A Beautiful Journey!
Catherine is a special game in many ways. Undoubtedly, if you’re interested in this game, but really know nothing about it, then the the fact that it has sexy ladies on the covers must have grabbed your attention. Upon first glance you may think this is some hentai game made somewhere deep in Japan, but it has some real pedigree behind it, in the form of Atlus’s Persona team, and like those games, what you’ll find here is a life/love sim game mixed in with a crazier supernatural gameplay element.
You play the game as Vincent, a 32 year old man, who likes the status quo. He likes living in his one bedroom apartment. He likes meeting his friends at the local bar to drink every night. He likes having his girlfriend Katherine, to remain just that; his girlfriend. Katherine on the other hand has other plans for their life. She not so subtly hints that she wants to get married, and this causes much stress for Vincent, since he doesn’t feel he’s ready for marriage. In the middle of all this turmoil, he meets Catherine, a 22 year old blonde bombshell, and the girl of his dreams. Without realizing it, he wakes up the next morning, with her lying in his bed. The stress from realizing that he has just cheated on his long time girlfriend Katherine manifests itself in nighttime nightmare levels in which he must climb to survive!
The gameplay boils down to daytime and nighttime sequences. During the daytime you’ll hang out in your favorite bar known as the Stray Sheep as Vincent, interacting with your friends and other bar patrons, while receiving and sending text messages from your two gal pals Catherine and Katherine. Depending on how you respond to people in the bar, and in your text messages, you will have a bar that will lean either towards lawful or chaotic. The bar does not ever signify right or wrong, but merely takes your answers to certain questions, and compares them with each other, basically trying to create a psych profile for your Vincent. This psych profile determines which of the games eight endings you will get.
During the nighttime however you’ll be sent to a hellish nightmare world where you need to climb a tower to reach the exit every night. The tower is basically a giant block puzzle in which you need to move blocks to create pathways up while simultaneously maneuvering Vincent around trap blocks such a spike blocks, and dead ends. Should you fail to reach the top in time, or if you fall, you’ll die, and Vincent, will die in the games daytime levels.
The most compelling part of the game is, like many other Atlus games, the story. The game is rated M for good reason, as Vincent and his group of friends liberally drop in the “F” word, along with other swear words. None of this ever feels unnatural however. On the contrary the characters are completely believable, well realized individuals, and the topics of which they talk about seem like things you would talk about with your own group of friends on a night on the town. A lot of that can also be attributed to the amazing voice work. Vincent sounds appropriately aloof, Katherine stern and Catherine, appropriately cute and sexy. The story itself never leads you to believe that one of the girls is the way to go either, but leaves it down to personal preference. Whenever you start to feel that the game is emphasizing the flaws of one girl more then the other, the game throws a twist at you which causes you reevaluate the situation, and possibly your allegiance.
Ultimately what you get here is an extremely addicting puzzle/love sim game, which will keep you hooked until you see the story through to the end. Then, when your done, you’ll most likely pop it back in to play through the story again with different choices, to see a different ending. I can quite honestly say that Catherine is easily one of my favorite games of the year, and it ranks pretty high up on my personal favorite games ever. If you’re looking for a quirky game, we North Americans don’t see that often, then Catherine is a game you should pick up and experience for yourself.