Giant Bomb Review

621 Comments

Catherine Review

2
  • PS3
  • X360

You won't find another game on the market that's quite like Catherine, but it fumbles too frequently to work.

The alignment meter pops up to let you know that the story is considering your decisions.

There aren't a lot of games out there like Catherine, and even fewer of them exist in English-speaking territories. That's probably one of the best things going for Atlus' boys-to-men tale about a love triangle with a supernatural twist. It seems that unfaithful men are dying in their sleep, and you'll quickly find yourself caught among their ranks as you figure out what to do with the two girls in your life by day and climbing a seemingly endless supply of block towers in your sleep. You'll need to be adept at both if you want things to end your way, but Catherine's limited character interaction, shallow characters, and monotonous puzzles combine to form a unique experience that feels frustratingly limited in every respect.

In the game you'll play as Vincent, a weak, wishy-washy sort of guy who's always getting admonished or outright bossed around by his longtime girlfriend, Katherine. Just as he's lamenting that he's not sure he's ready to commit further in this relationship, a younger woman named Catherine stumbles into his life, and before long, he's cheating on his girlfriend with Catherine, who, by comparison, seems completely carefree and indifferent about, well, everything. Being faced with a choice between carefree youth and the increasing responsibilities of adulthood only intensifies as the story proceeds. Before long, things get decidedly supernatural as rumors start of nightmares that are killing traitorous men in their sleep and, sure enough, cheating Vincent finds himself in a nightly fight for survival against endless block-filled towers and his own worst fears.

The interactive parts of Catherine are broken into two separate chunks. When awake, you'll watch a lot of cutscenes and hear a lot of dialogue, but you'll eventually find yourself turned loose in a bar, where your friends gather at the end of every night. In the bar you can walk around and talk to the various patrons, many of whom are also enduring the same nightly ordeals that you are, but no one can really remember their dreams all that clearly. Most of the dialogue has you sitting and listening to their stories, but you'll occasionally get to make a dialogue choice that might just give them the encouragement they need to survive the night's trials. You'll also receive text messages from the two ladies in your life, and how you respond to them--or, in fact, if you respond to them--helps determine how the story unfolds by swinging an alignment meter one way or the other. Generally speaking, it'll shift to the blue side if you're choosing the responsible options that Katherine might agree with or red if your decisions are more in line with something that free-wheeling Catherine might do. The interactions feel incredibly limited, and there isn't that much to do in the bar before heading home and starting the next action stage unless you're interested in playing a retro-styled arcade version of the block puzzles that make up the rest to the game or working over the jukebox, which slowly gives you access to Catherine's soundtrack, as well as select cuts from Persona 4 and other Atlus releases.

Catherine's just kind of annoying.

At night, the action begins, as Vincent finds himself surrounded by sheep at the foot of a large tower of blocks. You can push or pull the blocks around, and the goal is to quickly climb the tower. The game starts out slowly to show you the basic logic behind the blocks' properties. For example, blocks will attach at diagonal edges, so you don't always need to have a block directly underneath another block for support. Once you've got the basics, later levels start introducing special blocks, like ones that crumble when you step on them, or trampoline-style blocks that let you jump up and grab onto ledges you wouldn't be able to reach otherwise, or ice blocks that cause you (and the blocks you're pushing) to slip and keep moving. Once you get the logic behind how the blocks move and start to see solutions in the puzzles instead of just a mountain of blocks, it isn't impossibly difficult. Unfortunately, that moment didn't happen for me until I was most of the way through the game. But the difficulty of the individual puzzles isn't what brings Catherine down. It's their repetitive nature. It feels like there are tons of levels in the game, and they're all roughly the same. The special blocks change things up a bit, and you'll have to climb towers while running away from a large boss-style monster during the last puzzle of every night, but the act of pulling and pushing blocks around to form staircases and create paths doesn't hold up for the entire game, and by night three or four (which is a little before the game's halfway point), I found myself not wanting to play anymore.

