Catherine | Zombiegamer Review

What would you do if you were faced with a mountain to climb?  Would you stare awkwardly up and decide to rather head back to base camp?  What if a bug-eyed creature that’s face is frighteningly a derriere started chasing you?  You’d climb past the other sheep on the mountain slopes faster than a greyhound right?  If so, welcome to the wonderfully deranged world of Vincent, Katherine and Catherine…

Editor’s Note:  This game is for people over the age of 18.  With that in mind, please note that this review is also for those old enough to play the game.

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus/Deep Silver
S.A. Distributor: Apex Interactive
For fans of: Humorous infidelity, puzzle games and sheep.
Reviewed on: Xbox 360.
Also available on: PlayStation 3.
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8.0 out of 10

What I liked

  • Unique.
  • Brilliantly deranged.
  • Graphic style.
  • Plenty of endings – whether you’d be willing to play the game that many times to see them all is debateable.

Not so much

  • Slightly repetitive.
  • Can get frustratingly difficult.

Overview

The game which has been described by some as an “adult-orientated puzzle-platformer survival horror adventure game” – or just plain barmy by others – has taken its fair time to get around the world.  Originally released in Japan over a year ago it’s eventually made to South Africa and it deserves to at least become a cult classic.  It sure is an entertaining ride with both Katherine and Catherine…  Come on, you didn’t think this would be completely innuendo free now did you?

Gameplay and Features

You are Vincent.  While not the most ambitious man to grace planet earth, you certainly appear to be able to attract surprisingly good-looking women.  Enter Katherine – your long time girlfriend talking of marriage and hoping you will become the corporate-ladder-climbing sort that would make any girl’s father proud (probably) – and Catherine.  Catherine is almost the antithesis of Katherine – free spirited and clingy but with a little lashing of psycho.

These three characters are joined by a supporting cast of friends, barflies and sheep.  Lots of sheep.  All this is set to the backdrop of men dying mysteriously in their sleep which is rumoured to be caused by falling to their death in their dreams (or even nightmares).  Catherine comes into your life mysteriously one night when you stay late at the bar (called ‘The Stray Sheep’) and drink your fear of commitment away.  More mysteriously she appears in your bed the next morning and every morning after that – no matter how many times you leave the bar without her.  Some guys have all the luck…

This starts Vincent’s nightmare.  Torn between his love for his girlfriend and desire for the naughty Catherine, Vincent finds himself battling to get through and survive a night’s sleep.  A night’s sleep is maybe a little of an exaggeration.  No sleeping gets done with either of the ‘atherines’.  The game is not a sex or infidelity simulator.  At its core, it is simply a surprisingly addictive puzzle game.  Even though the controller vibrates…

Played out in the ‘Nightmare’ stages, you are basically tasked with getting from the bottom of a tower of blocks to the top.  Get there before the crazy, fiendish bum-face (or other creepies) get you and you live to see another day.  The daylight – while infinitely safer – usually sees you in ‘The Stray Sheep’.  The bar is an interactive room where you can chat with your friends (a typical sitcom mix of characters) and other bar patrons, play music on the jukebox, play an arcade game called ‘Rapunzel’ (an 80’s version of the main block climbing game mechanic) and drink.  You can also send and receive SMS’s via your phone – sometimes Catherine will send you a naughty pic which will necessitate a hasty visit to the toilet.  Most affairs tend to be under a veil of secrecy, so where better than the privacy and isolation of a toilet cubicle?  Oh.  You thought the toilet for other reasons?  Shame on you.

All good drinking must come to an end and when it does, the nightmares kick off again.  The puzzles in the ‘Nightmare’ stage involve moving (pushing/pulling) blocks to form paths up the tower.  Of course, it’s never that simple.  Some blocks are immoveable.  Others are traps.  Some are just like a tease – promising to get you up, only to let you down again.  You can also pick up items which give you powers.  Pillows – while useful for many other things in real life – equate to simply an extra life in the game.  Run out of pillows and it is game over.  Literally.  Other items (of which only one at a time can be carried) allow for adding a block or removing a pesky sheep from a block you need to use.

And those poor sheep are just like you – other young men trapped in the nightmare and trying to escape.  But in the end, it’s survival of the fittest.  If someone needs to fall to their deaths, surely it should be the whimpering sheep-man, not you – you’re a stud with two women waiting for you.  Of course, you get to interact with the sheep in a less violent manner on the landings mid-stage.  Some will quiver and quake and cry and make you want to smack them off the edge.  Others will offer advice and tricks to manoeuvre blocks to achieve success.  There’s also a confessional prior to kicking off the next mini-stage.  It – a mysterious voice – likes to ask uncomfortable questions that you may not want to answer if your real-life better half is watching you…

All this has an outcome of course.  Throughout the game – in the ‘Nightmare’ stages, bar and even in the cutscenes – decisions you make will affect your morality and ultimately take you on to one of the (apparently) nine endings.  Will you end up with Katherine, Catherine or find out you are not attracted to women but sheep?*

Visuals and Sound

I love the look of the game.  The cutscenes and time spent in the bar are presented in a stunning Anime style.  Even the ‘Nightmare’ stages have a beautiful charm about them, but struggle a little due to a poor camera control – especially when you are hanging on the back of the tower of blocks.

The characters are humorous and surprisingly fleshed out (mind out of the gutter please), but the puzzle sequence has a few annoying elements which had me reaching for the mute button – the incessant ringing bell as you near the end of a level and hang out mid-level with the sheep and the repeated comments by Vincent as he achieves something during his climb.  That being said, those are two small issues – the dialogue is entertaining and pretty well voiced throughout.  There is a personality with some characters (whether you like them or not) that is severely lacking in some games which claim that as their focus.

Final thoughts

Catherine is a daring game in today’s relatively cut and paste cycle of development.  It certainly won’t be liked by everyone that plays it.  It’s also fiendishly difficult at times.  However, if you’re open-minded and out looking for an alternative to your regular (safe) choice then this deranged, unique and entertaining game will delight and surprise you.  It will almost be like it’s your first time again…

Zombiegamer rating:

*OK.  One of those is not really an option.

About Zombie Dredd

Wannabe gaming journalist. Wannabe zombie. And sometimes clan leader of OAP. Clint O'Shea when in his human disguise.