and will leave a lasting impression after completing it. Until it comes out in a language they really understand, everybody else truly doesn't know what they're missing out on in the meantime. That, for the most part, really is a shame.

30 Comments Refresh
Edited by Spacetrucking

This is probably one of the first few English reviews of this game on the net so thanks!
How well does the puzzle solving gel with the story? From the wiki/review, it looks like structuring a story around Tetris, where the only real justification seems to be: 'cause video games! (but in a more jarring way than usual).

Also, hard to believe these screenshots are from the same engine:

(Won't be surprised if she actually looks like Deathclaw in Vincent's dreams) 
Posted by Daveyo520

Now translate it into English for Atlus and get me a copy.

Edited by Pepsiman
@Killjoi: The timing thing was honestly something I was hoping would happen. While you can naturally find a lot of translated Amazon Japan and Famitsu reviews, it was my hope that mine would be would one of the first natively written in English. I'm pleased to know that it might have actually turned out that way.
The puzzle aspects of the game are actually pretty thoroughly married to the plot line in a lot of different ways, not necessarily in terms of pure gameplay, but definitely in set up and execution. Going into specifics would spoil the game pretty severely, but believe me, that particular style of gameplay is in place for a reason. And I definitely had my doubts about how well it would mesh with the plot of the game, too.
And I knew I recognized the Gamebryo logo from somewhere! God damn, I'd have never realized the two games were related if you didn't point it out to me. Major props!
Posted by Praxis

Oh, and there's also the matter of Catherine, a girl much younger than him that he randomly meets at his regular bar and, unwittingly, ends up seeing on the side, starting having an affair of sorts.

This line gave me a good laugh. Only the Japanese could pen a storyline where the protagonist unwittingly cheats on his girlfriend, and still expect it to be taken seriously. At any rate, a very thorough review, Pepsiman, and probably the closest most of us will come to understanding what exactly is going on in this game anytime soon (though something tells me an English translation would only help marginally). Well done.
Posted by Hailinel
@DOOM2exe said:

Oh, and there's also the matter of Catherine, a girl much younger than him that he randomly meets at his regular bar and, unwittingly, ends up seeing on the side, starting having an affair of sorts.

This line gave me a good laugh. Only the Japanese could pen a storyline where the protagonist unwittingly cheats on his girlfriend, and still expect it to be taken seriously."
Why would you say that?
This is an excellent review!  It just makes me want to play an English-language version even more.
Posted by dietmango

Amazing review. I suspected that the gameplay outside of Vincent's dreams would be to interact with other people at the bar (based on a couple trailers I've seen), and that makes me feel more secure with everything Atlus has put in this game. I'm not very good at puzzles, but I'll take your word for it. Everything else basically sounds like what I hoped this game would be. But anyways, it's a shame I don't know a lick of Japanese. Like others, I'd have to wait for an eventual NA localization for me to actually understand everything else this game has to offer. Again, great review.
Can I ask though how long--on average--does it take to finish the game?

Posted by Praxis
Take my opinion with a grain of salt seeing as I have no first-hand knowledge of the game, but my comment was basically meant to convey that I find the notion of cheating on one's significant other without being aware of it to be ridiculous in a way that seems distinctly Japanese. When I read that I just had to stop a moment and try to wrap my head around it. 
Again, great review, Pepsiman! I enjoyed it.
Posted by Hailinel
@DOOM2exe:  There is nothing inherently "Japanese ridiculous" about it.  You're being naive.
Posted by Praxis
Again, I am not trying to disparage the quality of this game or it's story, but starting an affair by accident is quite peculiar, is it not? Sorry to offend.
Posted by Hailinel
@DOOM2exe said:
" @Hailinel:   Again, I am not trying to disparage the quality of this game or it's story, but starting an affair by accident is quite peculiar, is it not? Sorry to offend. "
Not really.  People get depressed.  They go to bars.  They get drunk.  Mistakes are made.
Posted by Praxis
Now we're getting into a philosophical discussion, I think. Are people in a committed relationship still responsible for their actions when they choose to drink alone? Of course. And is choosing to put oneself into a situation where infidelity is likely to be the result the same as deciding to commit adultery? I would say yes. Saying that it was accidental is merely a means (usually on the part of the guilty party) of reducing culpability.
Posted by Praxis
Oh, and for the record, Japan is ridiculous. Japan had to create laws against selling used schoolgirl panties. They built a life-sized version of a 60-foot anime robot. Most countries are ridiculous, just in different ways.
Sorry for hijacking your review comments, Pepsiman. I'll stop now.
Edited by mutha3
@DOOM2exe said:

" @Hailinel:   I would say yes. Saying that it was accidental is merely a means (usually on the part of the guilty party) of reducing culpability. "

 Pepsiman just made that choice of words, you're arguing over semantics.
Going by the first hour or so of the game, Vincent just ends up in bed with Catherine one morning with no recollection of the previous evening....then you get a flashback 5 seconds later which shows how Catherine ended up with him.
Nothing weird with that. If you wanna point out the strange aspect of Catherine's story, you might wanna take a closer  look at the sheepmen.

Sorry for hijacking your review comments, Pepsiman. I'll stop now.

I might not be Pepsi, but there isn't anything wrong with you discussing aspects of the story in a review section, no?
Posted by Praxis

 Pepsiman just made that choice of words, you're arguing over semantics.  
Which is exactly why I wanted to bow out. What started out as a simple "Oh Japan, you so crazy!" comment is quickly turning into a discussion of personal responsibility and the constitution of normalcy, which this is not the venue for.

I might not be Pepsi, but there isn't anything wrong with you discussing aspects of the story in a review section, no? "  
Precisely. Neither of my previous posts were directly pertaining to the game or the story. I have said all that I can say about a game that I haven't played. With that, I will take my leave.
Posted by dietmango

Oops, nevermind, 20-30 hours. My bad

Posted by Pepsiman
@DOOM2exe: Don't worry about saying what you did in the review comments. The game is actually fully aware that the circumstances of the protagonist's infidelity is really strange. It's certainly not just you; I was certainly under the impression going into the game that he was fully responsible for doing what he did. It's a major point of contention for much of the game as to why he does this, as he has no real reasons to do so. It wouldn't be an Atlus game if something wasn't recognizably and deliberately odd by the happenings at hand. I had to choose my words really, really carefully to avoid spoiling significant parts of the game, especially with respects to the ending that I got, but it does make sense in context as time goes on. Otherwise, yeah, I'd say most affairs aren't exactly accidental.
@asian_pride: My internal game clock says I completed my first run on Normal in about 24 hours, which is consistent with a lot of figures I've heard. I got really stuck on a few of the puzzles in a fairly late section, though, to the extent that I suspect the actual amount of time I took was around 30. I think it's a number that is bound to fluctuate fairly wildly since there's always a lot going on with the puzzles and you kind of have to suss through the right techniques to overcome them on the fly.
@mutha3: Yeah, storyline discussions in here are perfectly fine with me as long as they don't go into severe spoiler territory, which, thankfully, nobody here besides me seems able to do. If someone is super curious about a particular aspect of the plot that isn't widely known, though, it's probably best to take it up in PM with me, just to keep this comments section safe, if you will.
Posted by Dylabaloo
@Pepsiman: Your English is damn good, you native Japanese or did you learn it? Also nice review, I really hope Atlus decide to release an English version.
Posted by cabelhigh

This review really gave me a good impression of the game. I've never played any of the Personas, but I might check this out if it comes out in the States.

Edited by RuneseekerMireille

Great review, Pepsiman. I'm playing through it now, and even though I know a little Japanese, I do feel like I'm missing some of the nuances of the dialogue. I guess that means I'll be buying it again if it comes to America. One question though: Any good tips for the controls for when you are behind the blocks? Every time that happens to me, I end up falling off and dying because the controls would flip out on me. Probably the only real negative you could put to this game really.

Posted by LordXavierBritish

Pepsiman you are like the greatest person ever.

Posted by Pepsiman
@LordXavierBritish: I'm all or nothing when it comes to my self-worth as a human being, naturally, so I'm glad to know I'm number one.
Posted by Yummylee

This needs to be on the front page 8D

Posted by Catolf
@Abyssfull said:
" This needs to be on the front page 8D "
someone do this now!
Posted by Pepsiman
@RuneseekerMireille: Only thing you can really do during those segments is trial and error your way through them until you memorize the order you need to hit the d-pad to navigate around, which tends to seemingly change between levels. It's just frustrating stuff. I'd like to hope that the upcoming difficulty patch for easy mode will fix this problem as well on the side, but I'm not particularly hopeful about that.
@Dylabaloo: I'm American and currently majoring in Japanese at the local university, so my native language is English.
Posted by benjaebe

Brilliant review which only reinforces my obsession with this game. Can't wait for them to hopefully announce bringing it stateside.

