inFocus

“Hey, if you come near me while I’m climbing, I’m pushing your crazy ass off!

Game Info
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus Persona Team
Genre: Adult Adventure, Puzzle Platformer
Release Date: 07/26/2011
Meta Score


Story: Catherine has a very unique and interesting storyline to say the least.  You are Vincent, a thirty-two year old computer programmer who is unsure about a certain aspect of his life.  This aspect of course  revolves around his girlfriend of five years, Katherine, who is ready to take their relationship to the next level and tie the knot.  If this isn’t enough stress, he has also started to have strange nightmares where something is chasing him and his only escape is to climb up as fast as he can.  After a long day at work and listening to Katherine hint that she is ready for marriage, Vincent decides to drink his problems away at the bar to clear his head.  After his friends leave a very cute young woman dressed in a skimpy white dress approaches and begins talking it up with our hero.  Oddly enough, her name also happens to be Catherine.  Soon after they begin talking, Vincent blacks out and his nightmares continue.

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In his dreams it would appear that he is not alone.  He doesn’t realize it at first, but the many sheep that seem to be climbing with him are also other men experiencing the same dream.  To him they all look like sheep and to them, he also appears as a sheep.  The only similarity between the dream person and the sheep is their voice, which you as the player can link to other characters yourself when Vincent is awake.  According to a strange voice, all the men present in this dream are being punished for cheating and will not remember the dream when they wake up.  This leaves Vincent confused because as far as he knows, he has never cheated.  You are also informed that if you happen to die in these dreamsyou will die in real life, which would explain the strange chain of deaths happening in the area of late.  It is also made clear that as you climb the tower each night you get closer to freedom and a wish of your choice, however it is only every one hundred years that a man actually achieves this feat.

As Vincent finished up the first floor and escapes from his worst nightmares, he wakes up fuzzy to everything that just happens.  He knows he had a nightmare and that he was running from something, but anything more than that is a blur.  He slowly rolls over and his heart sinks with fear when he see what is in bed next to him.  You guessed it, Catherine from the bar seemed to have stayed the night.  Not only that, but she is really into our hero and he can’t seem to break it to her that he has a girlfriend.  At least now we know why he is in a nightmare full of cheaters, but the real question his how Vincent will handle all of this.  As you play the game you will be faced with many moral choices to make and the story will unravel based on your decisions.  Furthermore there are a total of eight endings that you can discover, which really draws you into the central plot when it comes to moral choices.  Catherine has a very unique and interesting story I personally consider it highly above average by today’s standards.

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Graphics/Presentation:Catherine has a very strong anime feel to it no matter how you look at it.  Whether it be the animated style of the cutscenes or the cell shaded visuals, it is clear what type of game this is by visuals alone.  I must say that while cell shaded visuals are not the best today has to offer, they did a very good job based on the style of the game.  There are also very few performance bumps so everything is basically meshed together for a fairly smooth experience overall.  The visuals overall get the job done and do a very good job with presenting the general art style of the game.  I personally see nothing to complain about here, nor do I see anything to brag about.

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Gameplay/Controls:This game has two general game-play feelings that revolve around it.  Half of the it seems like an interactive anime movie.  The other half is considered to be a mind boggling puzzler that will leave you scratching your head more than once.  There are three difficulties to take on based on your personal preference, and no they don’t affect the story aspect of the game.  Hard is obviously for those who want to push their mind to the limits.  Normal is what I played.  It is pretty challenging in itself and pretty well paced to where I wasn’t getting to burned out to enjoy the story.  On easy the puzzles have been watered down to where you can basically fly through them.  A good mode for people who only have interest in the story of the game.

The puzzle aspect of the game is cube based.  The bottom of a tall tower begins dropping away and you basically have to reach the top before you fall to your death.  You will have to move cubes to form a means to climb this tall tower.  Sounds simple right?  Not so much as you might think.  If you don’t pay attention you can eliminate support to the upper cubes which will result in them falling till support is re-established.  If you mess to much up, it is possible to screw yourself into be stranded.  If you are smart however, there are many strategies that you can use when it comes to cube support and collapse.  In addition to the already mind boggling task at hand, you are faced with a few more problems to get around.  For one some of the cubes have traps set, which can ultimately result in instant death if your not careful.  Secondly you will have to deal with the other sheep trying to climb the tower with you.  Everyone is trying to survive so don’t think your fellow cheaters will hesitate for a second to push you out of there way or block you off to get ahead.  On the plus side of it all, there are items that can help you overcome many obstacles in the game.  There are items that change cube types, kill surrounding sheep, and even place cubes in empty spaces.  Keep your eyes open for these items as they are a big help overall.  However while the puzzles are indeed fun and challenging, the controls can be stiff at times and the camera angle is shoddy on occasion leaving a few blind spots that can lead to frustration every once in a while.  They are not game-breaking bad, but it is something to keep in mind.

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The story aspect of the game is like watching TV.  You will see some interesting scenes and see how your moral choices in the game affect the overall plot of the game.  There is drama, comedy, and suspense,which is pretty much all you can ask for in this type of story.  After the initial cut-scenes you will find yourself controlling Vincent in the bar with his friends.  It is here that you will run into and hear the stories of the other sheep you encounter in your dreams.  You can generally tell who they are based on their voice and hair, even if Vincent himself can’t seem to figure it out.  It is important to talk to as many people as you can before you go back home for bed as many encounters will have moral choices that affect the story itself.

Finally we will cover the multi-player.  This is where things get a little disappointing.  It isn’t really a bad mode and it works well enough, but it just isn’t really that interesting.  There is a mode where you can go against other players as two sheep racing for the top of the tower and there is another mode where you must work together and both reach the top.  The competitive mode has maps mainly based on the main story and anything can be taken from the main game and used to either block off or kill your opponent.  The co op maps are a little more original, but still nothing special.  Once again the same laws from the main game are used for the co op as well.  If you have friends that are into this kind of game, you can have fun with the multi-player.  However if you don’t, or you yourself only cared about the story, then you will see this as a waste of space in the end.

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Replay:Despite having a lack luster multi player feature, Catherine will offer you quite a bit of replay value.  Given that the game has eight endings in all and several scenarios to watch, it isn’t likely that you will only play this game once.  Furthermore you won’t even have to worry about getting burnt out from the puzzles.  If you already had your fair share of them and just want to see the rest of the endings and such, just pay your next game on easy and blow through it.  Catherine is one of the few single player games that got it right.  Instead of loading the game with pointless easter eggs or scenarios that are almost identical to each other, the player is offered an experience that is worth coming back to with something new to offer each time.  I would have to say that this game has above average replay value overall, something you don’t see enough of in most single player games today.

Catherine is a very unique game that delivers in almost every aspect it sets out to.  Even if the multiplayer is a bit lacking, the single player game and central plot are something that everyone should experience at least once.  Even if you aren’t into puzzle games, give Catherine a rent to experience the story when you get the chance.  No matter what difficulty you play the game on, it isn’t likely that you will be disappointed.

Written By: Jason Roberts