Catherine (360)

A tale of two women…

Part puzzler, part dating sim, part anime show; Catherine takes elements of each to create something refreshing and frustrating. You play as Vincent, a whiny, commitment phobic Manchild who is struggling to deal with his girlfriend Katherine’s desire to move their relationship on to the next level with her hints at marriage.

One night Catherine, an embodiment of Vincent’s ideal woman, appears at his usual hang-out, The Stray Sheep, and they end up spending the night together. This is unfortunate timing for Vincent as at the same time the phenomenon of adulterous young men being found dead in their beds is making headline news. It is from this point that each time Vincent goes to sleep he sprouts horns, turns into a sheep, and you have to save him from his death by completing challenging block-moving puzzles every night. The puzzles are difficult and become even more so when you are being chased by the nightmarish products of Vincent’s subconscious, such as a talking giant baby. The puzzles are fun but are at times frustrating when you are eager to move on to the next piece of the story but just keep dying; although it is immensely satisfying when you finally complete one you have been struggling with.

In between the puzzles you interact with the other characters, chatting to your mates at The Stray Sheep, having amusing exchanges with other ‘sheep’ just before a puzzle, and texting both your love interests. The dialogue choices you make affect the story and eventually determine whether you end up with your long-term dull girlfriend Katherine, or the cute-with-a-touch-of-crazy Catherine. Katherine sends texts nagging you about, well pretty much everything, whereas Catherine sends you provocative photo messages. There are multiple endings depending on how you have behaved but it is hard to believe that, if we were not making his choices for him, Vincent would independently choose to stay with Katherine over Catherine.

The game attempts to get players thinking about the meaning of relationships, displaying well known quotes about love during loading screens and asking the players to answer questions about their thoughts on the subject. This is an interesting dynamic and I like that the game is trying to get us to think, but as your answers to these questions effect the plot, and it is pretty obvious how they effect it, they are usually answered based on what direction the player wants the story to take.

Catherine is a good looking game with a cool art style and sound track. After the manic pace of the puzzles the scenes in the Stray Sheep have a laid back atmosphere and make you feel like you are some hipster guy hanging out at a Japanese bar moaning about your love life to your statement t-shirt wearing pals. The main drive in Catherine is the story; you slog through the puzzles in order to be rewarded with some time chilling and chatting, and finding out what happens next. I would highly recommend Catherine to anyone wanting some light refreshment from the quagmire of samey first person shooters and heavy RPGs that we all spend a lot of time playing. Catherine is like that hip independent boutique you like to pop into every so often – you wouldn’t shop there all the time but its visually more pleasing than the chain stores, makes you feel cool, and provides a refreshing change.

Verdict: 8/10

+Cool art style and soundtrack
+Amusing at times
+Player choices genuinely affect narrative and game ending
– Puzzles can be very difficult, especially on harder settings
– In a game that tries to get the player to think about and question the nature of relationships it unfortunately relies heavily on gender stereotypes in its characterisation

Kimkylet – Kimberley Secker

 

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