The big issues with Catherine are that the gameplay of block puzzles gets old fast and the way the characters develop in the story isn't engaging enough to pick up the slack. Despite being able to make choices that sway the alignment meter and alter the outcome of the story, Vincent's behavior usually doesn't line up with the choices you've made. Even if you're very clearly steering him in one direction, the story beats essentially force him to remain mostly indecisive right up until the final set of challenges. In my case, this resulted in a Vincent who was constantly saying that he was looking to remain true to Katherine, yet kept having nervous breakdowns about Catherine and her feelings. Considering how pushy and psycho Catherine acts, it's hard to imagine anyone feeling the need to "let her down gently." With the characters written that way, it's hard to care about the story very much, especially when you consider that most of your choices are made in-between action stages, where a confessional booth acts as some sort of personality test, asking this-or-that questions about how you'd act in specific situations and so on. It feels like the decisions you're making are almost completely detached from the story itself.

Big bosses will try to trip you up as you climb the tower.

That said, the story sequences themselves are pretty well-made. There are a handful of fully animated sequences, but even the in-engine stuff is sharp, colorful, and full of personality. Some of the characters you'll meet around the bar have interesting side stories that are told both in and out of the dream world, and the voice cast is solid enough to make those stories work. It's a shame that most of the game's strongest points are practically crammed into the margins to make room for more block pushing.

It's certainly not awful, but too many aspects of Catherine felt like they were actively trying to push me away. More variety in the gameplay would have helped, as would more meaningful interactions with the game's cast. As it stands, the coolest thing about Catherine is that there really isn't anything else out there like it. If that's enough for you, you'll probably have a better time with the game than I did.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
621 Comments
Posted by AmericanNinja

Um... duders... if you like the game who cares what other people think of it?

Posted by Shingro

The thing that confuses me most, is that Catherine as a game for people will live and die on the "Puzzle under duress" element. 
 
Now the puzzles as a mechanic are just fine in a theory way if nothing else.  
 
One thing that really stuck out was about 'repetitive puzzles" is that every level of difficulty has different puzzles then every other level of difficulty, basically turning the variation of the "repetitive content" into a x3 matter. In addition, the difficulty Jeff played through on (Easy) does indeed keep most of the puzzle variants away from you, since you chose the option saying "I don't care about puzzles much, just let me watch the story" dinging the game for that is a pretty unfortunate thing to do. 
 
My real question is why was Jeff forced to play a puzzler whose puzzles clearly didn't click with him? It's a bit like making someone with arthritis play Track and Field. Possible, but painful and a bit cruel. 
 
That, and Catherine doesn't deserve such a ringing on "Yeah, it wasn't working for me."

Posted by Vlad_Tiberius

Finally, a decent, honest review of this overinflated piece of anime crap. Thank you, Jeff.
This ridiculous and childish anime puzzle/RPG fashion of treating real life situations  with supernatural monsters and same anime crappy cliches needs to fucking die already. The Japanese developers are way smarter than churning this anime shit on and on. I honestly believe that Japanese developers can make a realistic, Uncharted-like game without making it childish,weird, emo, anime, talking animals, monster deities, stupid hairstyles and all that shit, thus not caring about the same fuckin' anime geeks/otaku that are ruining Japanese gaming. Enough is enough,so let's move the fuck on from those cliches and that anime crap, for crying out loud!

Posted by Marokai
@Vlad_Tiberius: I'm sure Jeff is proud to have such well-reasoned individuals like yourself as supporters.
Posted by Marokai
@wisdumcube said:

@i77ogical said:  
It's not that Jeff doesn't like a game, it's the WAY he doesn't like it. He is broodingly negative, eviscerating what is really just an entertainment. It's not like he's saving us from driving faulty cars that are going to explode on the freeway.  Jeff Gerstmann is a certified buzzkill more often than not these days. Did you hear Ryan ask him on this week's podcast, "Did  you play anything you LIKED this week?" Then, when Ryan turned it over to Brad, to try to lighten the mood, Jeff was a downer about Starfox 64 as well.   I'd buy a yearly sub to Giantbomb if only Jeff could lighten up. Maybe he's aged out of reviewing video games. He only seems to get excited when it's a game that reminds him of the past, like fighting games. He's a talented guy. He should do something he's passionate about, not cranky and surly.

