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 AaronChance

Sad to hear the characters are shallow and your decisions don't really matter until the end. I was hoping that would make up for the block pushing, which frankly had sloppy controls for me, and just wasn't all that fun.

Edited by me3639

Climbing pyramid puzzles for 10-15 hours=zero fun no matter how interesting the story may be.

Posted by FluxWaveZ

I don't understand why people are considering suffering through the gameplay just for the story. If you've played the demo and you didn't enjoy the puzzle elements do not buy this. That's what the game is: a block puzzle game. If you don't like that, then it'd be a waste of time going through Catherine.

Posted by depecheload

Why do people get so mad when someone has the gall to *gasp* not like a game they like? Way to be stereotypical loser fanboys.

Posted by Catolf
@Khann said:

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.

KHANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
I've always wanted to do that. Sorry, but you are right, carry on. ^^
Posted by kollay

@CosmicQueso said:

The people that are all raging about this are probably the same ones that agreed with Jeff when he reviewed Brink.

Love it.

Nah. Brink is levels of shit below this game.

Posted by Zinc

Reading the comments makes me laugh out loud. Some people sure are crazy...

Posted by Natesaint

I have nothing to add nor take away from this game save for filling up space in the comments section...but damn! Some dudes are raging something fierce over this review. I have no interest in this game, as I lack interest in most japanese titles, but I am interested and entertained by people flipping out over reviews. I thought this was a good review from Jeff, of course his opinions and mine are usually similar, but I felt this was an honest and fair review. Okay, the game cover kind of annoys me but other than the cover art I've got nothing more to say.

Posted by kcp12304

Y U NO LIKE GAME I LIKE JEFF

Posted by SpunkyHePanda

Well, I really have to disagree about the characters being shallow. I think they're the best part of the game.

Edited by TheKbob

@Catolf: I think most people realize that an Atlus title, more so a game from the Persona team, is quite polarzing in terms of appearance, gameplay, and how much you either fall on the fence of "anime is bull****" or "omfg, another cheeseball anime plot? Yes PLEASE!".

Bastion is a rock solid everyman's title. It's even got hard hitting press outlets like Eurogamer giving it the thumbs up. The only two loose threads is some crap site called "Gamecritics" which averages out in the mid-60s over 1400 game reviews and Mr. Sterling. Keep in mind Gamecritics rated "Hunted: The Demon's Forge" and "The First Templar" higher than the "The Witcher 2". Quality stuff, there...

Jim's review of Bastion is complete ass. He even compares the combat to crap like Maple Story. That's straight up hyperbole and complete nonsense. The dude has been caught in hypocritical nonsense of "hating review scores" but then putting plenty of emphasis on them and putting scores that quite blatantly do not match the text. It's all fine if they want to make a statement, but people have every right to get a bit pissed when they want to be taken seriously. Can't have it both ways.

I think most rational folks know that there is a method of sound judgement that comes out of the Giantbomb folks knowing the past of individuals like Jeff versus that of someone like Jim Sterling. The latter just throws out crap reviews for anything popular and then gives crap games stellar reviews. It's all about ads and click-through counts for Destructoid. It's why I mainly stick to Joystiq which gives me a bit more sterile facts for the "news ticker" because Kotaku has gone down and Destructoid is meh.

I knew Jeff's feelings from the podcast. Seems to be not his stick, but he's also not writing complete nonsense and I know the dude is thorough and is fair. And neither Jim's Bastion review (obviously) and Jeff's Catherine review (shocker,eh?) will stop me from owning either title.

Posted by Juicebox

FINALLY somebody gives this game the review it deservess. STORY is GREAT!! but gameplay  gets in the way and fels tacked on.

Posted by joeq1159
@zameer Yeah I think that a lot of video games are like that. If hard work and dedication went into a game, there will always be gamers who find something awesome about the game. I think that's why i like reading reviews good or bad. I want to know how someone else responded to the game. As long as you can support their opinion I think it's really interesting to hear someone else's point of view
Posted by Daroki

One of the biggest differences between Persona 4 and Catherine is simply the amount of control that the player has to direct the actions. Catherine is far more linear than Persona 4 which every time you're given control of the characters gives you three or more options to progress. Instead, Catherine puts you on a see saw going back and forth between puzzles and story. I don't think Catherine's 2 star bad, but it's not 5 star good either, it looks like Atlus used a little of the "sex sells" adage and Demon's Souls money to finish off their PS3/XBox 360 engines, put something out to recoup the cost, and we'll probably see something more in line with expectations the next time out.

