Giant Bomb Review

621 Comments

Catherine Review

2
  • X360
  • PS3

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 MisterDunlap

*shrug* Regardless of Jeff's score, I'm still going to check it out. It looks like a lot of fun.

Posted by Lunar_Aura

Now all you motherfuckers know how I felt when he gave Pony Cock Pro Scatter 3 a perfect 10. Bask in it, my brethren!

Posted by GreggD

Also:

@Catolf said:

@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.

If you're referring to the anime is for jerks meme, he never came out and said he doesn't like all anime. If it's good, he can get into it, I'm sure. I'm that way too. Most anime puts me off, but if it's well done and has an interesting story, I'll give it a shot.

Posted by FuzzYLemoN

Odd. This is the first negative review I've seen of Catherine. I wonder if Jeff feels some subconscious need to prove that he isn't an Atlus fanboy after Persona 4... Just a thought.

Posted by Terrents

oh shush Jeff. I liked this game and i agree with you with most of its flaws. i think the major thing is that you didn't connect with the characters for some reason. also you didn't like Cathrine. which is understandable. she is pretty insane.

Posted by DiscoDuck8k

Hate to say it, but the review is pretty spot-on with my first impressions. While the story seemed somewhat intriguing, even by the end of the demo I'd had enough of the puzzle bits. Really put me against wanting to spend a whole game doing that. 
 
Maybe I'll give it another try someday.

Online
Posted by The_Hiro_Abides

Knew this would be the score after listening to the latest bombcast. I like it but the characters are pretty stupid. But it's a crazy world scenario so characters being unrealistic doesn't bother me.

Anyway, a review is a review.

Posted by thekingoftoilets

My biggest complaint about Jeff's review is he simply implies that the gameplay aspect of the game, which is the block-puzzle segments, are redundant and get old fast. I find them to be relatively engaging and challenging, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I get stuck in a segment and do "well, why not try this instead?" approach. I can see that other people may not get the sense of satisfaction from that as I do, but it works for me. Also, I found the love triangle to pretty entertaining nonetheless. 4/5 for me.

Posted by Catolf
@GreggD said:

@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?

I never said he wasn't playing the game on his own time? Also why are you highlighting 'suffer' not like I said he suffered. You can do social linking without going into the TV.. you know?
Posted by NissanSkyline

OK. This game gets 2 stars and captain america 3. America, fuck yeah!

Posted by Catolf
@GreggD said:

Also:

@Catolf said:

@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.

If you're referring to the anime is for jerks meme, he never came out and said he doesn't like all anime. If it's good, he can get into it, I'm sure. I'm that way too. Most anime puts me off, but if it's well done and has an interesting story, I'll give it a shot.

actually I wasn't referring to that. I believe he was asked and i think he said it depended on what it was and referred to liking persona 4's anime crazyness. Which makes persona 4 again the exception. I don't' like all anime, but i give those i'm curious about a shot, even some have come out of left field and got me.
Posted by GreggD

@Catolf said:

@GreggD said:

Also:

@Catolf said:

@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.

If you're referring to the anime is for jerks meme, he never came out and said he doesn't like all anime. If it's good, he can get into it, I'm sure. I'm that way too. Most anime puts me off, but if it's well done and has an interesting story, I'll give it a shot.

actually I wasn't referring to that. I believe he was asked and i think he said it depended on what it was and referred to liking persona 4's anime crazyness. Which makes persona 4 again the exception. I don't' like all anime, but i give those i'm curious about a shot, even some have come out of left field and got me.

To be fair, I don't think there's a single person who likes ALL anime. People are pretty discerning on what is good and what is shit. Like DBZ vs. Cowboy Bebop. I know you ain't gonna tell me that the former is superior. Right?

Posted by RagingLion
@Korne said:
And it is well known that Jeff doesn't like Anime. I think he was able to enjoy Persona 4 more for the awesome mechanics rather than the style and storytelling. That is fine... we all have our likes and dislikes.
This isn't the most important point in the world but I watched the ER and I'm fairly convinced that Jeff could take or leave the mechanics and it was exactly the style and storytelling (particularly the characters and writing for them) that made it appealing to him.  He said as much in the final episode I believe, or close to the end anyway.
Posted by TadThuggish

I AM GOING TO COMMENT LIKE IT MATTERS

Posted by fuddles

Well I'm pretty surprised by this score, considering the great feedback it's been getting everywhere else. I still plan on looking into this one, but this review lowered my expectations a little, I guess.