Posted by lavarock

Great review, thanks! The quick look video is also excellent

Posted by OMGmyFACE

Seriously. This is an excellent review.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Do the tower segments and the conversation scenes ever meet in the middle in terms of them directly affecting each other, or do your choices affect more what's going on in the plot (and thus the end) more than anything in the puzzle part of the game? It almost feel like the two are thematically related but don't really affect each other directly.

I'd be interested in some concrete examples of how the adults were depicted, since they tend to be left out even when most of the players may be older than the kids depicted in games similar to this.

Do you think their move to a new console may have affected the expected level of quality, even if it's relatively outstanding?

All I have to go on is my QL experience of Persona 4, pretty much, although that game was crazy-rich in content to the point of it feeling a little bloated at times. Did this game's length feel about right, and how do you feel about going through it again to get different endings?

Nice, detailed review. Thanks.

Posted by Pepsiman
@ahoodedfigure: I believe the conversations you have with minor characters in the bar can have really minor effects on certain aspects of the tower segments, but beyond that, they don't directly impact the general direction of the game. As you surmised, the general plot of the game and the ending you get is determined solely by the choices you make in the confession booths and when you're conversing with the two Catherines at the bar. All of the levels that you encounter remain the same no matter which paths you end up taking. The way the morality systems works in the game, though, is a bit more flexible than conventional interpretations to the point where certain events and endings can even be determined specifically based on things such as whether you wildly flip-flop on the spectrum or not. Beyond that, I'd agree with your assessment that they're thematically connected, but otherwise separate for the most part on a mechanical level.

It's difficult to go into detail about how characters specifically act adult-like in the game without going into spoilers, but as I mentioned earlier, a lot of it has to do with their general conversational topics and overall tone and life philosophies. An early example that's worth noting is an optional conversation you can have about one of Vincent's friends when he's on a bathroom break. The remaining group get into a discussion about the friend's marital history and they discuss how low-key he is about getting into a shotgun marriage young and then subsequently divorcing. By itself, it's not an important detail to know, but it helps in understanding his character in later scenes when you see the same friend giving advice to Vincent about what to do about both Catherines.

I think the switch to a newer console certainly affected the quality of their work output. It's indeed a really good game as it is, but it's a much smaller scale project than a lot of their previous works and I suspect that has to do with the learning curve in switching platforms. As a result of that, you get a more compact experience, but one that also makes the flaws more immediately apparent. Unlike something like the Persona games, you can't really go off and do other things if you really don't like a certain aspect of Catherine and want to avoid it. I think the team knew as much, though, since it's been mentioned that Catherine was deliberately meant to be an experimental game that let them become acquainted with the HD platforms. To that end, it works for what it is.

Length-wise, it felt right for a game of its scope. A game with the sort of plot that Catherine has is bound to be a bit more intimate, so it would have been really excessive if the game had gone longer than its 20 to 30-hour length. I personally really enjoyed going through the game again to attain a few more endings, especially since I found the puzzle mechanics really rewarding once you grasp them at an advanced level and can use them to do really clean, efficient runs of each of the levels. Granted, part of that motivation was to unlock additional postgame content that's tied to your rankings in the single-player levels, but it was still gratifying to return to those early levels and completely blow through them with everything I learned in the first run. Some of the endings that you get can be really strange, but in general, they're worth the effort to see, especially since you can skip levels in subsequent runs if you already beat them with a gold rank.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@Pepsiman: I think that's something that some game designers who expect multiple playthroughs need to learn. If you're going to do a whole game again, there should be some measure of improvement that the player can do in their game performance, especially if it's rated somehow to let you know how much you need to improve. One of my favorite games of all time, and I only learned this recently, was Cryo's original Dune (not II or anything after that. It combines a stately-paced RTS with resource management and adventure elements). The only thing I'd add to that impeccable system would be a final rating for your performance, which you would no doubt do better knowing much more about the game.

That's probably one of the reasons I played Spelunky so much (until I unlocked everything, then I pretty much stopped playing).

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