One of a kind!
I mean seriously "Catherine", just from the title you can tell that this game is going to be something different, I mean, who gives a girl's name to a video game. Apparently our friends in Japan do, and not just any Japanese game developers but good ol' Atlus!
Atlus the company famous for making the Persona games suddenly decided to make a game that will be part romantic love story and punt mind-numbing puzzles, and they sure did one heck of a job!
I wanted to play this game even before I got my Xbox and I knew that I was going to love playing every minute of it, and now that I've finally beaten the entire game (yup, got all the achievements as well ), I really feel like I should share with anyone willing to read my reviews what I think of this amazing game.
Catherine is game about Love, Betrayal and self-discovery, or at least that's what the game thinks of itself. It is actually a cute little story about a love triangle between a man named Vincent Brooks and two women BOTH named Catherine (actually one is Katheryn and one is Catherine but both names are read the same). Vincent Brooks a 32 year old programmer is very happy with his casual relationship with his girlfriend Katheryn, until one day she starts thinking about marriage and having a family with him. Confused and scared he goes to his favorite bar where he meets the other Catherin and ``accidentally`` spends the night with her. Have I got you intrigued already; just wait it gets better! Feeling guilty, Vincent starts having nightmares (every single night) where he is climbing up a really tall tower trying to escape his horrors, except in these nightmares if he should fall from a tower, he will die in real life. But Vincent isn't the only one climbing these dangerous towers. Other men who recently had an affair are also climbing the same towers. Vincent must fight for his life every time he goes to sleep.
So one part of the game is playing as Vincent and deciding how will he lead his life and part is surviving those nightmares.
The Nightmare stages are definitely the highlights of this game. The towers Vincent has to climb are made out of blocks that Vincent must push and pull in order to advance. This sounds pretty easy at first and it actually is. Anyone can pick up the controller and push and pull blocks in order to make a path up. So you get a tower with set blocks and you have to push and pull some of them in order to climb higher and higher until you reach the top. The basic idea is to make a ``staircase`` with the blocks to the top of the tower. Making your way to the top is as satisfying as beating a test chamber in Portal for the first time if not even more satisfying. The first few stages are relatively easy, but unfortunately the game realizes that only too well, and throws in different kinds of blocks, enemies along the way and very complex block structures which make this game pretty damn hard. Every Nightmare level has from 2 to 6 towers you have to climb. After you climb up one, you will reach a safe heaven where you can meet sheep (who are actually other people who also like to sleep around). You can learn new climbing techniques from these other sheep which you will absolutely need in order to progress, and you can also encourage some of them who have lost hope to continue climbing (because after all, they will die otherwise). Also before you can move on to the next tower you will have to answer a simple question which will net you good or bad points. The last tower of every nightmare is always a boss fight. So how do you fight a boss in a game where you push and pull blocks? Well you don't really fight, you just run the f**k away! Bosses will chase you as you climb up a tower and use their attack to make it harder for you to climb. Most of them have a predictable pattern but some of them will really drive you insane with their attacks. Bosses are basically demonic variations of Vincents fears, so since he is afraid of commitment, you will get an angry bride, a baby and, of course, one of the biggest cliches of all time, Vincents dark side!
Once you finally wake up, you will usually take a nice break by watching one of the beautiful cut-scenes this game has to offer. Since Vincent can't remember what he dreamed he will live his life like he usually would. He will hang out with his friends and drink until he forgets that he is a dog! This is where you get to play the social part of the game that Atlus is known for. While hanging out and drinking in the bar he will be able to talk to other people, reply to text messages from his girlfriend and his lover, play an arcade game and even run into some of the ``sheep`` from his nightmares. Doing any of these, except for the arcade game, will give you good and bad points which, as most people who play this game say, will determine how the story will go. Unfortunately that is not true at all! Anyone who played this game more than once will tell you that the only use of the good/bad points is for the very end of the game. So it is basically one predetermined story with a couple of different endings, this was kind of a let down for me, but seeing how that one predetermined story is pretty good I wasn't really disappointed that much. The arcade game that Vincent can play in the bar is, ironically, Rapunzel, where you have to climb up a tower by pushing a pulling blocks until you reach the long haired Rapunzel. Rapunzel is played the same as the nightmare stages, except you have unlimited time to think. After you are done hanging out in the bar you can go home and get another set of fresh new Nightmares.
For those who want a real challenge, the game also has a point system for every tower that awards medals. Getting a gold medal on every single stage is no small feat, but if you actually manage to do that, you will be faced with the ultimate challenge: BABEL! This is where the game says: "You want more of this, well welcome to hell b**ch!". Babel stages are the same as nightmare stages except the towers in them are randomly generated making them the hardest stages in the game, the good news is that while these are definitely the hardest parts of the game you can do them with a friend, making them slightly easier and more fun.
So let me sum up the difficultly of these game:
You can play the story on Easy: which is well, easy I guess (I never really tried it), Normal: which is much harder than most puzzle games, Hard: which can be absolutely ridiculous sometimes especially if you are going for all gold medals, and Babel mode, where the game will throw everything it has at you without mercy! So, yeah this game is pretty f***ng hard, in fact it is the hardest game I have ever played in my whole life and I beat Battletoads on NES!
With that said, I don't regret a single moment I spent playing this game. It is absolutely marvelous in every way. The story is very well made, in anime standards (if you don't like anime don't even bother ), the graphics are just amazing and it the cut-scenes so well made that you may actually thing that you are watching an anime, the music and voice acting are fantastic, and the game is just so much fun. Sure when it comes to difficulty, it can get pretty ridiculous but if you like puzzles and like to think you will overcome even that and truly enjoy this game.
Bottom line, if you want a real breath of fresh air with a video game you simply can't go wrong with this challenging yet extremely enjoyable game! I doubt Atlus will make a sequel to this game (because I really don't see the need for one, even though I'd really like one anyway) and I doubt any other company will ever make a game like this again. Catherine is truly a one of a kind game that you won't ever forget.