When the team behind the Persona series showed the trailer for Catherine, people were left baffled. Is it an RPG, some strange sex simulation, or what? When the puzzle elements were finally shown, it was even more confusing. Does Catherine succeed in combining a sexy, mature story with a block puzzler?
Players are Vincent Brooks who quickly finds himself in a pickle in the beginning of the game. His girlfriend Katherine wants to get married, he’s having terrible nightmares, and he cheats “accidentally” with another Catherine. The game revolves around making choices in favor of either girl along with figuring out the reason for Vincent’s nightmares and the mysterious deaths around him. The story is presented through cut-scenes, an interactive bar, and cell phone texts. It’s a slow start, but ramps up quickly and keeps you engaged until the end. It’s an adult story unlike anything games have dealt with before. It may at times tease too much without any pay off and there are a few clichés, but it’s great nonetheless.
The game plays out in two ways. After a few cut-scenes in-between nightmares, players will take control of Vincent in the Stray Sheep Bar. Here he can interact with his phone, other patrons and even play an arcade machine. You can leave any time and once you do Vincent will go to bed and awake in a nightmare realm. Here Vincent must solve block puzzles to reach the top and escape death. It may sound basic, but the difficulty ramps up fast. Nothing is ever impossible, but the difficulty can be a turn off at times.
The anime style cel-shading fits the story well and the inclusion of both English and Japanese dubs will appease both sides of fans. The actual anime snippets look obviously better than the in-game engine’s, but that’s to be expected. The music is nothing exceptional, but it fits the game’s dark tone well.
Catharine is a unique game. The adult story meshed with a puzzle game is bizarre, but the developers pulled it off. While there’s a reason to play through it twice, it’s for the story and not the puzzles. They’re rewarding, but I wouldn’t call them fun, or engaging. Despite that flaw and a few others, this game is not to be missed. It’s an example that shows video games can tell a mature story and not in an immature way.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on January 17, 2012 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.