I agree. Jeff seems to have become extremely jaded about games in general these days, especially over the last year or so. He never sounds happy, and is always looking for that trip that will trigger some nostalgia.  But more than anything I think he's starting to realize that the industry is moving further and further away from his ideal. Both genre-wise and in business-wise.  He's becoming the old cynic of the industry who is feeling the disconnect between what he wants video games to be and what they are for the majority: simple entertainment created by for-profit monolithic entities. If it doesn't fit his niche he has trouble appreciating it. Normally, you don't see this attitude come through so strongly but normally he avoids reviewing games he doesn't like. On one hand, I totally understand where he's coming from, but on the other hand, he sets the bar too high for no good reason and it just makes himself needlessly miserable.  I think he needs a break.
If only I could thumbs up both of these points..
Posted by Vlad_Tiberius
@wisdumcube: Sorry to interfere in your discussion, but Jeff is right. 
When, for example, you're used to listening great quality music from the likes of Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, BB King or classics like Beethoven or  Chopin, you simply cannot turn into a ratings whore, smile and be excited for a Soulja Boy , Gaga or Britney Spears song, just because they're heavy marketed and it's all the rage for all the little kiddies that don't know shit and pre-order every piece of crap out there. That is , of course, if you have any principles.
 
Also, fuck this "let's be positive about everything and happy for no apparent reason" shitty and stupid attitude!
Edited by Vlad_Tiberius
@Marokai: Excuse me while I wipe that water drop hanging  over my head...
Posted by Shingro
@Vlad_Tiberius: I suppose every other 90%+review by the 20+ disparate reviewers all over the globe are all part of some  giant conspiracy in order to push the agenda for  the anime-loving overmind that clearly dominates big money videogames these days, I mean, we can HARDLY MOVE for anime games in the states! They're EVERYWHERE! =P 
 
The issue I think is does a review of a puzzle game "I hate this type of puzzling" help anyone? 
 
And especially on Easy, that is all this really boils down to, my girlfriends LITTLE SISTER beat this game in a day (easy), because she cared 
 
Jeff clearly didn't care, in fact, he actively didn't care.  During the podcast it sounded like he was talking about getting teeth pulled. How does a review in that context help anyone make a decision?  
 
If I'm out there to buy a car, and I ask a friend of mine what he thinks about his test drive of this  car I'm thinking about getting and I know full well he bitterly hates driving, how is his opinion going to be conducive to a discussion of pros/cons? It just seems a little spiteful especially when he can't help but know that a lot of his personal experience is in drastic contrast to everything everyone else everywhere appears to be feeling. 
Edited by Vlad_Tiberius
@Shingro: This is a business, remember? And I bet 90 % of all those sites that gave this crap high ratings are thinking it everything according to the old cliche: "Oh, it's weird , ridiculous, childish anime , with big-eyed characters, treating real life situations like prostate enlargement with childish,supernatural monsters, supernatural powers, talking creatures, stupid hairstyles and all that weird crap...that must be Japanese, so it must be good, BECAUSE IT SELLS!"
 
That shit was indeed all the rage and a staple of Japanese pop-culture 10 or 20 years ago, since the Sailor Moon crap, not now , in 2011! Now it's only an old cliche that's still being kept alive by heavy marketing, used as a crutch for corporate lazy developers, while keeping Japanese art style hostage to the same anime crap, keeping it from evolving or creating other styles because of that old anime staple. 
Sorry, but I don't believe every Japanese videogame creator/developer thinks anime puzzle/RPG, just as I don't believe every US developer thinks military post-apocalyptic shooter with deep southern accents... that would be too simplistic, ridiculous and would also create a dangerous stereotype.
 
