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 wickedsc3

OMG, so much whining on both sides. I will say the same thing ive said for years, reviews are useless. Quick Looks and Demos are where its at. Now go get the demo and see if YOU like it!!!! Then make a purchasing decision.

Don't make your purchasing decision just based off someones words, when you can experience the game yourself.

Posted by DANW547

Why does Jeff always review strange Japanese games? that ain't his bag baby.

Posted by Catolf
@ptys said:
Can't imagine wanting to play a glorified puzzle game on a large TV screen. Why not just watch an anime and save yourself the gameplay time on something good?
Here i think you need this.
 
@wickedsc3 said:

OMG, so much whining on both sides. I will say the same thing ive said for years, reviews are useless. Quick Looks and Demos are where its at. Now go get the demo and see if YOU like it!!!! Then make a purchasing decision.

Don't make your purchasing decision just based off someones words, when you can experience the game yourself.

Posted by Karmann

2 stars, harsh.

Posted by davidwitten22

I'm surprised more sites have given this game higher scores considering it's such a niche game with a limited market. I personally am enjoying it a lot, and actually really like the block puzzle gameplay. I just wish the controls and camera were better. 
 
You know by watching the QL whether you will like this game or not.

Posted by Peanut

Beat the game earlier today and loved it. I felt a lot of frustration at seeing the great visual style and the opportunity available for what could have been some sweet sweet s-linking, which made me just REALLY wish it was a new Persona game, or at least had a main mechanic that was more engaging than the block puzzles. However, taking the game for what it was, I really enjoyed it.  
 
And for the record, I can't stand anime. I just love that certain style the Persona team has.

Posted by Kombat

Unfortunate, considering that Catherine was put together by a team primarily comprised of Persona 4 developers. But I suppose that not every quirky idea like this can come together quite the way one might want it to. I was never going to buy this game; puzzles just aren't a mechanic I play games for. I was fascinated from the outset, however, and to hear that the end product isn't all that great is a darn shame.

Posted by AngelN7
@wickedsc3 said:

OMG, so much whining on both sides. I will say the same thing ive said for years, reviews are useless. Quick Looks and Demos are where its at. Now go get the demo and see if YOU like it!!!! Then make a purchasing decision.

Don't make your purchasing decision just based off someones words, when you can experience the game yourself.

Yup! reviews mean nothing to me after all there are just someone else´s opinion, I can´t judge a game based on someone who liked or disliked so just try it out for yourself  if you don´t like what you see maybe it´s not for you, demos or videos are more than enough for someone to judge a game.
Posted by Flappy
@natetodamax said:

I saw this coming. I personally am really enjoying the game, but I can definitely see why people wouldn't like it.

Therefore, I'm gonna say this is a great review, because Jeff actually spoke his mind about how he feels. I can respect that.

From one person with a Dojima icon to another, I feel the same way.
Posted by ArbitraryWater

This was... unexpected. But then again, with the way Jeff was talking about it on the Bombcast maybe not. Ehhh... Maybe I'll wait for a price drop...

Posted by Zidane_24

I'm really enjoying the game, but I can definitely see why someone wouldn't like it. Jeff expressed his opinions on the game, and in the end that's all a review is, is opinions. You can choose to blindly follow them, or make your own decisions about whether or not you would enjoy this sort of game.

Posted by zombie2011

I like everything i see about this game, but those damn puzzles sequences and seeing that is the only game-play i knew i was going to skip this. 

Online
Posted by BradBrains

@PrimeSynergy said:

it never fails to amaze me, the people that rage at a review and claim it's badly written when, let's be real, they're mad because someone doesn't agree with them.

this.

saying that im really liking the game right now...though i have yet to finish it (im 7 hours in)

Posted by xxDrAiNxx

Duke Nukem Forever was better and that's not saying much.

Posted by SleepyDoughnut

@DANW547 said:

Why does Jeff always review strange Japanese games? that ain't his bag baby.

What other strange Japanese games has he reviewed? When I think of Jeff I more think of him reviewing every major 1st and 3rd person shooter that comes to market.

Posted by Cincaid

Jeff opened Pandora's Box with this review. It's Lost Planet 2 all over again. Wish there was an ignore feature on Giant Bomb, but ah well.

Good review @Jeff.

Edited by DexterKid

These comments are hilarious, both from the raging fanboys and the Jeff Defence Force. It's amazing how one guy's opinions can generate so much fervour. I bet all of this makes Jeff feel better about himself.

Online
Posted by mrfluke

@Flappy said:

@natetodamax said:

I saw this coming. I personally am really enjoying the game, but I can definitely see why people wouldn't like it.

Therefore, I'm gonna say this is a great review, because Jeff actually spoke his mind about how he feels. I can respect that.

From one person with a Dojima icon to another, I feel the same way.

this

Posted by Sooty
@GioVANNI said:
@Ygg said:
@zameer said:

:( Was kinda expecting a 3 star review given what you said on the podcast. Guess I'll wait for this to go on sale then.