Not saying that I'm not enjoying the hell out of Catherine, but it speaks to me in a way that it might not for a larger audience. I've had the "marriage" conversations twice, opted out of the first, and chose to go with the second. My wife's had the "I'm late" conversation with me when I found out she was pregnant with my son, and I can relate to the joy, fear, and panic that crushes you into inaction for the next 15-30 seconds as your mind begins rewriting your future to include a new child. It speaks to me because I have those anchor points the story grabs on to, and maybe it didn't speak to Jeff because he doesn't. And without those points for the story to grab you, I could see the game losing a lot of it's appeal and getting a score like a 2/5.

Posted by BaconGames

@depecheload said:

Why do people get so mad when someone has the gall to *gasp* not like a game they like? Way to be stereotypical loser fanboys.

It's perfectly natural for someone to get upset when a thing they like or purchased is said to be a bad product. Whether intended or not, whether justified or not, negative reviews tend to give a sense of invalidating someone's purchasing decision. It's the fuel that runs the system wars machines but it's more lopsided. It's not just a question of disagreement because let's face Jeff is not just another user reviewer. There is an undeniable quality of influence that a review such as this has. People understand that but also take it personally which is the real issue here.

It seems like the total number of comment is split up between hating on Jeff, hating on the haters, giving a reasonable riposte to Jeff's views, agreeing with Jeff, tangentially related arguments about Call of Duty or Halo, and the audience enjoying the back and forth.

I happen to agree with Jeff on this one and most likely will judge the story for myself if I'm curious enough to watch it on YouTube or something, but the only real criticism against the review could be that the score and the text don't match up.

Posted by Korolev

Well, thanks for being forthright and honest with us Jeff. At least I appreciate honesty.

Posted by Cornman89

We are as bad as any other online community.

Posted by Devil240Z

Snap! I think the majority of people who thought they would like Catherine will still like it. Jeff is in the minority here.

Posted by JeanLuc

wow, I could sworn it was 3 stars not 2 earlier today. Guess I need to get my eyes checked. 
 
Good review Jeff. You made you points well. Like you said at the end though, I'm definitely willing to try the game just because its so different. Hopefully I'll have a better time with it.

Posted by LiquidSwords

As a community who prides itself as being different, you guys can be the biggest babies this side of the internet.

Posted by Dookysharpgun

Despite what people might say, I find that reviews like these help balance our understanding of a game. Having nine or ten near perfect reviews doesn't mean shit if they don't openly outline the game's issues, because of fan backlash or expectations. I mean some reviewers, professional or not, can really outline what can piss a player off during the experience. While this game might be loved by a lot of individuals, how would it stack up to a person who had no vested interest in it, but bought it out of hype?
 
I'd rather see reviewers give the shaft to a game and tell the truth, than have themselves get caught in a massive hype wave, whose fallout is mass disappointment and anger. I get what he's trying to say, fuckin' hell, I've given the middle finger to some games people love, because in my view, they were broken messes, wouldn't suit a person looking for innovation, fun etc. There really is nothing wrong with a conflicting, alternative view, as long as it's aimed towards enlightening people to flaws instead of outlining all the big, bright, happy sections of a game. If a game has very few redeeming qualities, and those qualities were never that great to start with, then fuck it, the game itself is not good, and that's the end of it.
 
Having said that, I can see why fans are pissed off, as apparently Jeff dislikes these types of games...I can also see why they think he shouldn't review them, as his dislike could seep into the review and the score, and make it a much more harsh affair. It isn't a terrible thing, but it can sully what is, in essence, a really good review of a game that I was/am interested in. The main issue here is the lack of genre-specific reviewers on the site...as far as I've seen, there are only really four dudes doing a whole crap tonne of games, so maybe hiring a few freelance boys to double up on reviews might not be a bad idea. That way, you've got the two ends of the spectrum, discussing the ups and downs of games, resulting in a review that a majority of people could be happy with. And while Catherine might not be a great game, I still think it might be...ok...I mean, I was never expecting much anyway, but I like the general ideas behind it...I've spent more money on worse...this could be worth a rent at the very least.

Posted by YukoAsho
@Natesaint said:

I have nothing to add nor take away from this game save for filling up space in the comments section...but damn! Some dudes are raging something fierce over this review. I have no interest in this game, as I lack interest in most japanese titles, but I am interested and entertained by people flipping out over reviews. I thought this was a good review from Jeff, of course his opinions and mine are usually similar, but I felt this was an honest and fair review. Okay, the game cover kind of annoys me but other than the cover art I've got nothing more to say.