Also, Jeff is an experienced reviewer. He reviewed more shitty games than all of us played together. 
And if you demand a reviewer to like a certain type/style of game, you're also demanding him to like that particular game, thus expecting him to give it 5 stars and a praise, aren't you? Come on, let's be honest!
Posted by FluxWaveZ

Wow, this is still going on...?

Posted by Mallard

I like reading these comments because I like fucking tragedies.

Posted by Urmean
@Vlad_Tiberius: This is a bad post and you should feel bad.
Edited by President_Evil

I respect Jeff's opinion and recognize his criticisms of the game, but I think I'm going to politely differ to mah boi Jeremy Parish on this one. To me that last line eloquently wraps up the whole thing and puts it all into perspective- despite its flaws I'm still looking forward to playing Catherine. Thanks Jeff.

Posted by Nephrahim

Man, this flame war was fun at first, but now, it's just depressing reading it all.

Posted by kashwashwa

I hope Jeff never stops reviewing the way he does now.

Posted by aku

i bought catherine, played it and really liked it. there's a demo out, so at least play the demo and see if its your cup of tea. give it a chance, its one of those games that either clicks with you or not. for me its a breath of fresh air, a quirky game, a change of pace.

Posted by ThePickle

After playing a lot of it, 2 stars is to say the least; way too fucking harsh. Jeff, did we even play the same game? I suppose this may be one of your dream cases where I read the review, but still buy the game and that's the right choice for me.

Edited by Hector

This game was mostly likely made to test out the water on PS3, 360 probably for a Persona title. Even so, the production value in this game is incredible. This game is completely polished everything from the robust puzzle gameplay to the engrossing story.

Posted by sungahymn
@mnzy said:
I love the smell of a shitstorm in the morning.
Took the words right out of my mouth. 
 
Is it me, or has the Giant Bomb community gotten worse overall?
Posted by sickVisionz

[2 out of 5 score] It's certainly not awful...


This made me chuckle.
Edited by Rolyatkcinmai

For once, I completely disagree with Jeff. That doesn't happen often.

Edit: Wow, GB's review is literally the only negative review on metacritic right now. I bet Atlus never would have guessed that.

Posted by LordCmdrStryker

You are all taking this way too seriously. I don't even get this worked up about how much I hate Apple. And I hate them a lot.

Posted by lokilaufey

Great review, Jeff. Once again I'm glad to see someone explain in great detail the issues I had with this game. I can just link them to this and not have to keep explaining things to aggressive fanboy friends. It's a pity, cause I REALLY wanted to like this game but it just isn't working for me.

Also, re: the comments;

Oh you guys~ stop taking the review score so goddamn seriously. It's Jeff's opinion, he has completely valid complaints about the game, and he's entitled to score the game however he damn well pleases.

Edited by Braumeister
@sungahymn said:

@mnzy said:

I love the smell of a shitstorm in the morning.
Took the words right out of my mouth.  Is it me, or has the Giant Bomb community gotten worse overall?  
Sacred cows, man. The community hasn't changed, it's like that everywhere.  Anytime you have a review score that's an outlier on Metacritic you're going to get some blowback from somebody. Jim Sterling over at Dtoid makes a living driving traffic to his site on just this principle. I'd give him credit for courage If only he was right more than 10% of the time.
 
I'm on the record here as not liking this game very much, but the response was more reasonable than I expected, or possibly even deserved. 
 
Funny thing is, I shelled out $60 for Catherine. If I don't like playing it, I'm bound to lose on that deal. So, I wouldn't mind being turned around on the game, if somebody made a convincing argument about its strengths, or pointed out something I might have missed. I might even agree. Maybe not, who knows? But far too many take the easy route instead, they get defensive, think their beliefs are under attack, flame away, and then nobody wins. 
 
Perhaps a little too philosophical. Just a thought I had.
Posted by Elusionar

 
The average critic score of Catherine is 8.2/10 (16 reviews including GB, 1up, IGN, Game Informer ...). 
 
I anderstand that GB as its own review metod, but its still a big diferance.  

 
Personaly i never liked Q-bert so i will pass on the block pusle game, but the story still looks cool.

