A unique game with an excellent story that covers the concepts of relationships in a rather unique way
AltoShadow13 wrote this review on .
His girlfriend Katharine (with a K) however, is ready to tie the knot…something Vincent's not ready to do. The concept of marriage freaks him out and he dabbles on the question throughout the story often retreating to the local watering hole called the Stray Sheep when things get a little too hot to handle, which happens rather often in the story. But things get even more hotter when a sexy bombshell of a babe walks through the door and sits down for a drink with him, also called Catharine (with a C).
It's after this chance meeting that Vincent's problems start to manifest as after his meeting with the lovely Catharine he starts to suffer from seemly unending, morality testing, bed wetting nightmares. And it's from this day and night cycle that the game's structure is set around. You talk with your friends among other people during your time in the Stray Sheep, then after chewing the rug and slamming down a few Rum Colas you may choose to go to sleep. From here the games nightmare sequence will begin where you face the daunting task of climbing up a seemly unending tower of blocks.
So what makes this block puzzle/suspense game so good? The block puzzles are not simply push and climb puzzles with no twists to them, these puzzles require you to climb an ever collapsing tower where the bottom is falling from beneath your feet and the blocks themselves can often turn into dangerous obstacles bent of stabbing you, crushing you, tossing you over the edge, or even tickling you…making you fall to your death.
The puzzles themselves start off rather simple giving you a good introduction into what's to come. As you climb these towers the arrangement of blocks will be easy to read at first but after you advance into later nights the blocks become more dangerous, more complex, and often more taller in structure. However, there are a number of objects you can find along the way to make things easier on yourself. Pillows will give you an extra continue should you die, money found along the way can be used to buy items for use during your many climbs, and even items themselves can be found floating along the sides of the tower or in seemly hard to reach places.
Whether it's worth the effort or not is up to you, just be forewarned you can only hold one item at a time so be careful you don't run into an item you didn't want but now have no choice but to take. However, if that does happen just hit the Redo button and you can Redo your last movement (even get your item back). But don't think you can hit that button until your finger falls off, you can only redo so many times until you hit the limit, than you have no choice but to live with your mistake.
After completing each tower you get to enter into a kind of rest area where other sheep men are counting their blessings, or just kissing the floor. You can talk to each of them, buy items from the sheep guy that's always to the bottom right of the area, and even learn some useful techniques for climbing (something I advice for you to take a look at). You can save your game on a nearby book just before the areas small little church, then when you're ready you can head into the churches confessional both to get ready for another nail biting climb.
I have to say they really set up the atmosphere in this area well with a small church sounding off its bell and a small gargoyle statue holding a sign that says "Freedom" as it points up to the unknown. You can stay as long as you want, but once you're ready to go you still have one more thing to do before you leave. Once you sit down at the confessional the mysterious man on the other side will ask you a question. You have two choices from which to choose from and the choice you make will play a role in how Vincent behaves around both his women.
The questions can range from the serious such as "do you think life begins or ends at marriage?" to comical such as "if someone paid you enough money would you run down the street naked?" as for me…I'd run down that street with the wind on my bum. Regardless of your choice the curtain closes and you're taking off to the next challenge.
You repeat this cycle until you complete the night, often this ends with an intense boss level that has you running from God knows what lurking just beneath your feet. Once you make it out you'll breath a heavy sigh of relief, pump your fist into the air, then make you way out with your head held high…until the next night begins. From here the story will continue and you'll have a chance to see what's up with everyone before you dive back into your twisted land of guilt and morality.
However the games puzzles are not the only thing you're going to have to keep your mind on, there is also the matter of Vincent's own personal meter shown at the bottom of the screen by either a blue angel or a red colored angel (or devil?) and each will react based on how you answered various questions In the game. How Vincent acts is based on this Law and Chaos meter that shows a sense of personal desire versus what people expect of you. Do you dance to the beat of your own drum or do you do what others ask of you? In a sense there is no right or wrong answer to this as it's a mix of personal opinion, personal rights, and what is good for you versus what can hurt you.
Your choices come from both the Bar and in the nightmare as this meter will teeter left and right for the entire game per each choice made until its conclusion. What kind of ending you get is based mainly off of this so choice wisely, albeit easier said than done.
The games difficulty however may be a bit of a turn off for some players so this is not for everyone. As I said earlier the games difficulty starts off rather modest at first but waists' no time in picking up later on. While the towers have checkpoints littered across them; half way through the game they tend to get further and further apart meaning if you die between climbs you're going to have to repeat fairly large chunks again. This is more so near the end where the check points start to feel like golden oases in a desert of endless blocks. While it's not a game breaker it can really cause some unneeded frustration in an otherwise already hard game.
The camera can also be a bit of a problem for better or worse. Outside of boss fights it works with you fairly well albeit it does not turn all the way around the tower but you can still see Vincent pretty well for the most part. In boss fights however the camera can be a real pain as the angle tends to shift in favor of showing both Vincent and the Boss, not something that helps too much when you're in a jam. Depending on how you climb this may get in your way a lot or a little, but for the most part a lot of the movement is handled near the middle taking some of the stress off of you.
The bosses in the game are also a mixed bag of tricks. Some are manageable in that they don't climb to fast nor do they rumble the tower so often so as to send you into a tumble. Others however climb with such speed that if you don't know exactly where you're going you're a dead man. Some may even take advantage of the games rather awkward camera and try to smash you in an angle in which you can't see very well, more so if you climb off to the side in which case good luck because chances are your climbing blind now.
The games soundtrack is nothing short of fantastic coming from the brilliant mind of Shoji Meguro. Mixing both classical and some modern instruments into the mix the music blends in well with Catharine's block puzzles as one level is filled with gentle but soothing violin, and another rocks to the sound of the drums as the violin plays in rhythm with a guitar. Even outside of the nightmare levels you'll find that the music fits the tone of the scene very well never feeling awkward nor lacking in presentation.
The artwork and character expressions are all superbly done each showing distress when the situation turns sour, a cheerful smile form a concerned friend, and a rather comical surprise face from Vincent when he finds Catharine in his bed. The cut scenes are all in anime like quality as the voice actors and voice actress deliver their lines with cheer, sarcasm, and soul chilling anger. The scenes that call for the most emotion are delivered with professional tones of surprise and angst. Whether Vincent cracks a joke, or Katharine demands an answer the voicing cast does not fail to deliver.
However not everything is limited to just the nightmare's block puzzles, there's a min-game you can play in the Stray sheep that retells the story of Rapunzel as you play. You push around blocks all the same, however, while you're not on a timer the number of moves you make is limited. This can add a few more hours to the game as well as replaying beating levels, talking to regulars at the bar, or just looking through sexy pictures of Catharine. There is also a Multiplayer to take advantage of but this only unlocks after you beat the game.
The games multiple endings may have you coming back for more, but only if you didn't struggle the first time up. Like I said before it's not a game for everyone but for those that it appeals to it could really be a nice change of pace should you be searching for something different to play. Catharine will last you a good 10 to 15 hours of game time as you make your way up a twisted tower of blocks, monsters, and sheep men, all while Vincent's boxers stay squeaky clean. All and all; a rare but satisfying story that peers into the minds of both man and women alike