Ruth's Diary


I do have to laugh...

In a much quicker time than Sonic Generations I have played through Catherine. And no, I don't plan on getting all the trophies, too much work and time. Playing through it once and watching all the other endings on Youtube is enough for me.

So what is Catherine? Well, it's not bound to any genre, that's for sure. On the basic level, it's a puzzle game. Each of the stages involve various levels, within which you need to move the blocks around to build your path to the top. It can get really challenging at times and I like that. Although I do find it strange how the final few stages were easier than some of the middle ones. Huh, I guess my thinking is a bit unusual compared to other players/gamers. Oh and, like any truly great puzzle game (like Tetris or Lemmings), the background music is all renditions of classical pieces. I had to snicker when the beginning of the first stage had the ominous tones of Holst's Mars in the background.

Another component of the game is action. You see, you can also control your character while in the bar and the various decisions you make can influence other people's decisions and what ending you get. Horror is another genre attached, which I get as the scenario this game presents is a horrific one, just...

OK, I'd better get into the story. You play Vincent Brooks, a man in his early 30s in a steady relationship with Katherine and who works for an IT firm of some sort. Katherine tells him her mother has been badgering her about marriage, giving the hint she also wants to marry him. He gets nervous. In the bar that night, he tells his friends about this. After they leave a very pretty girl, who we later learn is called Catherine, sits at his table and chats him up. Somehow they end up in bed together, back at his apartment and that night he gets his first night of nightmares. Now the game makes it clear a large amount of men are brought into this nightmare world (and appear as sheep to each other) and they are forced to climb up these towers of blocks, otherwise they die. And if they die in the nightmare, they die in the real world too.

This scenario is genuinely nightmarish, but the mood is interrupted by the hilarious quotes of various characters, the undoubtedly happy music playing in the background of every level and the very pretty background art. It also doesn't help that the end of each level feels like the contestant is celebrating a win on a gameshow. I also find it weird that the announcer for each of the bosses is rather...not happy, but upbeat. "Child with Chainsaw has appeared, it is the killer, you must not die." That's right, one of the bosses of this game is Child with Chainsaw. At the announcer, I could only think "No shit I mustn't die!" while simultaneously wanting to laugh my head off at the absurd boss. Oh God the bosses. They look freaky and they shout and decry you in horrible ways, while attacking you at completely random moments...this is no doubt meant to instill fear in you, with their attacks encouraging the player to hurry up with their climb to the top and panic. Not me. After my initial reactions I just wanted the boss at the time to shut up and leave me alone while I figured out how to solve the puzzle in peace. The bosses just became a nuisance.

As for the story itself...I'm of two minds about it. From the get-go you get hints that this nightmare is being imposed on several men for one reason or another. So you're more interested in the reason for these nightmares existing. Fine, I like a good mystery story. But from the get-go it's also obvious that Catherine has an ulterior motive for seducing Vincent, so I instantly didn't trust her. Good thing too, as it turns out [SPOILER] she's a succubus that seduced Vincent, as ordered by Dumuzid, an ancient god who basically uses these nightmares to weed out the men that refuse to settle down and start a family with a woman for one reason or another.

Vincent himself...I really didn't like him at first. I got so frustrated that he just didn't have a backbone and didn't realise that he was being played for a fool. Even when an opportunity arose for him to break it off with Catherine he...just didn't. I didn't really care about any of the other characters really. I didn't understand what attracted him to Catherine that night (apart from the obvious), I didn't get what he and Katherine had in common. No one in this game talks about their interests or mentions anything about their jobs or nothing. Even now, after I've finished the game, I do not know what they spend their free time getting up to (apart from going to the bar and playing Rapunzel) or what they're interested in. They only talk about relationships and almost nothing but. As an adult myself, I can confidently say that ordinary people talk about a lot more than relationships. Somehow though, by the end of the game, I cared deeply for everyone. How the hell did that happen?!?!

Admittedly I thought the symbolism was creative and well-done, even enjoying the game-within-a-game accompaniment for the narrative. Rapunzel is an arcade game you can play at the bar with similar puzzle-game mechanics as Catherine, except here you're not a man running away from something, you're a prince trying to climb the wall and claim your prize (the love of a princess). Admittedly, every man climbing is trying to claim a prize.

Would I recommend it? Catherine is such a unique game I feel everyone should try and give it a go. But I don't think everyone will like it. It's a very quirky game with its own feel, and those who don't like puzzle games will really not like this one. Despite the well-told story.

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