Catherine is a very special game, and also a very special combination of a story with many layers and gameplay that on one side seems completely detached, and on the other side is the perfect metaphore for it.
You’re Vincent, a 30something who’s a bit stuck between his worryless life of before and the pressure of a grown-up future. He has nothing better to do than letting his life pass by and at night have a drink (or a few more). In some way he did manage to get a girlfriend who’s rather beautiful and ambitious. Katherine – with a K – seemed to us a bit high maintenance, but you want to progress in life and according to her that means getting a diamond ring on her finger.
Our antihero gets quite nervous from the idea he would get married and suddenly someone else pops up: Catherine with a C, a beautiful girl who at first sight looks very appealing but also appears to have a dangerous dark side. The start of very estranging escapades, difficult decisions and dark adventures for him and us, especially when at the same time an epidemic of mysterious deaths starts amongst male 30somethings.
You’ll spend a large part of your time in the Stray Sheep, Vincent’s favorite bar where you have a drink with your friends and accidental tourists, hear their daily happenings and can answer any questions with the help of interesting dialogue options. That way you can truly enjoy the story and give it your own interpretation. There are quite a lot of different endings keeping the replayability high. Next to that you also get busy with your telephone and the messages you receive from your girlfriends – a bit as in real life so to speak. Even though with Vincent things happen a bit different than with you and us. At least, we hope so.
Handling a threesome is one thing, but at night things become a lot stranger. Vincent’s nightmares put him between sheep (yep, those terrifying creatures) and in his dream he needs to climb all kinds of constructions by moving blocks in the right place and order. A platform puzzle! You push and pull different kinds of blocks so constantly get higher. These mental challenges only get bigger as the bottom blocks slowly but steadily fall in an abyss or because you’re being chased by terrifying creatures. Stress guaranteed and even more when you find out there are quite some links between your daytime life and the one in your nightmares.
Unfortunately the deep gameplay also has a frustrating side. The controls aren’t always as tight and sometimes you really need to look hard for a solution, making you have to restart several times. Luckily there are clues but the makers could have explained things better here and there. Persistence is the message as in exchange there’s a lot of satisfaction to be received and those who love a challenge certainly have one with this game.
There’s also a very useful Wiki online and in Europe we’ve received an “Easy” setting that makes things a bit… easier. Still, it remains a matter of trying and often restarting. But you’ll do it with a smile on your face thanks to the setting, the story, and the discovering of what the makers cooked up for your next nightmare.
The devs were clearly ambitious with this game. Not only does the story use general questions of life and filosophical matters that make you think harder than you might want to, they also explicitly ask how we (or was it Vincent?) would handle matters like loyalty and adultery. You now and then get a question regarding those themes and after answering you get to see the average gamer’s response. Interesting! Apparently about half the gamers find themselves to be a pervert and a small minority has even had a nosebleed from excitement once.
It’s difficult to describe what Catherine is. The puzzling is a very challenging part but on itself not good enough to make this game a top title. However, the setting is too original, estranging and innovative to let the game pass you by. The themes are adult and are brought over in a subtle way. On top of that the bizarre characters and monsters are too much fun (and Catherine too sexy) to not experience them. Whether you would catalog Catherine as a must-have or a curiosum is a matter of personal taste but you’re a pussy if you don’t challenge yourself to find out the answer.