Interestingly, KVO gave an 8.5 for this game so I'm pretty sure it should appeal to some people.

The game's great and getting damn good scores everywhere else including user reviews.   I'll just ignore this review as I do most these days.
You're going to ignore this review solely because it's critical?  That's extremely naive.
More that I played and the loved the demo. Many positive user reviews too as well as other reviews highly praising the game.
Edited by LiquidSwords

Jeff not giving a fuck about what fanboys have to say

Posted by ocha

Not everyone has to agree with you.  I see where he's coming from but I'm really enjoying every bit of Catherine so far.

Posted by MisoRonery

I'll echo a sentiment that's been touched on a few times in these comments, and that's how crazy it is to me that the review scores on this aren't more divisive! While I have been having a great time with it, expecting even a 50/50 split of love it or hate it seems skewed to me.

A quirky anime relationship story, held together by increasingly tense block puzzles, which occur in a sheep-ridden fever nightmare? And a majority of game critics are slobbering all over it? What world did I wake up in today?

As I said, I'm really enjoying my time with Catherine, and would point any interested parties to the demo, which is an accurate representation of exactly what you're getting yourself into. Expecting everyone to enjoy this game equally, on the other hand, is absolutely absurd.

Posted by Beforet

Aw, that's too bad. I was having some weird feelings about the game from the beginning. If I buy it, it will probably be after a price drop.

On the other hand, even if I was super hyped about this game I would still wait for a price drop. Because $60 dollars for a video games.

Posted by AURON570

The repetitiveness of the puzzle solving night after night is an allegory for day-to-day life, how it's all the same, just a little different.... BAM

Posted by spazmaster666

As much as I want to enjoy the story of this game, I'm not sure I want to sludge through the block puzzles. I'm sure there are plenty of people who are fine with block puzzles but none of the actual puzzle gameplay I've watched interests me on any level whatsoever. I mean I get that it probably takes less time and money to make a puzzle game than an RPG, but why a game about pulling out blocks Atlus?

Also, people don't seem to know the difference between a "badly written review" and a "review with a bad score." A review can be the most positive out there but also be the most poorly written and vice versa.

Posted by claudius

@oysteinBrenne said:

stick to your dumb shooters jeff and let someone more competent review the other games 1up 10/10 GE 9.5/10 CCC 9.2 Eurogamer 9/10 Joystiq 9/10The Escapist 9/10IGN 9/10Gamespot 8.5/10 Games Radar 8/10 GamePro 8/10Official Xbox Magazine 8/10 Game Informer 7/10 (its not so much a review than a rant about how the game is too hard) Jeff HURP A DURP ITS A PUZZEL GAME AND I FUCKING HATE ANIME AS I HAVE SAID MANY TIME SO WHY THE FUCK AM I REVIEWING THIS? HURP A DURP 2/5 fucking 2/5 you gave fucking cod more than this game you make me sick

I just wanted to quote this because fucking lmao.

JEFF YOU MOTHERFUCKER. YOU DONT LIKE THIS GAME? YOU MAKE ME SICK. I AM LITERALLY ILL AFTER READING THAT REVIEW. I HAVE PRINTED OUT PICTURES OF YOU AND TAPED THEM TO POSTS IN MY BACK YARD AND AM SHOOTING THEM WITH MY BB GUN I AM SO MAD.

Edited by MikkaQ

I kinda expected this. I think when it was revealed to be a puzzle game and not much else, it seemed destined to disappoint in some way or another. I just don't think there's enough to hold my interest here.

Oh also, nice reaction to all you jerks out there, you know who you are.

Posted by Veektarius

If anything the scores from other sites seem too high for a game that I can tell by looking at it that I won't like.  A game that is good for  'a certain crowd' should have more 7-range reviews.  I just can't see how any reviewer would think this game has a broad appeal.

Posted by bybeach

i POSTALED JEFF'S PIC TO THE BOTTOM OF THE TOILET, THEN i ATE SOME ROTTEN CHICKEN! i CAN'T WAIT!!!

Posted by AxleBro

guys, jeff doesn't like anime, and he hates puzzles. he's reviewing a puzzle game based around the styling of modern anime. obvious bad review.

Posted by DerekDanahy

Good review Jeff. Don't think I'll come close to this one.

Posted by GreggD

@Axleisbored said:

guys, jeff doesn't like anime, and he hates puzzles. he's reviewing a puzzle game based around the styling of modern anime. obvious bad review.

Have you seen any of the Persona 4 Endurance Run? He obviously likes Japanese games and anime-influenced games, they just need to have good gameplay. From what I've seen, this does not look to fit both criteria.

Posted by GioVANNI
@Axleisbored said:
guys, jeff doesn't like anime, and he hates puzzles. he's reviewing a puzzle game based around the styling of modern anime. obvious bad review.
Since when does Jeff "hate" puzzles?
 
