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 yakov456

Ugh why did this get such a low score. Now I have to see everyone talk even more about this game, enough already. Have not looked at the comments yet but I can already imagine what they say. Something like "Fuck you Jeff".

Posted by swomar

I do think that the score is a bit harsh, but that's his opinion. Jeff even points out in the last sentence that others would probably like it better than he did.

Posted by DeathByWaffle

I really love the game so far, but I respect your opinion, maaan.

Posted by DaBuddaDa

So what you're saying is Catherine is worse than Fable III?

Edited by Cazamalos
@GalacticPunt said:

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.

that's a really good statement that i can't argue with 
 
Jeff likes COD and i REALLY hate those games, i learned to respect his opinions years ago
Posted by zakkro

@Lucidlife: It's not that sad when you remember that it's Jeff's job to help give some sort of idea of what a game is in his reviews. It'd be sad if no one cared what he had to say, or never took advice from his reviews.

Posted by Catolf
@vidiot said:
You know, it is possible to not agree with Jeff, but still appreciate a different opinion.
BOOM!
 
Also.. GB think's Catherine is as good as DNF.. lolololol~
 
BOOM!
Posted by FCKSNAP

NOW I FEEL LIKE A PIECE OF SHIT FOR BUYING AND ENJOYING THIS GAME! THANKS A LOT!

I'M JUST GONNA START FLIPPING TABLES OVER! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Posted by RiotBananas

Called it.

Posted by Nottle
@DaBuddaDa: Perhaps you should look at other reviews as well. Some have been very positive. 
Posted by GioVANNI
@joshth said:
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.
Why would that disappoint you?
Posted by Lucidlife

Why did Jeff review this game? It's clear this isn't his "type" of game. I'm not sure what "type" of game he enjoys anymore because he is so damn negative towards pretty much every game released that isn't Street Fighter or MK. So I have to question why they would want the most jaded reviewer on the site to review a game that clearly wouldn't appeal to him from the start. It's unfair to those people who are stupid enough to base their purchases off what reviewers have to say and it's also unfair to the developers of the game.

Posted by natetodamax

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.

Posted by mnzy
@Snapstacle said:

NOW I FEEL LIKE A PIECE OF SHIT FOR BUYING AND ENJOYING THIS GAME! THANKS A LOT!

I'M JUST GONNA START FLIPPING TABLES OVER! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

So...do you watch fighting game streams by any chance?
Posted by OneManX

I'm still gonna pick it up when the price drops, this looks like the type of game i have to play myself to see if it's good or bad.

Posted by ItBeStefYo
@Lucidlife: Did Jeff not do the Persona 4 ER? And who the hell likes those block pushing puzzles!?
Posted by DaBuddaDa

I think maybe it was Too Japanese for Jeff? I know I don't particularly like games that are way too Japanese.

Posted by BaconGames

The point of a review is an insider's look into the entirety of the game's experience by someone else other than you to inform a purchasing decision. That "someone else other than you" requires understanding where they're coming from and if their assessment would sound similar to yours. Although it must not be forgotten that reviews on this caliber are done on a professional level, with some effort of objectivity and education in mind. Therefore if your views and tastes lined up with Jeff in this instance, this review would be an accurate portrayal of your experience. Since this was a particularly negative review than it would not be a recommended buy. However there is nothing to say that if you disagree with the basic fundament than the experience doesn't really relate now does it?

Jeff thought the block puzzles were tedious and the characters weren't well done. Those are valid criticisms that unless you find it to the contrary, makes for a convincing review.

Posted by Nottle
@UncleClassy said:
Maybe now Atlus will see the error in their ways and make some more god damn Persona!
As much as I want a persona 5, I think people trying omething new isn't really an error. I don't want a developer to be tight cast into making one series.
Posted by AlexW00d

55 comments already? I wonder how many are from kids with anime avatars trying to make excuses for it.

Posted by InfiniteGeass

I like the game. That's all that matter to me.

