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 Catolf
@GioVANNI said:
@Catolf said:
@scarace360 said:
@Cyrisaurus said:
Anime games are for jerks.
ima hit you with a car.
BOOM...  no but seriously stop that jerks thing, your not cute nor funny.
I thought it kind of funny.
Not even close.
Posted by Zeik

It's disappointing you didn't end up liking it Jeff. I just finished the game last night and I thought it was pretty great overall. I admit I do wish the non-puzzle segments lasted longer, but I still enjoyed the puzzles quite a bit.

Posted by Cyrisaurus
@Catolf: sounds like u mad. You probably are, based on your avatar.
Posted by CosmicQueso

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

Love it.

Posted by Kajaah117
@Catolf said:
@GioVANNI said:
@Catolf said:
@scarace360 said:
@Cyrisaurus said:
Anime games are for jerks.
ima hit you with a car.
BOOM...  no but seriously stop that jerks thing, your not cute nor funny.
I thought it kind of funny.
Not even close.
"Anime is for jerks" is a reference to something Jeff said back in the Gamespot days.  
Posted by HS21

I don't like twin stick shooters so I'm not getting this. 

Posted by MindOST
*Modern Warfare 2 does insanely well on metacritic* 
 
Fans: I don't like this game; critics are stupid! 
 
*Catherine does well on metacritic* 
 
Fans: Jeff is stupid because he doesn't agree with all the other critics!
Posted by DukeTogo

I'm glad to see that at least one reviewer didn't get swept up in the hype of this "game".  This should never have seen a release outside Japan, let alone at full price.  Giving high score reviews for this as some sort of statement against the current saturation of FPS and violent games isn't what a reviewer's job is about, it's telling the average game buyer if the experience is worth the money and time to play it.
 
I've been pretty vocal about game press lately, and even this site has had me upset about the coverage of the "lesser" games that get shit on for not being the next Uncharted or Gears sequel, but this is an example of a review that doesn't try to manipulate people or depict the reviewer as someone who is one of the cool kids that understands why it's so great.  It's a crappy game and when it's on sale next month it might be worth your $20.

Posted by King_Jun

I looove this game~ and good review. 
 
Other than Jeff clearly not liking this game, the review tells you exactly what you're in for so if you are on the fence this review is perfect for you. And ffs there's a demo on xbl and psn, if you loved the demo and find that this review is changing your mind on your purchase you are retarded, this review is basically the demo in text form. If you like the demo = buy the game.

Edited by Gerhabio

OH WOW... I'm surprised the Persona team coudn't make a better story but then they've been writting teen tales for a while.

I like how Jeff will not take anything less than an mature adult story when a game self-professes to have one.

Now to read the raging/depressed comments of Atlus groupies.

Posted by dvorak

@MindOST said:

*Modern Warfare 2 does insanely well on metacritic*

Fans: I don't like this game; critics are stupid!

*Catherine does well on metacritic*

Fans: Jeff is stupid because he doesn't agree with all the other critics!

Pretty much.

Posted by Sergio

@DaBuddaDa said:

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

He never looked THAT racist to me.

Posted by Ithryn

Ty for this review Jeff, it was obvious that if you don't like anime, you wouldn't like this game at all.
In my personal opinion , I hate the sex sells mentality of this game, Because I mean, It's the only thing it has in its favor. It was so blatantly in your face in the trailers, that it was not even funny.
 
long history short, it's my opinion and my english is poopy. :P

Edited by Zeik
@DukeTogo: Or maybe they actually enjoyed the game enough to give it a good review? Jeff has every right to give it the score he did, just like anyone else has the right to score it well. It's complete ignorance to assume that the only reason someone would rate a game like this well is as some kind of statement.
Posted by Catolf
@Cyrisaurus said:
@Catolf: sounds like u mad. You probably are, based on your avatar.
wait how am I mad? Cause I'm agreeing that Jeff has a opinion? He didn't enjoy the game, which is fine, his like of a game has no hamper on me sweety.
 
@Kajaah117: Really? Duh..XP
Posted by theuselessgod

Completely agree. Played through it, not a fan. I loved the Persona games, but only people who just love everything out of japan regardless of quality will think this game is anything beyond a subpar dating/romance sim and a subpar block pushing puzzle.  
It's interesting enough to merit a rent for sure, but I really can't suggest throwing down $60 for it. Good review, Jeff. 

Posted by Sergio

@GioVANNI said:

@Ygg said:
@zameer said:

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

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

The game's great and getting damn good scores everywhere else including user reviews. I'll just ignore this review as I do most these days.
You're going to ignore this review solely because it's critical? That's extremely naive.

I think he's ignoring it because it's an outlier. He might ignore it because of other reasons. Doesn't make him naive.

While some people need to calm down about his review, others need to realize not all of the reviews here would be in synch with others' personal tastes.