 And he liked Persona 4, so I think your other criticism is sort of invalid.
Posted by Skogen

Can't say im surprised.

The plot seems terribly contrived. Considering that the Katherine vs. Catherine choice was easily made by Jeff, we can assume the story and character development wasn't what it needed to be, to back up a plot driven puzzle game.

Posted by AxleBro

also... this is one of the only bad reviews Catherine has gotten, i feel like jeff might have forced himself to not like the game simply because he doesnt like 2 of the 3 main characters (Catherine and Vince)

Posted by Rudeboy217

I enjoyed the game and also agree with many points in this review. Fanboys seriously need to fuck off though.

Posted by DerekDanahy

@Axleisbored: Keep using your shield of protection and defend this game to its death! For no benefit to yourself I may add.

Posted by Catolf
@GreggD said:


Have you seen any of the Persona 4 Endurance Run? He obviously likes Japanese games and anime-influenced games, they just need to have good gameplay. From what I've seen, this does not look to fit both criteria.

Actually Jeff hated the RPGness of the game (the fighting/leveling) He just liked the story and the characters. There is the difference. He didn't have to play the 'game' parts, Vinny did. In Catherine he was on his own.
 
@GioVANNI said:
Since when does Jeff "hate" puzzles?   And he liked Persona 4, so I think your other criticism is sort of invalid.
Read above.
Posted by sixghost

@Axleisbored said:

guys, jeff doesn't like anime, and he hates puzzles. he's reviewing a puzzle game based around the styling of modern anime. obvious bad review.

Because he just fucking LOVES anime and turn based JPGs right? I seem to remember them liking a game like that.

Posted by GioVANNI
@Catolf said:
@GreggD said:


Have you seen any of the Persona 4 Endurance Run? He obviously likes Japanese games and anime-influenced games, they just need to have good gameplay. From what I've seen, this does not look to fit both criteria.

Actually Jeff hated the RPGness of the game (the fighting/leveling) He just liked the story and the characters. There is the difference. He didn't have to play the 'game' parts, Vinny did. In Catherine he was on his own.
 
@GioVANNI said:
Since when does Jeff "hate" puzzles?   And he liked Persona 4, so I think your other criticism is sort of invalid.
Read above.
Yeah, so what if he didn't like the RPG aspects?  That doesn't mean he didn't like the anime artsyle.
Posted by ptys
Yeah I decided this when I saw the Quicklook back in Jan, didn't even finish reading Jeff's review to be honest, I know IGN gave it 9.0 as well. Why not make the same game with like a fighting system for the dream sequences?.. who really wants to climb cubes for 7 hours?

@Catolf said:

@ptys said:
Can't imagine wanting to play a glorified puzzle game on a large TV screen. Why not just watch an anime and save yourself the gameplay time on something good?
Here i think you need this.

@wickedsc3 said:

OMG, so much whining on both sides. I will say the same thing ive said for years, reviews are useless. Quick Looks and Demos are where its at. Now go get the demo and see if YOU like it!!!! Then make a purchasing decision.

Don't make your purchasing decision just based off someones words, when you can experience the game yourself.

Edited by Catolf
@GioVANNI: But he dosen't really like anime? So? Boom? Persona 4 was the exception, just because you like one thing won't mean you like all that genre has to offer you. I like halo but it dosen't mean I fell in love with COD, you see what i mean? There is always an exception to the rule.
 
In any case i think he liked the style and the visuals, he was just put off about it. You can't like them all.
Posted by McGhee

I would've thought that with as many games as Jeff has played over the years that he would've appreciated a game as unique and bizarre as Catherine. This is why I like it so much. I'm tired of the same-old-same-old.

As we've seen before, Jeff can be a bit out of left field sometimes, but to each his own.

Posted by Ron_Graphite

The video game Catherine does not feature any characters using a pencil in their day to day activities (not even the waitress Erica).  I, Ron Graphite CEO of the The Pencil Council, find this review to be accurate in all accounts and this game deserving of its two star rating. I would like to add that The Pencil Council tried contacting Atlus for possible pencil inclusion, to which they declined rudely. 

Posted by Rapid
@raiz265 said:
ouch
Posted by emem

I haven't played the game, but when I first saw it and realised that most of it is about pushing and pulling blocks I kinda figured that it's not a game for me. So I guess I would most likely share Jeff's opinion about the actual gameplay, but storywise I can't tell.. it all sounds interesting to me, not interesting enough to be able to endure the gameplay though.

It's a solid review imho, opinions are great.

Online
Posted by Rapid

Good honest review Jeff

Posted by Tuggah

Here is me reacting to this review.

Posted by GreggD

@Catolf: He said in numerous episodes that he was playing the game on his own time, at home just to see if certain things would go differently with different choices. Would someone who hates the gameplay want to "suffer" through that?

Posted by probablytuna

Oh wow, I certainly wasn't expecting a score like this. Well I might just wait until it's cheap then.