Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Quick Review: Catherine

Developed by: Atlus
Published by: Atlus
Released: July, 2011 on PS3, 360
Played on: PS3

Story: Good

Catherine starts off with Vincent Brooks not wanting to further his relationship with long time girlfriend Katherine. After a strange nightmare, he finds himself cheating on Katherine with a girl he meets at his local bar named Catherine. The rest of the game is spent surviving the nightmare, and managing his deception while not really having the spine to say what would solve his problems quickly. Vincent also continues to grow and helps a bunch of other characters come to a realization about their lives that he eventually comes to (depending on how you've been answering the moral questions the whole game). With an element of the supernatural and a bit of a tongue in cheek tone, this is certainly one of the more unique narratives to play out in a videogame.

Mechanics: Good

The main gameplay is in the nightmare realm climbing up the towers of blocks. Vincent can pull and push blocks, and as long as they connect to an edge will not fall into the ether. The tower constantly is losing ground as well so you need to climb quickly and think on the fly (especially in the boss stages). This can become frustrating since you don't really have much time to tackle a section that's giving you issues (and pausing the game blurs the screen so you can't work out the problem visually in safety). It does flex your brain in a good way however, and the restarts and pillows (which grant you retries) will make sure you're never outright failing. The safety spaces between tower climbs allow you to rest and learn new climbing techniques. Finally each tower and night adds new types of blocks and new ways of climbing. As a puzzle game, it's immensely fun and satisfying.

Aesthetics: Great

This may be biased, but i am a huge fan of cel-shaded art styles, and Catherine makes great use of it. The characters are all distinct and well designed, and the in-game cut-scenes look almost up to par stylistically as the animated cut-scenes. The voice acting is all top notch and adds that feeling of attachment to the character's plight, and the music during the climb is a great selection of classical tunes that really fit the mood (even if they should be on longer loops).

Technology: Average

The one section that really made Catherine frustrating to play, especially in the later stages were the controls, or more specifically the direction of controls. When hanging on a block or trying to push or pull a block, so many times Vincent would push the other block reachable in his position. The hanging controls were especially maddening with shimmying left and right switching positions based on the camera or based on if you held the button down or let go of it for a split second. These issues only really came into light near the end of the game, with the more complex blocks and techniques needed but they reached an apex on the final boss. I think though in that case, there was some system lag with everything going on, and that caused confusion with the controls, as many times during that fight death was due to moving to an area i had no intention on moving to.

Overall: Good

Atlus have cemented their reputation in making polished and unique games with great stories and presentation. If you're looking for something a little different, enjoy puzzle games, or an interesting tale of infidelity, i recommend giving Catherine a try.

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