Posted by Catolf
@DukeTogo said:
I'm glad to see that at least one reviewer didn't get swept up in the hype of this "game".  This should never have seen a release outside Japan, let alone at full price.  Giving high score reviews for this as some sort of statement against the current saturation of FPS and violent games isn't what a reviewer's job is about, it's telling the average game buyer if the experience is worth the money and time to play it.  I've been pretty vocal about game press lately, and even this site has had me upset about the coverage of the "lesser" games that get shit on for not being the next Uncharted or Gears sequel, but this is an example of a review that doesn't try to manipulate people or depict the reviewer as someone who is one of the cool kids that understands why it's so great.  It's a crappy game and when it's on sale next month it might be worth your $20.
I love this guy.. You tell'm! /sarcasm
Posted by Winsord

@oysteinBrenne: His opinion differs from yours, so it's obviously a bad review, right? If he didn't like the game, he didn't like the game. It's nothing to get upset over; it's an opinion.

Posted by FateOfNever

Boom, called it.  I also don't entirely agree with Jeff, but, I knew this was coming when he started nitpicking complaints during the bombcast.  But, alas, this is still his opinion of a game he didn't find enjoyable, so trying to argue the matter isn't really productive as he's allowed to have an opinion just as much as anyone else is.  I just certainly don't think it was deserving of two stars considering the game itself isn't actually that poorly made, it was just filled with content that didn't appeal to him.  It would be like Vinny trying to review Flower or something.

Posted by Joeyoe31

>Loves Pac-com for having Arcade Style gameplay (Meaning trying to get better high scores)
>Hates Catherine for having Arcade Style gameplay.
No seriously stop this shit.
>Opinions

Posted by ClamFTW

Well played sir, well played. Excellent review.

Posted by TheSilentTruth

I was super hyped for this game when I didn't know much about it other than that team Persona is behind it. Then I learned that the gamplay is puzzle based and become less enthusiastic about it. And now I think that I'm just going to wait on it.

Edited by Kajaah117
@Catolf: I did a quick search and "Anime is for jerks" is also the second entry in the Giantbomb meme thread. Warning: prepare to spend at least an hour in that thread upon opening it. =P
Posted by Steve_C

Seems fair. The block gameplay never seemed too appealing to me. Not to support a full game at any rate. Who knows when/if it'll come out over here, but it's not something i'd ever want to pay full price for.
 
More power to people actually enjoying it.

Edited by Marokai
@Korne said:

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).

Seems like a very respectful review, indeed. You wouldn't really consider it a 2-star review considering the tone.
 
Seems like the game just isn't Jeff's thing, which is pretty much what I expected. I don't know what variety he expected in block puzzles, but it's a shame either way. At least almost everywhere else is giving the game a good reception. I'm sure Jeff is happy to have this whole Catherine saga behind him considering the community fervor for the game.
Posted by Apathylad

Raters gonna rate.

Posted by DeShawn2ks

2 stars.......uh oh what did I miss?

Posted by vidiot
@Cyrisaurus said:
@Catolf: sounds like u mad. You probably are, based on your avatar.
Disagreeing with a joke, does not equate you for being "mad". Cease-fire, son. 
You go down that train of logic, and you begin complaining that everyone who love's JRPG's enjoys the games, because they have anime avatars. Don't encourage that type of thinking. 
 
Go after Catolf for her lack of humor.
Posted by LiquidPrince

I suspected as much but totally disagree with Jeff. I love this game so much. But Jeff is always pretty clear in his review about why he gives it what he does.

Posted by lizzard2
Seems like a fair score for a game you only push blocks and watch cut scenes for hours..Wish i was as easily entertained as some people..
Edited by Catolf
@Kajaah117 said:

@Catolf: I did a quick search and "Anime is for jerks" is also the second entry in the Giantbomb meme thread. Warning: prepare to spend at least an hour in that thread upon opening it. =P

...um.. I knew about that whole thing since i joined.. so..okay?
 
@vidiot said:

@Cyrisaurus said:

@Catolf: sounds like u mad. You probably are, based on your avatar.
Disagreeing with a joke, does not equate you for being "mad". Cease-fire, son.  You go down that train of logic, and you begin complaining that everyone who love's JRPG's enjoys the games, because they have anime avatars. Don't encourage that type of thinking.   Go after Catolf for her lack of humor.
I HAVE NO HUMOR BITCHES.. AND BITCHES GET STITCHES! *cuts*
Posted by FCKSNAP

2 stars is not as bad as 8.8.

Anyone remember that? And Lost Planet 2? Good times.

Edited by Carlos1408

I was really excited about this game until I found out the whole gameplay was just block jumping and puzzle based, I'm not surprised by this review and agree. Not enough variety in gameplay. I was hoping the story could make up for that, but apparently it's not that great. Might give it a skip. Kudos for trying to make something original though.