Well, this is the unfortunate result of reviewers dissenting from the hive mind.  I for one applaud Jeff for making his opinion his own.  His opinion was well-written and well-justified, and that's the only thing you can ask of a reviewer.
Posted by Duffman
@oysteinBrenne said:

WOW this review is fucking terrible sorry jeffs this is the worst review you have ever done 
 
 
Here go watch a better Review  
  Even fucking ign had a better review

 
 I don't think you know what a good review is, sir.
Posted by fiddlecub

You don't like this game, it's a'ight, but you don't like it.

Posted by ch3burashka

From what I've seen, it's a very game-y game. Whether that is in stark contrast with the expectations for a game brought to you by a relationship-heavy RPG developer is relevant, but I don't think it should detract from the current game. I'll certainly give it a whirl myself, and I feel it'll be a more positive experience for me than it was for Jeff. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but DAMN... 2/5.

Posted by Milkman

Everyone is saying that people are bitching in the comments but I really only see like one guy. Reading through the comments, most people seem to be pretty level-headed about this. I'm actually fairly impressed.

Posted by bkbroiler

Ahhh. Nothing quite like seeing a comment section explode over a simple grade. I love it!

Posted by Doc_Zaius

quite the statistical outlier.  
 
 way to throw off that metacritic score, gerstmann!

Posted by SquirrelGOD

Well, bummer. Was hoping for some good Japanese weirdness. Oh well, there's never a shortage of strange stuff coming from Atlus.

Posted by Nephrahim

Man, reading this flame war is more fun them most games!

Posted by Enns

This game is rough as hell. I can totally get why Jeff gave it two stars.

In the end a game has to grab you, and if it can't then that's that.

Vincent's actions depend heavily on where the chaos and law meter are so not being certain on what choice effects what can really ruin the story for you.

The major issue though is that the block puzzles are poorly paced and ramps up way too fast. Forget just "making it easier" they should have balanced it out so it warms you up to it.

Most annoying of all is the game over to title screen in such a trial and error game. Doing that is just out dated.

I can't help but get the feeling that this game was really a combination of a pet project and how to develop a game on ps3.

The most fleshed out portion of the game is it's production. Everything else seemed to be less important. So I wonder if this was suppose to prepare that team for a true RPG.

That said I enjoyed the story and ending I got. I can't stop thinking about pushing blocks when I'm trying to sleep either.

Getting golds is tough but it does let you skip the block stage and just focus on the story elements to try to get more endings.

Posted by 234r2we232
@LiquidSwords said:

As a community who prides itself as being different, you guys can be the biggest babies this side of the internet.

Yes. Different. No other place on the Internet can you find memes, "first!"s and deluded self-importance.
Posted by the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG
opinions
Posted by Mezmero

Another thoughtful and well worded review. The block puzzles are the deal breaker for me personally. I've learned to take Jeff's word on whether or not a game is fun to play so I'm gonna pass on this game for the time being. Seeing the comments section explode after my nap gives me an idea for another website. A site where people review video game reviews from all the dedicated websites. We'll write mostly about the numbered scores themselves as opposed to actually reading the editorials to dissect them. I'll call it Beta Critic.

Posted by kagekage

Opinions are like armpits. 
Everyone has 'em, but they all STINK.

Posted by Shindiggah

honestly this is the first giantbomb review I've ever disagreed with :/ I'm shocked, I was expecting an easy 4 star. 

Edited by Undeadpool

Seriously, your choices not affecting the story in P4 was acceptable (though still annoying) since it was on the PS2, but your choices not affecting anything until the very end in a PS3/360 game that actually touts a "morality system" is unacceptable, particularly one as linear as this.

