Catherine Preview -- Think Qbert...Only Insane and Erotically TwistedBy Leah Jackson - Posted May 17, 2011
Catherine may be the weirdest game I've ever seen but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Atlus, the game's developer, describes Catherine as an action-adventure puzzle game, which it is, but it also features hints of eroticism and devilishly heavy themes relating to morality and fidelity. You know, typical game fiction kind of stuff.
The game's design is unlike most of today's offerings and seduced my eyes right off the bat. All of the characters are interestingly designed in their anime style, but even the user interface, start screen, load screen, and basically every menu is meticulously crafted in this hard rock style with bursts of pink thrown in. For anyone who is a graphics nut, Catherine is going to blow you away. Not only are the menus gorgeous, but the in-game cel shading looks fantastic too. Plus, there are over 20 anime cutscenes to feast your eyes on throughout the game. Just based on our brief recent look at the game, Catherine appears to be almost as fun to watch as it is to play if you're a sucker for that kind of thing.
Once we actually loaded in to the game itself, it was a bit different than what I expected. The game goes something like this: a man named Vincent cheated on his pregnant girlfriend Katherine with a super hot babe named Catherine, and after he does, he begins to have nightmares. Meanwhile, it appears that men who have been unfaithful have been turning up dead all around the area causing him stress on top of the anxiety he already feels about cheating on his girlfriend.
The game explores themes like fidelity and love and gives players a choice whether they want to go the route of chaos or law with their in-game decisions. All throughout the game, players are asked questions relating to the story, and their choices will affect a meter that unlocks new story modes and multiple endings. Players will face these types of decisions not only before and after levels but in between them while talking to Vincent's friends at the bar or responding to a text message from one of the K/Catherine's.
Aside from the story, the game is played out through block puzzles, which take place in Vincent's nightmares. As he's currently terrified of becoming a father to Katherine's child, the level we saw showed Vincent trying to escape a demon baby who shot fireballs and was incredibly frightening. I'd be scared of being that devil baby's parent too.
Catherine comes in four difficulties, the easiest one being for those who want to enjoy the story and breeze through the puzzles, whereas the hardest difficulty will offer a tear-inducing challenge to puzzle game lovers. According to Atlus, the game's developers had to tone down the most challenging difficulty setting for the American version of the game because the Japanese were complaining it was just too hard; that's when you know something is extreme. How it works for the demon baby stage is that in order to escape the baby, Vincent has to climb up a series of blocks, pushing and pulling them in and out in different orders to make a path up to the top. The giant staircase of blocks slowly falls away however, so there's a timed element as well. Also, strewn around the staircase there are items to be found including pillows, which give Vincent extra lives, and items that allow you to leave a block wherever you want to make the stage easier.
The game will also feature both competitive and cooperative multiplayer where you can either race your friends to the top of the staircase or try to get to the top together. Another interesting integration is the real-time morality meter. Questions answered by the players for their own personal law vs. chaos meter will show up online so people can see how others are answering similar questions. It's not exactly a core gameplay mechanic, but it's neat to see how people answer questions about faithfulness and eroticism.
Catherine is basically an otaku's dream game. It has the hardcore puzzle aspect down to a science and on top of that there's the super sexy ideal characters with overtly erotic themes and fantasy elements. It's definitely not for everyone, but for the type of people that Catherine is actually being marketed towards, they're going to be in for a treat when this game hits the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on July 26.