Giant Bomb Review

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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
Edited by zameer

:( 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.

Posted by raiz265

ouch

Posted by Random88

2 starts :(

Online
Posted by EchoForge

Still interested in Persona team's next game, though.

Posted by RadixNegative2

Wow that's too bad.

Posted by Random88

I got this yesterday and just finished it.  I really liked it.

Online
Posted by Cyrisaurus

Anime games are for jerks.

Posted by benjaebe

Kinda disappointed with the score. It just doesn't sound like it was Jeff's kind of game, since I've been adoring the puzzle gameplay and it hasn't done anything to bore me or push me away. If anything I keep going back for more to get a higher score - and that's only on normal.

Posted by Sticks

I was really hoping this would have turned out better.

Posted by kollay

Could've added an extra star if Chie was there, huh.

Posted by BulletproofMonk
@Sticks said:

I was really hoping this would have turned out better.

I love comments like these. Keep 'em coming.
Posted by mutha3

Honestly, after the podcast I was ready to dismiss your review, but a lot of the stuff you wrote is pretty valid and most importantly, well-articulated. This is actually one of your better reviews I have seen.
 
Disagree with a lot of points brought up, though!

Edited by CptBedlam

@oysteinBrenne: It's IGN ... you gotta be kidding me. Worst gaming site next to Destructoid. Crap like Ao2 40th Day gets a 8.5 from IGN ... their review scale is inflated beyond recognition.

Posted by UberExplodey

No Chie = 3-star penalty.

Posted by Sooty
@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.
Posted by Marz

I never got the hype, when i first saw the puzzle gameplay i was disinterested right away.   So what Jeff wrote pretty much confirms why I really don't want to play this game because the puzzle gameplay just doesn't seem great.

Posted by papercut

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.

Posted by Jackhole
@oysteinBrenne: I highly doubt that you've finished the game, so who are you to say what is a good review and what isn't. Also, IGN is terrible.
Online
Posted by PK_Koopa

Well written review, but I think I'll still be buying it (once it comes out in Europe >_>). I love everything I've seen about this game, (including the gameplay) but I'll definitely keep your complaints in mind. 
 
Thanks for the warning, Jeff.

Edited by mutha3
@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  
  

That review is fucking terrible. He's literally summarizing and giving us a story synopsis for 90% of it.
 
 
At least link to a positive review that isn't terrible:http://www.1up.com/reviews/catherine-review
Posted by CptBedlam

@Marz said:

I never got the hype, when i first saw the puzzle gameplay i was disinterested right away. So what Jeff wrote pretty much confirms why I really don't want to play this game because the puzzle gameplay just doesn't seem great.

Same here. The block pushing gameplay looked flatout stupid and boring since they first showed it.

Posted by RE_Player1

I knew it lol.

Posted by UncleClassy

Maybe now Atlus will see the error in their ways and make some more god damn Persona!

Posted by MEATBALL

The review was a good read (although I guess that goes without saying) and it really sounds like you didn't enjoy the game at all. I'm hopeful that my positive experience with the demo is indicative of what I'll think of the full game, but I'll have to wait until my imported copy turns up early next week to find out.

Posted by Xtrminatr

@oysteinBrenne said:

Thanks jeff for fucking over the metacritic. score hopefully they see how fucking terrible review this is and dont add it

God damn, posting twice on the review telling Jeff how terrible he is and his review is? Don't read his review and fucking leave. Some people read reviews from Jeff because they like the same games he does, and can tell if they would want it or not through that. Some people (like you) look at the average score, and think IGN is a good site. More power to you, but shut the hell up.

Edited by CptBedlam

@oysteinBrenne said:

Thanks jeff for fucking over the metacritic. score hopefully they see how fucking terrible review this is and dont add it

1. Jeff does not have ANY obligations towards metacritic. It's metacritic that is fucked up.

2. Gotta love you fanboys who come pouring in bashing the review because "your" precious game didn't get the score you wanted.

3. Gamers who care about the metacritic average as much as you do are mindless idiots.

Posted by VincentVendetta

Catherine was not for Jeff, just like MotorStorm: Apocalypse was not for Alex. Both games I really enjoyed.

Posted by laserbolts
@oysteinBrenne
Thanks jeff for fucking over the metacritic. score hopefully they see how fucking terrible review this is and dont add it  
You mind explaining how this is a terrible review instead of spouting stupid shit like a five year old?
Posted by Meltbrain

Yup. I know enough to say that Catherine probably won't be my cup of tea.

