Catherine is a 2011 puzzle platformer game for the PS3 and Xbox 360. It was made and published by Atlus, specifically the Persona Team, with Katsura Hashino as director and Shigenori Soejima as artist, featuring the music of Shoji Meguro.
Catherine tells the story of Vincent Brook who has strange nightmares every night which he can’t remember when he wakes up. The nightmares are about him climbing up giant stairs with other anthropomorphic sheep. It is said that these nightmares are caused by a witch and anyone who dies in the nightmare dies in real life. In his waking moments, he is stressed about commitment with Katherine, his longtime girlfriend. Things become worst when he starts having an affair with the mysterious Catherine who turns up in his bed every morning without him realizing how she got there.
The game features eight endings, one of which I’ve seen and which the review will be based around.
There’s something rather unique about Catherine that hasn’t really been seen in other games before. It deals with the issue of infidelity and more importantly the want of a wild life versus an orderly one, which Catherine and Katherine represents respectively. During the waking parts of the game, the player controls Vincent to either maintain his relationship with Kathrine or leave her for Catherine. These is mainly done through the sending of text messages. It also deals with a lot of social issues, something that is also often seen in Persona games. For example, one victim of the “witch’s curse” has been sexually abused as a child and as a result has become a womanizer as he finds it hard to love. There’s also a transgender in the game, whose true gender is not really pointed out until the end of the game. (In my case. I think in some endings it’s not pointed out at all.) But I have to wonder how the hell Toby lost his V-Card to her without realizing it.
The side characters in the game are also interesting too. From Vincent’s friends to the people in the bar, Stray Sheep, who you can interact with. Most of who are also victims of the “witch’s curse”. My personal favorite was Toby. His naivety and optimism really stood out in the dark and often gloomy atmosphere of the bar.
To be honest, both Catherine and Katherine are pretty shitty people. Both are quite manipulative. One seduced Vincent and the other has a passive aggressive attitude that seeks to control Vincent. In some ways, it can be seen as good, as it forces players to choose without any of them being an outright “correct” choice. Barring the infidelity, of course. On the other hand, I would have preferred to have two very good people and having to choose between them. Now that would have been a difficult choice to make.
Controls are… I want to say unintuitive? Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve played one too many Assassin’s Creed, but I kept hitting X to climb up the blocks. And you know what X does in Catherine? If there isn’t a box directly below you, you fall. Often to your death.
I’m indifferent about the puzzle platforming portions of the game. It was okay, I guess, nothing to shout home about. I often felt like it was a chore to get through each night and I just want to finish up the puzzle section and go back to the walk around and talk with people section. That part just wasn’t for me. It is a large part of the game, but I still found the overall game enjoyable. But your mileage may vary. There are several stages that are particularly frustrating and I had to use a video guide to proceed. Beyond that however, there’s always a sense of satisfaction, albeit a very small one, at the end of each stage.
It’s been five years since the game first released. What’s taking Atlus so long with Persona 5? I really hope it’s coming this year. I’m banking on summer, together with the Japanese release… but we’ll see. Hopefully after Persona 5, we’ll see another smaller title like Catherine. Maybe even featuring the Golden Playhouse. It would be cool to see some sort of episodic game where each episode revolves a different personal tale told through the Golden Playhouse.
Catherine is a truly unique game that really needs to be experienced by all gamers. You might not like it if you don’t like puzzles AND don’t like story based games but other than that you should give it a try.