Posted by Lucidlife

@ItBeStefYo: Yes, he did the Persona 4 endurance run. Great.

Posted by DexterKid

I have little interest in this game nor do I care about this review, but I find it kinda funny that Jeff is criticizing this game by saying that the choices are detached from the story, even though the exact same can be said of Mass Effect 2, which Jeff has praised countless times for its story-telling.

Posted by bonbolapti
@Lucidlife: Because People pressure GB in general to Do anything and everything atlus?
 
plus the fact that you're getting a different perspective so you can see some faults in it, then you can read another review that's nothing but pros. Standard issue stuff here.
Posted by Catolf
@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 
Dude.. chill. It's his opinion, I don't agree with it either but i'm not being a baby about it HURP DERP HURP!
Posted by Olymp1c

@zameer: This is the only bad review I've seen for Catherine. I'm sure it will appeal to a lot of people. But no game will ever appeal to everyone, just by trying to appeal to a everyone turns some people off.

For Example, I bought both Oblivion and Fallout 3 and have tried to play them so many times, but just end up shutting them off due to boredom, never found anything appealing in either game other than the review scores. So now, I don't blindly trust that I'll enjoy a western RPG when it gets good review scores, I need to research more before buying or wait till price drops to try them out.

Also, I've found that games that have very mixed review scores I tend to love because they are usually trying something pretty different.

To each their own, don't put so much stock into review scores and maybe eventually neither will publishers.

Posted by GioVANNI
@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.
Edited by kuz101
@oysteinBrenne: Oh my God! Jeff has an opinion that is not what every one else thinks?  BURN HIM AT THE STAKE FOR HIS CRIMES! Get over it. For the record, I disagree with many of Jeff's points and I am personally enjoying the game a lot. Also, Metacritic isn't everything.
Posted by mutha3
  @Lucidlife

I agree that Jeff's been coming across a bit jaded and tired of games in the past half year or so....
 
But I don't see how that invalidates the points he made in the review there. You know,  agree with them or not, he's coherently discussed what elements of the game rubbed him the wrong way. And he gave good examples for most of them. He clearly didn't half-ass this review and put a lot of effort into trying to get his gripes across.
 
@DaBuddaDa said:

I think maybe it was Too Japanese for Jeff? I know I don't particularly like games that are way too Japanese.

 
Yeah, too Japanese......like Persona 4. Man Jeff hates that game, putting it on his all-time favorites list and all that jazz.
Posted by Kirios

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.

Posted by Vexxan

He didn't like it, no surprise there. Despite his opinion, I'm still getting this game day one it's available in Europe :)

Posted by FluxWaveZ
@GioVANNI said:
@Ygg said: 
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.
I don't know about him, but I ignore reviews as I know my gaming habits, tastes and preferences enough to not need them to base my opinions on.
Posted by Dany

As expected, the game sounds too shallow from every I've heard and seen. The puzzles do not look great and the simple choices we are able to make seem limited.

Posted by Vortextk

Feels like "certainly not awful" and 2 stars are incongrous with eachother, but other than that...I think it's well written. And I just got my copy of the love is over edition from amazon, like 20 minutes ago, because they were late shipping them out. I think the comments that because this is so character and story based with kind of limiting gameplay means it depends a LOT on you liking what is happening around  you. Sounds like Jeff didn't, though he does say it all looked and flowed nice, and then didn't like the gameplay either. He doesn't rage on it or cuss it out, he doesn't even beat it that harshly for his final score.
 
I was almost scared to read the review being at 2 stars, because I'm sure I'll disagree with the general score and I thought it would just be a hateful rant against the game. It wasn't, but he didn't like it. Fair enough.

Posted by CptBedlam

@oysteinBrenne: Just leave, idiot.

Posted by EuanDewar

@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

HE IS MORE EDUCATED THEN YOU, WHORE

Posted by TheSpartanDon

@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 like Call of Duty and don't like the look of Catherine...