Posted by VicRattlehead

why do people put so much stock in a review score? it confuses and saddens me greatly

for the record i could care two shades of a shite about this game, i just find it depressing how people need vindication from a random dude on a random website for liking a game

Posted by DaBuddaDa

I was going to buy this game, but now after reading Jeff's review, I am no longer going to make the purchase.

Posted by bonbolapti
@oysteinBrenne said:
Thanks jeff for fucking over the metacritic. score hopefully they see how fucking terrible review this is and dont add it  
LOL teehee ROFL, LMAO, jejeje, kekekeke, har har
Posted by Helios1337

How could hours of block pushing be boring?!?!?

Posted by marchismo

Whisky Media

Posted by BabyChooChoo

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.

Posted by Ockman

I still am completely perplexed by your negative feedback on this game, because I loved it. I'm not some person that loves everything by Atlus either. I love Persona 4, but hate Persona 3, and haven't been able to really get into anything else with Shin Megami Tensei on the title. Catherine on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed. The story totally lived up to my expectations, and I loved the production value of the game overall. The puzzle stuff was fun and challenging in a way similar to old school arcade games, which once again, perplexes me that Jeff doesn't like it since he's the kind of person that would buy every game on Game Room....

Posted by TheKing

Beat it last night and sadly have to agree with Jeff's review. I wanted to like Catherine but it just didn't click with me.

Posted by Catolf
@Jackhole said:
@oysteinBrenne: I highly doubt that you've finished the game, so who are you to say what is a good review and what isn't. Also, IGN is terrible.
Everyone needs to stop the whole this site is terrible this one is better thing.. it's rather annoying anymore. In any case Oystein you don't agree with the review, thats fine, it dosen't make it terrible.. and Jackhole..tsk tsk.
Posted by joshth

I guess I'm just suprised.  I really enjoyed the game.  I mean all the things Jeff pointed out are true, but I didn't have such a negative reaction as Jeff did.  It just dissapoints me when a reviewer I respect doesn't like a game I love.
Edited by Blair

Block pushing mini games are duuuuuuuumb. They should have made the game play more compelling. From the second I saw Catherine, I was down with the Persona ties and story elements, but despised the super-boring idea of pushing blocks for an entire game.

Posted by mnzy

I love the smell of a shitstorm in the morning.

Posted by swomar

@UncleClassy said:

Maybe now Atlus will see the error in their ways and make some more god damn Persona!

Why? Because of one negative review?

That being said, having a new Persona WOULD be great.

Posted by ErinIsADrunk

Well put Jeff. I enjoyed the game more than you did by the sounds of it, but I fully understand and agree with your complaints. Although I did like the game and having just finished it, I have absolutely no desire to playthrough it ever again and towards the end I was definitely pushing myself through the monotonous repetition of puzzles to see the conclusion of the narrative.

Online
Posted by claudius

I don't really get all the hype this game is getting. From the multiple QLs the block puzzles did not look like they were very fun at all and the way the dating sim aspect was described on the bombcast this week didn't sound that great either. I'll probably rent it sometime though, just because I love the characters in the Persona games and expect this to be on par with them.

Posted by Lucidlife

@DaBuddaDa said:

I was going to buy this game, but now after reading Jeff's review, I am no longer going to make the purchase.

I find that incredibly sad. It's clear something about the game appealed to you. The same things may not appeal to Jeff which, in a nutshell, is why the very concept of reviewing games is just bad. No two people are the same and I quickly found that listening to these jaded reviewers was causing me to miss out on some great games. So now I just read the reviews for entertainment and never to sway my purchasing decisions.

Posted by Depth

Maybe they should have made a regular-ass rpg instead of the boring block puzzles.

Posted by JamesKond

Eh. To each his own I guess :)

Edited by GalacticPunt

Catherine makes me think of the danger of emphasizing story over all else. People will always respond to story in a more subjective way than gameplay mechanics. So critics are all over the place when it comes to this and "Heavy Rain." Puzzle games and shooters that are competently done can count on a solid Metacritic average. Interactive novels are a bit screwed, some people will LOVE them because they connected with the story, those who don't like the characters will HATE the game.

There are critics who are loving "Catherine." Obviously, Jeff is not one of them. I don't know where I'll fall, but I'll take my chances in a year or so when this is about twenty bucks.

EDIT: Holy cow, when I started writing my comment there was 5 comments, by the time I posted there were 60! Shitstorm in progress?

Posted by vidiot

You know, it is possible to not agree with Jeff, but still appreciate a different opinion.

Posted by EuanDewar

Read this review whilst listening to Intergalactic by The Beastie Boys, set the tone quite nicely. Must admit I didn't really retain any information but I'm sure it's a great review.