Posted by vidiot
@Catolf said:
@vidiot said:
@Cyrisaurus said:
@Catolf: sounds like u mad. You probably are, based on your avatar.
Disagreeing with a joke, does not equate you for being "mad". Cease-fire, son.  You go down that train of logic, and you begin complaining that everyone who love's JRPG's enjoys the games, because they have anime avatars. Don't encourage that type of thinking.   Go after Catolf for her lack of humor.
I HAVE NO HUMOR BITCHES.. AND BITCHES GET STITCHES! *cuts*
o.O
 
Someone needs a hug...Just...Put the knife down...
Edited by Gerhabio

@oysteinBrenne said:

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

Just... just get out.

You're being mean.

Edited by thuiscool

One of the few times I disagree with Jeff. I personally got hooked by the gameplay and enjoying it. Good review nonetheless. I'm curious which ending Jeff ended up getting.

Posted by Kajaah117
@Catolf: I must have read your posts wrong because it sounded like you didn't know about the meme. My bad.
Posted by Origina1Penguin

@Catolf said:

@Origina1Penguin said:

The five star system shows the reviewer's level of recommendation. It's not a grade.

Are you sure about that? It's a grade on how you as the person reviewing feels the game is more or less to you. Either way, a two is a two.. to jeff this is a two, to me i could go four. Maybe three and a quarter. I don't hate him for it, he's got an opinion, i got mine, as you have yours.

Yeah, I'm sure, but I'm not going to argue semantics. I agree with you.

Posted by Catolf
@vidiot said:
@Catolf said:
@vidiot said:
@Cyrisaurus said:
@Catolf: sounds like u mad. You probably are, based on your avatar.
Disagreeing with a joke, does not equate you for being "mad". Cease-fire, son.  You go down that train of logic, and you begin complaining that everyone who love's JRPG's enjoys the games, because they have anime avatars. Don't encourage that type of thinking.   Go after Catolf for her lack of humor.
I HAVE NO HUMOR BITCHES.. AND BITCHES GET STITCHES! *cuts*
o.O  Someone needs a hug...Just...Put the knife down...
*froth*
 
@Kajaah117 said:
@Catolf: I must have read your posts wrong because it sounded like you didn't know about the meme. My bad.

I was confused why you kept showing me at first..lol. It's fine.
Posted by Tsai

Bonetown is better

Posted by smcn

The art style makes me excited for Persona 5. Other than that, the only thing I can say after beating Catherine in one 11-hour sitting is that it's the most Japanese game I've ever played.

Posted by bhhawks78

I hate the gameplay.

LOVE the story.

Hate some of the mechanics of the story (just let me pick from a list of text message options instead of backing out ten times!)

Don't need to throw a fit just because Jeff and me didn't enjoy the same game.

Posted by Cybexx

It seems to me that Catherine is a game that would create a wide difference of opinions. I am actually shocked at how well it has been reviewing, not that it wouldn't get high scores but I didn't think it would get so many, this will actually be the first score under 70 on Metacritic.

Personally I grabbed the Japanese version of Catherine after watching the quick look and true to my nature only ended up playing the first couple hours. Grabbed the North American version yesterday and ended up playing through almost half of it (by my guess) in one sitting. I'm enjoying both the story and the gameplay a fair bit, the block pushing has been challenging and occasionally stressful (I decided to play on Normal despite the game going to great effort to caution me) I think the feeling of stress in the gameplay and the stress that Vincent feels in the story manage to sync up in an interesting way for me. Most games are stress relieving experiences so it is interesting to have a game that plays with that, though obviously its going to create a difference of opinion to if this is a good thing or not. I think the game spurs discussions about how its thematics work into both the story and the gameplay, any game that can achieve that is pushing the medium forward which is a good thing, even if the execution isn't perfect.

I do think Jeff has a point about the characters being a bit shallow or at least stuck in their ways. You kind of know what they are about the first time you meet most of them and everything they say just enforces that. The choices you make in the game only slightly push Vincent in one direction or another, though its nice that it has some effect throughout the game and not just the ending which is more than most games with a moral choice system can say. I wonder if the shallowness is an attempt to make each character easy to read. Everyone is the game is either on one side of the game's meter or the other, expect for Vincent who straddles the fence.

Posted by joshth
@GioVANNI said:

                @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?
           

why would it not?  I want the people I respect to not hate things I like.
Posted by HydraHam

Saw this coming the day they released the trailer, game looks incredibly boring.

Posted by Ramone

I don't understand what people are talking about when they say this game is so different. The puzzle mechanics don't seem that inspired to be honest and the story isn't exactly grabbing me. Is it something that I'm missing? Also, yet again, a stellar review from GB.

Posted by ThePickle

Still buying it.

Posted by tempest

I'll never knock a review for being "wrong," but I'm scratching my head about this one.

Edited by ptys
Can't imagine wanting to play a glorified puzzle game on a large TV screen. Why not just watch an anime and save yourself the gameplay time on something good?