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10/19/2011

REVIEW: Catherine (PS3)


Catherine is the latest game developed and published by the famous developers Atlus, specifically the team responsible for the Persona series which has seen releases in both the PS2 and PSP recently. It is available for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. Unlike Persona and the rest of the company’s games, Catherine is not an RPG. It is some kind of mix between a puzzle game and an erotic graphic adventure.

The game tells the story of a common man named Vincent in his early thirties who is dating a beautiful girl named Katherine. Vincent is starting on a new job, lives alone in a very tiny apartment and like his life full of adventure, drinking with his friends at a local bar and having fun while Katherine is a serious girl with a strong career who wants to marry Vincent soon, but the thought of this terrifies Vincent.

One night, after his friends leave the bar, Vincent stays behind to drink some more when a gorgeous blonde girl named Catherine sits next to him and starts seducing him until without knowing it, he wakes up in the morning next to her in his apartment and he starts to try to avoid Katherine from finding out about his affair with Catherine. Yes, sounds confusing at first.

The game looks incredible, the visuals are amazing in the characters; environments and even the nightmare puzzles, there are tons of details in the textures, clothes, objects and especially the facial expressions of the characters that are some of the best in both consoles. Their movements feel very realistic and they help bringing them to life in an excellent way.

The sound effects are very cool as well though there are some weird annoying sounds in the nightmare levels. But the music is incredible, with piano and jazz themes everywhere that are among the best in the current generation, and the voice-acting is probably the best in both consoles. The dialogs and voices are so varied and great that they tell the story in an amazing way.

With this, Vincent will have a nightmare every night for nine days where he will grow some horns and will be put along some talking sheep to try and climb some extremely weird and sometimes extremely difficult towers made of blocks in the form of cubes. This is where the gameplay takes place. Every night, Vincent will have to climb a set number of towers and answer some questions before each one. The way you climb and the answers to these questions will determine the future outcome of the story.

While climbing the towers, Vincent will be able to pull and push the blocks to try and make way for him to keep going up. There are several kinds of blocks like the bomb ones that will damage every object nearby when he steps on them, the traps that will kill Vincent with some blades if he stops moving above them or the dark blocks that are way too heavy for Vincent to move. Knowing what each block can do and its capabilities is the key to success in the game.

Also, in every puzzle, the lowest floor of the tower will fall off every few seconds, forcing Vincent to try and be quick when climbing. Sometimes, a “boss” will be climbing along with him trying to kill him and he will have to transform the tower to make his way up while avoiding the boss’ attacks at the same time. Vincent will sometime find other sheep trying to climb the puzzle and he will be able to push them down to get them out of his way or be pushed himself so he has to be really careful.

Between every puzzle, Vincent will be able to walk around a church-like platform and talk with some other sheep to exchange climbing techniques, know more about their lives, why they’re having his same nightmare and even buy items with the coins you pick up in the towers and earn each time you finish one. And after a boss “battle” he will finally wake up at morning having survived another day.

When Vincent is awake is when the “graphic adventure” part of the game plays. He will usually have lunch with his friend Orlando who works with him, drink a coffee with Katherine, talk with Catherine in his apartment and in the nights before going to sleep, he will always go drink with his three best friends (Orlando included) at the local bar named the Stray Sheep.

In the bar, Vincent will be able to walk around talking to the NPCs finding out more about the nightmares people are sharing and that are resulting in young men appearing dead every morning, answer his calls on the phone or the text messages, drink some alcohol (which will result in him running faster in the nightmares the more drunk he is), play an arcade machine called “Rapunzel” with puzzles very much like the nightmare levels, change the music and even watch the news.

What he does while awake is vital to the outcome of the future events and the ending of the game. Whether he answers to his text messages, keep Catherine’s sexy photos in his phone; say something rude to Katherine or to one of his friends. Each action will have a consequence and it is possible to see how he’s doing with a bar with an arrow that will lean to a blue side if he does good things and to the red side if he does something inappropriate or incorrect.

The result of this mix is a very interesting and innovative game with an excellent visual presentation and even better voice acting and music. The game is much different from pretty much everything everyone has ever played and Atlus did a great job with it. It has many endings ensuring that those who want to try to get different ones will be able to play through it in several ways to try it so there’s a lot of replay value. It is also possible to try to finish the nightmare levels in a harder difficulty setting (that is a little too hard) or with a friend in Co-op mode which sometimes has devastating results.

For closing comments, Catherine is a great game that everyone out there should try their hand on. As I said, it is something very different from the rain of shooters, fighters and adventure games bombing the gaming market now days so an innovative title like this one is a very welcome addition to the roster of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Pros:

-          Excellent story with fun and varied characters
-          Voice acting is one of the best in all PS3/X360 games
-          The puzzles are very challenging and feel rewarding when finished
-          Different endings provide motivation for several runs

Cons:

-          Insane requirements to unlock new modes
-          Controls get inverted when Vincent is hanging in the back of a tower
-          There are some camera problems in the nightmare levels


-          Graphics and Visuals………...8
-          Music and Sound Effects….....9
-          Gameplay……………………9
-          Replay Value………………...8

-          Overall Score……………….. 8.5 / 10


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