Posted by JMartNWA

My take is simple - kudos to Jeff for being objective about his own opinion.  Surprisingly, I'm not into anime whatsoever and not into a ton of the "Japanese" - style games either, but thus far I have enjoyed Catherine and think it was a good purchase for me.  It makes no sense based on my general interests in gaming and culture, but I'm digging it.  At the end of the day, the truth lies in one statement and one statement alone, at least for me.  I hope everybody that wants to like the game really does so and I hope that everyone who doesn't is able to say that without feeling they have to at least say it's great because that's what the critics and fanboys do.  Truthfully, a review isn't supposed to validate every other critique or the so-called majority opinion.  Jeff Gerstmann's review is simply supposed to illustrate and explain Jeff Gerstmann's opinion and offer the reasons why he came to that conclusion.  That's what he did... it makes no difference whether someone agrees with it or not, because in their own mind, they've written their own review for themselves.  People should never play games, watch films, watch shows, read books or comics, or attend events solely because they think they should... again.  If you like Catherine, that's what matters.  If you didn't like Catherine, nothing more to see here for you, more games are on the way.  Flame wars to me are the most ignorant annoyances on Earth.  It's such a waste of time to make blanket judgments about what's right and what's wrong or what everybody else should think.  State your opinion - you have my respect.  Tell me how everybody else sees it and why that validates only that position... keep it to yourself.  Nice work, Jeff.  I'm simply pleased that I have enjoyed the title to this point and that it has been worth my time.  Sorry that it didn't hit you in that way.  Simply my two (okay maybe five) cents...

Posted by RYNO9881

I hope your not reading these comments Jeff. If you are, then I love you.

Posted by Landon
@AnotherSomebody: I think he's just bored with what's out right now. We haven't had a "HOLY CRAP THAT GAME COMES OUT NEXT WEEK!!!" game in months now. He mentioned on the latest podcast that he wants fall to get here so he'll have something fun to play.
Posted by monster9999

This is a fucking mess of a comments section, lets keep the comment counter going up, good stuff

Posted by Daveyo520

I am sure this review isn't contentious at all and everyone will agree with it.

Edited by BraveFart

Im not prepared to trust Jeff's review in this case. Since i know he prefers fps games over others.
 
Getting the game today and i'll judge this game by my own. Not gonna trust any reviews.
 
It's the story of this game im the most interested in. And remember, this is Jeff's PERSONAL opinion of the game, not the whole worlds opinion. Because many people here seem to be like: "oh well Jeff didn't like it so i won't buy this game". And that's pretty much pathetic imo :)
 
for example it got 8.5 on gamespot.
  
And something im wondering about is if Jeff is playing other games while playing a game he is going to review ?

Posted by 1p

Jeff calls 'em like he sees 'em. Always has.

Posted by MetalMoog

I've realized that a review is just one dudes's opinion, yet that one opinion sure does cause an landslide of positive or negative buzz. Since I stopped reading video game reviews, I find I enjoy gaming a lot more again, like I used to when I was young and not hanging off review scores. 
 
All of the bias and elitist opinions surrounding what the current game industry believes is a good or bad product is really poisoning gamers minds, because most are naive enough to take the reviews as gospel, over experiencing it for themselves.
 
Like with any sort of art or media; attaching a score merely cheapens the experience. We all have different tastes. What is my trash could be your treasure. Stop putting all of your faith into video game, music and movie reviews and you all will enjoy life's entertainment much more.

Posted by niamahai

this game could have been better with some naked cartoon pussy.

Heck it will fly off the shelve faster if its was a bulletpoint feature @ the back of the box.

Posted by Davin

Not shocking after listening to the Bomcast. After hearing what he said I was thinking it would get a 2 or 3 and sure enough it got a 2. I have not played this game, but after watching the two quicklooks I've pretty much decided that it isn't for me and all of Jeffs points on the game I feel are valid ones. He is a honest reviewer guys, this is his opinion. What else can you ask from a person? Not everyone will like the same things that you do.

Posted by Kujel

I'm generally inclined to avoid japanese style games cause quite frankly they put too much effort into story and and very little into gameplay. Don't get me wrong puzzle gameplay can be fun but it has to be done right and this game doesn't sound like it did it right.

Posted by CraigAA1028

That's the first negative review of Catherine I've seen. Never thought it was a type of game that would appeal to the GB crew. I still kind of want to play it just to see how damn weird it gets. 

Posted by AsKo25

the game clicked with me pretty much as soon as I started playing it. it's definitely meant to be played on Easy first, i would compare it to Guitar Hero in the way that it eases you into the puzzles. there's tons of different ways around everything, it's quite intricately designed. i love the story too, the subtle changes in cutscenes depending on your alignment make the story interesting. i think the morality system is merely meant to direct Vincent, and not necessarily determine exactly what he does. it's really cool how you can meet random people in the bar who you know you've met in the nightmare, but neither of the characters are aware. i'm just about to start night 4 so hey, might totally change my opinion, but so far i'm definitely on board with Catherine.
 
 but not the girl Catherine, she is insane.