Posted by Make_Me_Mad

I consider reviews the least important factor of Giant Bomb's lookin-at-games process- if you want to really know the game, watch the quick look, play the demo!  Or hell, look at any review besides this one- but don't let a single review change your mind about something.

Posted by Rmack

@TadThuggish said:

I AM GOING TO COMMENT LIKE IT MATTERS

RAAAAAAAH

Posted by falserelic

O wow this was surprising. 

Posted by phrali

ok, my 2 cents.
 
if this was just the q-bert gameplay without the storyline stuff, would the game be any good? prob not.
 
if this was just the storyline stuff without the q-bert, would it make a decent TV show or movie? prob not.
 
does putting the two together make either of them any better? prob not.

Posted by DaBuddaDa

@thekingoftoilets said:

My biggest complaint about Jeff's review is he simply implies that the gameplay aspect of the game, which is the block-puzzle segments, are redundant and get old fast. I find them to be relatively engaging and challenging, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I get stuck in a segment and do "well, why not try this instead?" approach. I can see that other people may not get the sense of satisfaction from that as I do, but it works for me. Also, I found the love triangle to pretty entertaining nonetheless. 4/5 for me.

It's not a "complaint about Jeff's review," it's simply a difference of opinion!

Posted by shodan2020

I'm enjoying my run through of the game. I just need to get better at using different block techniques. I'm sorry Jeff didn't enjoy his time with the game, but I don't have a problem with Jeff's review. Now, back to enjoying my game. :)

Posted by Marino

Yeesh...

Calm down people. If you like the game, you like the game. You don't have to have the affirmation of anyone else to enjoy it. So Jeff didn't like it. It's not the end of the world. Enjoy your game if you want to.

Staff
Posted by TheLeamenator

I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH THIS REVIEW!!! IT SHOULD'VE BEEN FOUR STARS AT THE VERY LEAST!!! 

Posted by rcath

It does not matter if you dont like the score. All that matters is that you are able to figure out from his words whether or not the game is for you.

Posted by clubsandwich

reminded me of this, lol:

Posted by TheHT
@FuzzYLemoN said:
Odd. This is the first negative review I've seen of Catherine. I wonder if Jeff feels some subconscious need to prove that he isn't an Atlus fanboy after Persona 4... Just a thought.
Doubt it.
Posted by TheLeamenator
@Sticks: IT DID TURN OUT BETTER!!! JEFF IS JUST AN IDIOT (not really, I'm just unhappy about this review)!!! GAMESPOT GAVE IT AN 8.5!!! IGN GAVE IT A 9.0!!! DESTRUCTOID GAVE IT A 9.0!!! 1UP GAVE IT A 10.0!!! MACHINIMA GAVE IT AN 8.5!!! JEFF'S REVIEW MEANS NOTHING!!! I SHOULD STOP GETTING SO PISSED, SINCE I EVEN SAID IT MEANS NOTHING!!! AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! I WANT PERSONA 5!!!
Posted by Snipzor

Still gonna pick this game up when I have the chance, I've always been a sucker for block based games since the days of tetris. Although, it's a shame Jeff didn't like the game, I was really hoping he would. Oh well, to each their own.

Posted by Webby

Will still check it out. Didn't think that this would appeal to Jeff anyway.

Posted by Klei

Simply put, I disagree with Jeff on all points. Oh well, it's just his opinion, after all.
Posted by Duffyside

It's Twilight Princess all over again...

RUN JEFF RUN FOR YOURLIFEOHNOTHEY'RECOMING!!!!

Posted by Keen_12

AM I TOO LATE FOR THE LYNCHING?? TWO STARS?? SOMEBODY HAS GOT TO GO!

Posted by AnotherSomebody

Jeff, do you like videogames anymore? I'm not just saying this as a reaction to this review specifically, but on the podcast when you're asked what you've been playing it's usually something along the lines of "Nuthin..." or "A bit of *insert game Jeff doesn't seem to like*", and you've just seemed overall jaded about games in general. I completely understand and respect your right to an opinion, and if you wish to rate games 2 or less stars that is your prerogative and I shall trust it as how you truly felt about the game. However, I can't help but wonder if your lengthy career in videogames, having played so many, and generally being on the other side of the marketing curtain where all the shit that happens behind the scenes is apparent to you has somehow tainted your outlook on the medium.