Posted by MisfitToy

Block pushing aside (haha)... I think the more key point Jeff made is that even when he made a decision to continually keep a relationship in a linear fashion with Katherine that the story didn't match up with Jeff's decisions. THAT is a pretty big deal to me. That feels like it would be a frustrating detractor to what I want the outcome to be. Its like the game saying, "I know what you REALLY want but we have to drag this out for the sake of the story I want."

In that light I can get behind how Jeff feels about the game and his score. Justified.

Posted by Supertom11

Complaining that what is essentially a puzzle game is repeatative is like marrying a porn star and complaining that she's nailing other dudes.  

Posted by Max_Hydrogen

I kneeeeeeeeeeeeew it!

Hahaha! This game sucks!

Posted by Vlad_Tiberius

Expecting a high score and a review full of praises for a mere block puzzle game covered in all that childish anime story about relationship and commitment is even more more ridiculous than the game itself, especially now, in 2011! What's next: a tetris game surrounded by a crappy anime story about becoming a grandfather and having prostate cancer? Yeah, GOTY material for sure.
 
And some otaku handsexuals got pissed because of an honest, no-bullshit review and, after all, a personal opinion about this piece of crap. Why? Because this game was their only chance of getting some sort of a basic, albeit weird, idea of a relationship  and even the childishly and stupidly presented prospect of being a father. 
 
Yeah, big deal, cry me a fuckin' river about it. 
 
Hell, even the most basic hentai porn flick with tentacles and all that crap would have been more honest and entertaining than this embarrassing piece of garbage!
 
Sorry, but Japan is way better than this!

Posted by Marokai
@Vlad_Tiberius: Yep. We get it. You make inflammatory posts and like responses and attention. Noted.
Posted by SilverPR

Sorry Jeff, I have to agree with some people that your review is underwhelming. This game was not for you to review but to someone tolerant of a good challenge. This game delivered a experience that is was deserving of his 60 dollar initial price, and then come back to play it again. I'm having a great time with it, must say that at the beginning I died like a 100 times before i got the techniques down to survived most of the levels, although I don't lied I got frustrated at times, but that motivated me to use more my brain in the puzzle solving. Maybe your score is representation of the thousand times you died in the game and your frustration with it. This game has 8 endings, this is a good replay value game. I mean you guys praised Deadly Premonition for what it was, a bad game. Why not a this, a Japanese game with a concept never done before? Just saying.....

Posted by Catolf
@Max_Hydrogen: @Vlad_Tiberius: sorry duders, your trying to damn hard.
Posted by NobodyHereButUsTrees

Sooooo... No Catherine Endurance Run?

Edited by Max_Hydrogen

@Catolf: Sorry duder, you're not trying too damn hard enough: your useless comment is weak; try explaining yourself or better yet, don't say anything.

Posted by Gordo789

I'm not super surprised that Jeff didn't like this game, especially after hearing his thoughts on the Bombcast. He's definitely entitled to his opinion, but I'm wondering if maybe he shouldn't have considered his audience for a second instead of only thinking about how the game made him feel personally.  What I mean is that it seems like the review reads almost as though it was written as a reminder to himself as to why he didn't like it, when maybe it should have been written more for the intended audience: that is, people who are on the fence about whether or not they want to buy Catherine or not. 
 
 It seems as though Jeff knew he wasn't going to like this one before he even started.  As it is, I think it's somewhat misleading.   Obviously, the reader can look to any of the other countless positive reviews that this game has received to realize that Jeff is in the minority, but should they have to? On the other hand, Is it a reviewer's responsibility to compensate for their own bias in a review?  Hard to say.
 
  I'd expect a 2/5 for a poorly made unpolished game, and not for something as well put together as Catherine is.   
 
Finally, as someone else mentioned earlier in this shitstorm. Jeff has seemed incredibly negative about EVERYTHING lately.  Maybe he needs a break or something.

