Puzzle Gameplay + Mature Themes = Good, but a little messy.
Catherine has been out for a while in Japan, and us Americans (and Europeans) have been eagerly awaiting for it to see the light of day with English voice work and on our store shelves. Finally, we get to experience the magic (and faults) of it.
Catherine stars Vincent Brooks, a 32 year old man who has been in a relationship with a girl named Katherine for a large amount of years. So many that he can't even remember. So, you may be thinking, "Why is it called Catherine with a C, when his girlfriend is Katherine with a K?". Well, that is because Catherine, a younger, cuter, dream girl wanders into Vincent's life.
The game starts out with Vincent having a nightmare, which he learns supposedly can kill him. He survives this first nightmare with the help of you (The Player). We skip ahead to the next day, where we find Vincent and his girlfriend Katherine, talking. Vincent's job pays little money and he is very laid back, so when Katherine asks him about marriage, and how they should start thinking about it, he is kind of caught off guard, and doesn't know what to say, so he attempts to change the subject. We then skip ahead again, where we find Vincent with his friends Johnny and Toby at their usual bar, The Stray Sheep.
After talking with your friends for a while, they leave, and this blonde, lingerie wearing, dream girl walks up to Vincent's booth, and asks him if she can join him. Vincent agrees, and you soon learn that this is Catherine. They start talking, but this scene is skipped, and we find Vincent again in a nightmare. In these nightmares, Vincent must climb a tower consisting of many varying blocks (Some can be moved, some not. Some are trampolines, some break after being stepped on to many times). Once you finish the first puzzle of the night, you find yourself in a little lobby of sorts.
These lobby areas are like the bar, and you can talk to sheep, which you quickly find out are real people, having the same dream as you. Once you want to leave the lobby, you enter a confession room (like you find in a church) and talk to the mysterious voice, which asks you a question on love which also affects how the story plays out. He then sends you up to the next floor to do another puzzle. After completing a few more puzzles (including a boss puzzle at the end of the night), Vincent wakes up... with Catherine at his side, naked. Vincent is completely shocked, and has no idea how he got here.
The rest of the game is a "lather, rinse, repeat" kind of thing. Everyday you start out at a sushi bar, or in the lavatory where Vincent works talking to his friend Orlando, or in the cafe talking to Katherine. Then you are in the bar conversing with everyone and receiving texts. Next, you are in the Nightmare state, completing puzzles. Finally, you wake up the next day, with either Catherine next to you, or some other surprise.
The graphics are very stylish, and I really like them. Most of the game uses a 3D model anime style, but where the game really shines is in it's cutscenes that are in traditional anime style. The game looks very good either way, and is one of the best looking games, style wise, in the last few years. The audio is also very good. The voice acting is done very well, and the game's music can be soothing during the bar parts, and can be epic during the Trial parts.
The story is a good love story that, overall, is enjoyable. There are times where you just want to yell at the t.v. when Vincent is with Catherine, and other times you are just wondering "What?". The ending is good and has a twist, but I figured out what was going to happen about 2/3 of the way through.
The length of Catherine is good for a puzzle game. The game takes place over 8 days, with at least 2-6 puzzles each of the nights. Then there is the optional Rapunzel arcade game which I mentioned with 64 puzzles that are very challenging. The game took me 12 hours on the Easy difficulty (with only doing 5 of the 64 Rapunzle puzzles), and it could easily take longer on the higher difficulties.
Once you complete the main story, the game unlocks additional modes, including cooperative modes (these different modes are just variants of the story's Trials). Catherine also has 8 endings for those who like to see everything.
Catherine is definitely different than anything else available on shelves in America, and is worth a purchase if you like story driven games, or puzzle games. I enjoyed my time with it, and I'm hoping there is going to be some sort of spiritual successor to it.
Gameplay - 4/5
Story - 4.5/5
Graphics - 5/5
Audio - 4/5
Length - 4.5/5
OVERALL - 4/5