I only bring this up because I care about you, Jeff, and I don't want to see you completely burn out on videogames. I've trusted your opinion and insight for many years, and perhaps it's just my developing sense of taste (or lackthereof) that's made my outlook of games so utterly divergent from yours, but I'm finding it hard to accept this recent-ish slump in enthusiasm, especially with so many great games coming out this year. I want to trust your judgement, Jeff, but I'm finding it more and more difficult to do so.

Posted by NathHaw

@Kirios said:

Wow Jeff, this is by far the worst review I've ever read from you. I used to respect you and your insight into video games, but no more. Never have I seen an individual talk more out of their ass than in this article.

.

Just kidding bro. I like Catherine and am enjoying the game, but I do understand where you're coming from. I disagree with your review as a whole, but you at least explain your opinion and justification for the score clearly.

You had me for a second there.

Thanks for the review, Jeff. I'll prob be picking this up next week regardless.

Posted by Brendan

@clubsandwich said:

reminded me of this, lol:

Somebody actually took time out of their day to do that? Ugh.

Anyway, thanks for the review Jeff, although it doesn't matter either way to me since I didn't really find the gameplay appealing from the beginning. It sounds like it's right up several people's alleys though so I hope that they enjoy it.

Posted by C0V3RT

Holy shit, if you disagree with Jeff then guess what, his review probably wasn't geared towards you anyway!

Posted by Undeadpool

@Klei said:

Simply put, I disagree with Jeff on all points. Oh well, it's just his opinion, after all.

Excuse me, this is the Internet. You should probably find some incoherent rage and come back.

Posted by Crono

2 stars? I'd say that's too generous.

Posted by Brendan

@Catolf said:

@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.

I'm only posting to say that the FPS play style for Halo and CoD literally could not be further apart.

Posted by Boiglenoight

This is how I felt about the demo. Glad to hear that I didn't waste my time and money on the full game. Too bad, the art looked great and the concept sounded intriguing.

Posted by mabber36

puzzle gameplay is way better than shottin dudes in the face
 
should have had vinny review this one

Edited by DHunter329

@AnotherSomebody: Well, Jeff said on a podcast or two back that he wanted to spend the entirety of August not playing any games. Agree that a break from games once in a while is a good thing. Might pick Catherine up when it hits the $30 - $40 range.

Posted by Hailinel

If Jeff claims the game isn't awful, why did he award it two stars? The text doesn't really match up with what I'd feel the score would be based on past reviews.

Posted by Catolf
@Brendan said:

@Catolf said:

@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.

I'm only posting to say that the FPS play style for Halo and CoD literally could not be further apart.

I'm sorry one FPS isn't like the other? I don't really care I was generalizing. You still shoot find cover and tea bag people.. so, i think it's just fine.
Posted by Swervinmonkeyz

Yea figured this was a love/hate kinda game

Posted by Gav47
I like to think I know Jeff's tastes in games and how they align with my own and I'm still quite interested in this game, I may even pick it up with when it comes out in Europe. Long story short, its OK to disagree with people.
Posted by louiedog

I haven't played this game, but I was looking forward to it so he should have given it 4 stars.
 
Am I doing it right?

Posted by RoyCampbell

Oh the butthurt. It's suffocating me.

Posted by ShaggE

Somebody didn't like a game that I like! THE WORLD MUST BUUUUURN! 

Posted by Khann

Oh Giantbomb community how you amuse me so.

Jim Sterling gives his honest opinion on Bastion that conflicts with most other reviewers opinions and gives it a low score as a result. GB community "HOLY SHIT JIM STERLING IS THE WORST MOTHER FUCKER IN THE WORLD AND DESTRUCTOID IS JUST AS BAD. I HOPE HE BURNS ETERNALLY"

Jeff does the exact same thing. GB community "That's OK Jeff. My opinion doesn't align with yours, but I understand people can have opinions that differ from mine.. oh and FUCK EVERYONE WHO SAYS ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT THIS REVIEW AND MAY YOU BURN IN ETERNAL FLAMES"

You guys are just as fucking moronic as any other community, and it's laughable that you think you aren't.