Initial NA Release Date: July 26, 2011
Review Date: November 9, 2016
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
A love-triangle, chattering sheep, mysterious deaths, and a lot of alcohol, it’s no wonder why Vincent Brooks; the protagonist of Catherine, can’t get a good night’s sleep. As Vince’s mind continues to ponder over his future, so do his decisions grow harder and dreams grow stranger.
Adult narratives in games are not usually depicted too often without the overwhelming use of violence, and the matter of adultery is a rare concept that centers the plot of a game. However, Catherine manages to tell a mature story that focuses on the inner turmoil of the heart and how it affects everyday life relationships.
Presentation – The 3D cell shaded anime look is certainly an interesting approach to Catherine’s art direction, the character models still maintain their over exaggerated features like the unique anime hairstyles, or comical facial reactions, but the cell shaded look gives the characters the maturity that is necessary when considering the game’s narrative. There are a few performance hiccups like screen tearing between cut scenes, but those issues are few and far between.
In-game sound and voice performances is definitely one of the highlights of the game, the cast in its entirety does a superb job with the roles given, almost every voice is matched perfectly to the respected character’s personality. The only slight issue the game experiences regarding its vocal performance is when characters talk over each other, it doesn’t happen often, but enough to notice throughout the playthrough.
Although not quite on the same level as previous works from Shoji Meguro; the composer of Catherine, the soundtrack is still sneakily good, its serves its purpose in setting the tone, and even when it seems to just blend all together in the background, there are tracks in the game that really separate themselves from the rest of the playlist.
Gameplay – As good and innovative the puzzle-platforming in Catherine is, it was the part I least anticipated to go through during my playthrough. The game’s best attributes are the times that are spent outside of nightmare climbing. Walking around the bar, conversing with people, alcohol trivia, playing the arcade game Rapunzel, and even deciding what to text on your phone. Those aspects of Catherine are truly what makes the game more enjoyable and the plot more interesting and engaging.
The core puzzle-platforming is solid, the mechanics are sound, and the game does a good job of getting you up to speed with new climbing techniques as the levels grow more difficult. The innovation of the platforming is stellar, although the goal of reaching the top is always the same, how you get there changes after every nightmare.
The implementation of different blocks like ice blocks that make you slide across blocks, or trap blocks that trigger spikes after you climb on top of them, as well as many other blocks that carry different attributes all aid in keeping the task of climbing unpredictable and lively. However, the only platforming woe Catherine encounters is with its difficulty, reaching your goal is certainly not impossible, but even on Normal Difficulty, trial and error was a factor that did extend to the point of frustration at times.
Despite its superb puzzle-platforming mechanics, the narrative of Catherine is the aspect of the game that truly steals the show. The decisive factor of doing what you think is right vs living carefree, is the constant battle in Vince’s psyche, and how he communicates with Catherine, Katherine, and others in addition to the choices he makes will tip the scale to how the story unfolds.
Although the storyline of Vince is the main focus, the side stories Vince’s friends and the other patrons in the Stray Sheep, whom are also experiencing nightmares, are interesting small pieces within themselves that touch on betrayal of some kind, even be it not adultery. Getting to know these characters better throughout the plot progression makes it all the more tragic if and when they are done in by their nightmares.
Final Impression – In spite the fact that the level design and core puzzle-platforming mechanics of Catherine are solidly structured and innovative, that aspect of the game is perhaps its weakest, which is a quite the compliment on what the rest of the game’s aspects have to offer. The great voice cast, mature narrative, and decision based adventure elements Catherine features is what genuinely gives the game its personality and sets its mature tone.
Aside from a few problems that are easy to look past, such as the screen tearing, voice-over line issues that occur on seldom occasion, and the intermediate to high level difficulty spike throughout the nightmares, the only true gripe I had with the Game is its linear nature. The game does have variety to keep things interesting within the nightmare and bar sections, however those are the only two sections in the game that are actively played through. The rest of the game is shown through cut scenes that are either in-game or animated.
Another change of scenery or different gameplay mechanic would have been a nice balance that would have aided the pacing of the game, but nevertheless, Catherine does enough with its core platforming and adventure mechanics to support its unique adult-oriented narrative.
+ Vocal performances
+ Adventure Elements
+ Innovative puzzle-platforming mechanics
– Occasional performance issues
– Difficulty spikes rapidly
Final Score – 8.4/10 Great