When you start Catherine you’re not really sure what’s going on. What you do know is that you are looking at Vincent. Vincent is in his underwear. He has horns on his head. Vincent is surrounded by sheep and standing at the base of strange wall. Suddenly you are forced to climb as the floor beneath you begins to crumble away. Oddly if it was any other way it just wouldn’t feel as right.
Controls are a vital part of any game (hey there Captain Obvious!). If they are not spot on the game becomes infuriating and frustrating. This, more often than not, is the case with Catherine. While I’m not ruling out that this is by design to add a new element of difficulty to the game, it did seem that I felt a very frequent and overwhelming urge to break my controller in half and throw it into a wood chipper because Vincent either moved or didn’t move how I instructed him to.
The controls for Catherine were, however, delightfully simple. This was a fantastic boon for the game since there was a very present time limit that is chasing after you, in some instances very literally and also while screaming. There were few simple options during the game: move in a direction, grab a block, use whatever power up you have and from time to time you get to talk or to text. Very simple. But it was the movement that became a little fuzzy. It’s this level of “fuzz” that takes away from Catherine’s delightfully simple controls. When precise movements mean the difference between life and death it’s the precision that needs to be in place before the simplicity.
Catherine’s controls get a 3 out of 5.
Catherine is a game that is quite unlike any other. Right from the onset you are are thrust into a wonderfully realized world that is full of confusion and chaotic fear. More often than not you will be asking yourself, “What is the correct answer? What is the correct course of action?” With no clear choice of right and wrong you are literally forced to make a choice between two possible answers. Sometimes you may not even agree with these answers. For example the question was posed “Do you believe that life begins or ends at marriage?” You literally have to answer this question in order to progress the game. It does not matter if you agree with either of the decisions, but you do have to answer. It’s these answers that will ultimately determine the outcome of the game.
In both the dream world and the real world time always flows. There are certain things you can do to stop it like check your phone or play a video game (within the video game) but other than that time keeps on moving. In the real world there are people you can talk to and learn interesting bits of information about the denizens of the world. However you have to act quick because if you don’t talk to them quick enough, they wind up moving on with their evening and you may not be able to help them.
Then there is the difficulty. Catherine is not what you would call easy. It is hard. It’s hard because of this always moving time frame. Once you start to work with the puzzles the dropping floor comes up faster than you expect it to. This is without the bosses. You throw them into the mix and you have a confusing puzzle that is quickly getting smaller and smaller while something tries the falcon kick you, chop you, or crush you into paste. Each time you die you see one more continue go away, and with it…a small piece of your pride.
The ability to base a game on your decisions is not something new or unique to a video game anymore. However the always moving, always flowing time frame that takes place in Catherine adds a wonderfully finite dynamic that is something I wish more games carried through. It’s this sense of constant urgency that gives Catherine a special edge.
Catherine’s gameplay gets a 4 out of 5
Catherine is an exquisitely beautiful game. This is no secret. The pre-rendered anime cutscenes are definitely well drawn. While the anime style may not be for everyone it is certainly something that I enjoyed. But what struck me was how well the rest of the game lived up to this style.
There is little else to say other than it is so beautifully crafted and rendered that it absolutely deserves recognition
Catherine’s Graphics get a 5 out of 5
This is a game that will automatically default you to the easy setting. It’s not that Catherine doesn’t believe in you, it just knows precisely how frustrating it is and it wants you to enjoy it’s story. It’s the story that will carry you through the game. As you climb you interact with other people. As you interact you begin to learn more and more about them. Learning about their problems you begin to know them. When you see them at each landing between climbs you are happy to see they made it. When they perish you are met with a sense of grief.
Then there is the real world and your friends and bar patrons. Their struggles and stories keep you gripped to the world. The game ceases to be the standalone tale of Vincent and his peccadilloes. The game becomes a living breathing world with surprisingly deep and rich characters who’s lives and problems you begin to genuinely care about. The time in between climbs becomes treasured moments of dialogue and depth that is rarely seen in a game these days.
While the game itself is short I find myself wishing that I could have spent more time in the Stray Sheep talking to friends. It’s the calm and subtle down time of alcohol and conversation that ultimately keeps you gripped to the game and wanting more. It’s the brief interludes on the landings between climbs that somehow manage to be small but powerful.
Catherine’s Story gets a 5 out of 5
Overall Catherine is a solid and well put together video game. While the controls were the biggest point of contention they should in no way, shape, or form detract anyone from purchase. With multiple possible endings to both Catherine and (surprisingly) the in-game video game the replayability is sure to keep fans coming back for more. Atlus has absolutely just delivered a winner with this one.
Catherine gets an overall score of 4 out of 5.
Now, first person to answer the name of the game within the game and it’s endings gets the first ever Ass Stamp of Approval.