Are you going to attack me for having an opinion?

Posted by Bubbly
@oysteinBrenne: Wow is that the third comment of you complaining about Jeff's opinion? Give it a rest. And instead of just trolling why don't you point out some of the things that you disagreed with Jeff on instead of just going HURP DURP JEFF IS WRONG. You probably are incapable of doing that though. Jeff thought that the puzzles were tedious and the characters weren't done well. Its a totally valid and justifiable opinion so just shut up already. I always fear when a game gets a low score because of all the idiotic backlash that comes with it.
Posted by metalsnakezero
@UncleClassy said:
Maybe now Atlus will see the error in their ways and make some more god damn Persona!
The real error would had been making the next Persona too early. 
Posted by JoeyRavn

@yakov456 said:

Have not looked at the comments yet but I can already imagine what they say. Something like "Fuck you Jeff".

Actually, yes. They do. Literally.

Anyways, I never got all the hype behind this game. I guess it's a truly "love it or hate it" game. But at least Jeff backs up with arguments, not like the reviewer from IGN. Dude, really? You fucking recap all the story and call it a review, and give absolutely no technical criticism to the game.

Online
Posted by TheYear20XX
@oysteinBrenne: Honestly, you're just lending credence to Jeff's whole "anime is for jerks" theory.
Posted by Korne

This is a super respectful review... he makes sure to state the good, the bad, the weird, and why it wasn't for him. He also states that the game might be for other people with other tastes. I think Vinny and Brad would enjoy a lot about this game (especially Brad, since he seems to like weird concept games).

Posted by evildeadron

Some of you people really need to grow the fuck up and re prioritize your lives, Jeff's professional integrity is the reason why we have Giant Bomb in the first place.

Posted by vidiot
@Catolf said:
@vidiot said:
You know, it is possible to not agree with Jeff, but still appreciate a different opinion.
BOOM!  Also.. GB think's Catherine is as good as DNF.. lolololol~  BOOM!
You just hurt my head: Say you're sorry.
Posted by toadstule

Everyone hating on Jeff needs to cool down a bit. As Jeff stated in the review, Catherine is unlike any other game in the market right now. As a result, some people ended up loving this game and some didn't. Unfortunately, Jeff didn't like it as much as other reviewers but he made a lot of good points that support his opinion. It's at least nice to see developers take a risk with the games they make instead of pushing out carbon copies of other games.
Posted by metalsnakezero

This is a fair review from Jeff and he does state that it is okay that everyone but him to likes this game for what it is and not just because of the Atlus name. 

Posted by Shaanyboi
@Catolf said:
@vidiot said:
You know, it is possible to not agree with Jeff, but still appreciate a different opinion.
BOOM!  Also.. GB think's Catherine is as good as DNF.. lolololol~  BOOM!


Uhh...No, that's not how a 5-star review works....
Posted by ImperiousRix

I certainly can see why people might not dig this game, but I've personally been having a ball with it these last couple of days.  It has kicked my ass, sure, but I still love it. 
Good review, anyway.

Posted by Catolf
@mutha3 said:
 
@DaBuddaDa said:

I think maybe it was Too Japanese for Jeff? I know I don't particularly like games that are way too Japanese.

  Yeah, too Japanese......like Persona 4. Man Jeff hates that game, putting it on his all-time favorites list and all that jazz.
I believe you can count that as a rare moment in history that Jeff liked that game. Maybe cause it was scooby doo esk which irked me about the game.
Posted by Dany

@toadstule said:

Everyone hating on Jeff needs to cool down a bit. As Jeff stated in the review, Catherine is unlike any other game in the market right now. As a result, some people ended up loving this game and some didn't. Unfortunately, Jeff didn't like it as much as other reviewers but he made a lot of good points that support his opinion. It's at least nice to see developers take a risk with the games they make instead of pushing out carbon copies of other games.

It is only one person whose being childish, people should ignore him.