Monday, 3 March 2014

Review - Catherine (PS3)

Life is like a puzzle without a solution.

Welcome to Catherine, a dark romantic horror story from the creative minds behind the Persona series.  The game involves Vincent Brooks, a 32 year old office worker who is currently in a long term relationship with his high school love, Katherine McBride.  She nags Vincent a lot about his lifestyle choices but this is only because she cares about him.  The only issue is that Vincent does not really know what he wants out of his life and when Katherine talks about marriage he panics.  He wastes every night drinking and eating with his “supportive” friends at his local bar, The Stray Sheep.  He is living a single man’s life whilst in a relationship and this is proved when a young lady enters his life one drunken night.  Her name is Catherine, a 22 year old beauty who has a carefree attitude – just what Vincent wants.  The next morning he wakes up, unsure of the night before, lying next to her.  He had cheated on Katherine and this is where the core of the game begins.

For the next week, Vincent experiences bad nightmares where if you die before you wake, you die in real life.  Within the nightmares, Vincent encounters other sheep stuck in the same situation as him.
From this point in the game you are introduced to how it will play out until the end.  You complete the nightmare each night and then you are rewarded with the next day’s story.  Once that has played out you spend the evening hanging out at the bar talking to your friends and various patrons.  As the days go by you will notice a connection between these regulars and the sheep in the nightmares.

As the story takes up the majority of the game, this is just a brief look into the crazy adventure you will have whilst playing Catherine.  The main game play takes place turning the Nightmares, when it changes from interactive novel into a clever puzzle game.  Be warned though, these puzzles are not for the faint hearted.
You are presented with the puzzle of climbing a huge tower made out of blocks avoiding death whilst you do it.  This is achieved by the player using Vincent to move block to create steps.  For the first few nights climbing the tower is quite straight forward – the solutions are easier to see.  As the nights go on, the towers become more and more challenging.  The solutions are a lot hard to see and you need to use techniques learnt from interacting with the other sheep.  But, the game does not think making the visible solution easy to spot.  It throws different block style;

  • White blocks – these are the “normal” blocks which move at a standard speed
  • Unmovable blocks – this will only move with gravity and not by Vincent. There are always in a position where you would pray for a movable one!
  • Dark blocks – just like the white ones, but take more effort to move
  • Cracked blocks – these blocks are visible weaker which crack and eventually break when walked over
  • Ice blocks – if Vincent walks onto one of these blocks he will slide across them until he hits a non-ice block. These blocks are easily the worst! If you reach the edge of the tower and still sliding, you will slide of the edge. Worst still is if there are no other blocks underneath you to stop your fall, well you die.

These are just a few blocks you will come across during your nightmares.  Some are useful but the majority are there just there to cause you trouble.  To help you along the way you can pick up various items and even buy them at the end of each stage.  Items include replay pillows, the ability to create a block out of thin air and the ability to turn all the blocks into White Blocks.  There are many other items along the way but you will have to play it to find out what they are.

Each nightmare is split up into 2 to 4 stages with the final stage being a boss.  This boss is usually a reincarnation of Vincent’s worst fear of that particular day.
The puzzles themselves get harder and harder each night, but the game rewards you.  It will leave you on a cliff hanger before the nightmare and the only way to find out what happens next is by completing that night’s puzzle.
Saying that though the nightmare section of Catherine is where most players will turn their nose up at it.  The puzzles can be extremely difficult to some players and you will find yourself dying many times.  If you are not willing to learn how to get past these puzzles, they you will be spending the majority of the games in the nightmare and not being engrossed in the fantastic story.  In fact, this could be here on purpose.  The puzzles become your own personal nightmare which you find hard to escape.

The visuals of Catherine are primarily an Anime developed bye Studio 4oC.  This is achieved by using sharp 2D animation for the cut scenes and cell shaded models during any interaction sequences, such as the nightmares and spending time in the bar.  Just imagine Wind Waker or Borderlands but with lots and lots of sheep.
The soundtrack is as fantastic as the story itself.  Whilst you spend your nights in the bar you can change the background music by using the jukebox.  There is a huge range of tracks including ones from the Persona series.  During the nightmare stages you are treated to some classical music.  Somehow it must help you get to sleep easier.
For a game which has such complicated game play, the control scheme is very simple.  You use the left stick to move Vincent around, X makes him grab the blocks for moving and Square uses the item you are currently holding.  Outside of the nightmare in the bar, the only extra controls are to drown your sorrows and to check your phone as Catherine is always keen to send you some pictures.

You can make your way through the main story in just over 8 hours but there is plenty more task which you can take on one you complete this.  In each nightmare level you are award a rank depending on how well you do, so you can go back to them and better yourself.  Within the bar there is the mini game Rapunzel, which is an arcade game based upon the nightmare levels.  This arcade game I found to be a lot harder than the nightmare levels themselves.  But if you are persistent you can save the princess from the tower and even unlock a secret level.  Out side the game, there is Babel's Tower.  This is just like the nightmares but an endless mode.  This can be completed either alone or with a friend.  The goal is to see how high you can get , without dying by using all the skills you have learnt in the main game.
If not of that takes your fancy and you just loved the main game, well there are various difficulty setting which adjust how challenging the nightmare stages are.

Catherine is a breath of fresh air in a gaming world full of very similar games.  From the moment I started playing this game until the very end, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It has a story which sucks you in, the characters are well scripted and you can feel their emotionally pain all the time.  Even though the puzzles can be very challenging, it helped balance the game.  Catherine could have easily been a visual novel with players interacting every now and again (very much like Beyond Two Souls) but with the puzzles it encouraged players to push through them to find out what happens next with the story.  Saying this, the puzzles are not every ones cup of tea and will give up very easily.  For me, I find this very disheartening as Catherine offers a very unique experience which I would recommend to anyone.

I would happily award this game 10/10 but with the tiny flaw, of that it is not for everyone I award this game 9/10.  But I also award it a very special award;

Most Underrated Game of the Last Generation (PS3/X360)

一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九/O


One last thing... sleep tight.......

..............and try not to fall too far :)


  1. THIS! If you are not willing to learn how to get past these puzzles, they you will be spending the majority of the games in the nightmare and not being engrossed in the fantastic story. In fact, this could be here on purpose. The puzzles become your own personal nightmare which you find hard to escape.
    I was willing to learn but i got stuck many times this game become a nightmare. I loved the story but i got stuck at some point or smashed my controller on the ground thanks to falling to death for the 10 th time in a row.

  2. Tip : Youtube ;)