Posted by LordCmdrStryker

@Gordo789 said:

I'm wondering if maybe he shouldn't have considered his audience for a second instead of only thinking about how the game made him feel personally.

I'm pretty sure how the game makes you feel personally is the entire point of a review.

I think people should shut the fuck up about reviews they don't agree with and go do something useful - like writing a letter to your Congressman and telling them to get off their fat, overpaid asses and fix our broke-ass government. I swear to God one person on the internet writes something they don't agree with and they lose their fucking minds and cry for hours. Boo hoo, I'm gonna go cut myself now. Lord.

Posted by Gordo789
@LordCmdrStryker: You're right, we shouldn't discuss the review in the comments section of the review. THAT'S CRAZY.
Posted by Nettacki
@Gordo789 said:
@LordCmdrStryker: You're right, we shouldn't discuss the review in the comments section of the review. THAT'S CRAZY.
OK now you're just putting words in his mouth.
Posted by Th3_James

Love the 2* review score Jeff face.

Posted by Nettacki
@LordCmdrStryker: I personally think you're overreacting. IMO for every person that complains, there's at least 10 people saying "Shut up" to the complainers, which means this shitstorm is partially fabricated.
Posted by Hoffer

I finally played the demo and thought it was pretty fun. Not sure how much I'd like the full game. I added it to my Gamefly queue and will find out I guess.

Posted by Peanut
@Nettacki said:
@LordCmdrStryker: I personally think you're overreacting. IMO for every person that complains, there's at least 10 people saying "Shut up" to the complainers, which means this shitstorm is partially fabricated.
This. 9/10 of the comments here are either people telling people to stop complaining, or someone laughing about how the game "sucks".  The sh*tstorm here is pretty much non-existent. 
Posted by YukoAsho

Much like eating Reese's, there's no wrong way to review a game, even a game that was pre-ordained as the Messiah by so many.
 
  

Posted by FancySoapsMan

I'm going to have to disagree.
 
Catherine is a great game.

Posted by Elusionar

At first i tought that Geff was to hard on the game but, I just played it for 4h and i have to say its kind of boring ... in a big way. Score of 4/10 max. 
 
I realy wanted to love this game. 
Edited by vCOOKIE_MONSTAv

the only reason this game got the attention it did is because it's about sex. you can use other adjectives to describe the sex, or justify the sex. but, when it comes down to it, the game got the attention it did because of sex. and sex sells... or at least appeals.

Edited by EverydayOdyssey

I finished Catherine's story last night, on normal, and after about 18 hours of play time. Unlike Jeff, I really enjoyed the story, the characters and the puzzles. But, his criticism is well-founded. Catherine is a well-made game, but is only made from a few parts, the largest being the puzzles. The puzzles are a take it/leave it proposition and Jeff's review score is based, in part, on the fact that he didn't like this major part of the game. Regardless, I respect his opinion and review and can understand if he was turned off by Catherine's antics. Also, at times Vincent's actions and words were incongruous. To me, the block pushing was as strong as the game's story; I really enjoyed the game and would recommend it to others.

Posted by BillyMonks

I get the feeling Jeff got stuck for a considerable amount of time at each puzzle. I was fortunate to be able to grasp the logic of how the blocks move very early on, so I never really got stuck, but I imagine if you get stuck and have to retry levels multiple times it could get frustrating and feel overly time-consuming.

Posted by Giantstalker

600 comments, as of this post.

Thanks for saving me the money Jeff, block puzzles in 2011...

Posted by cstrang

@papercut said:

I really wanted to enjoy this game but poor story progression, writing, and gameplay made it really hard. I'm pretty much at the end of the game and I don't feel strongly about feeling about it.

Hearing that Jeff didn't care for the game on the podcast made me think he was crazy, but now that I've played it I get it.

This. I was one of those people that wanted to "play for the story". Kids, the story sucks. Seriously. It's not good. A paper-thin premise stretched even thinner, annoying characters, and an epilogue that, for the most part, tastes like a goddamn Saturday morning cartoon. Even the fucking main character is like "Come on, really?" by the end.