My Love/Hate Relationship With Catherine
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Never have I loved and loathed a game as much as I do Catherine. In a way, the game’s protagonist and his love interests are a metaphor for the game itself. On the one hand, Vincent’s girlfriend, Katherine – with a K – is boring, serious, dull and a little intense, while on the other hand, Catherine – with a C – is vibrant, fun, engaging, playful and a little crazy. Obviously that wasn’t Altus’ intention from the get go – or at least I hope it wasn’t – but if I had to sum it all up in a nutshell, that’d be how I’d do it.

Rather than write a review for a game that us Europeans have only just gotten our hands on last week, but the rest of the world has had for what seems like an eternity (since July last year, in reality), I thought I’d write more of an opinion piece on it instead... You know, because I’m full of opinions.

Understanding Catherine in terms of a game is probably more complex than it should be, especially with our fascination to pigeonhole everything into specific genres these days. At its core, it’s a clumsy puzzle game that unintentionally frustrates with its difficulty levels and finicky controls, but dig a little deeper and you’ve got one of the more deep and powerful tales we’ve seen spun in video games in quite some time.

It’s easy to write-off Catherine if you’ve only spent a few hours with it, as the game’s sharp difficulty curve in its puzzle arenas is rather brutal. Heck, after stage two I was already threatening to embed the controller in the dry wall and go to town on the nearest cushion with the sharpest blade I could lay my hands-on. It’s not just about the difficulty of the puzzles though; the controls can often be as finicky and awkward, especially in the “boss” sequences that constantly sees the camera pan out to inconvenient camera angles while showering random dangers down upon the player. In fact, it’s the first game in what must be ten years in which I’ve had to drop the difficulty down to easy just to get through it. Ah, good ol’ Japan. Sure, as you play it more and learn new techniques and so on, it becomes easier, but as you near the conclusion, you’re tasked with unforgiving puzzle sections that punish every misstep. I like a challenge, but I value my sanity more. Sure, there is a game to master here, but you’re effectively on your own for long periods of time trying to hone your skills.

That said, should you get to grips with the game’s puzzle aspects, Catherine is one of the most rewarding games that you’re likely to play in recent years. It’s a clever little title as well, littered with imagery, metaphors and humorous one-liners all relating to the wonderful journey that is life. The game’s puzzle stages – which take the form of Vincent’s nightmares – are delivered in typical Japanese style with some crazy over-the-top story justification, and littered with shrewd metaphors that could very well pass most players by. Whether you’re talking about the constant sheep references – the nightmare sequences are littered with them – being a metaphor for the rat race, conformity and being a blind follower of the “herd;” or even the block climbing puzzles being a metaphor for our constant growth as people; it’s all one wonderfully written affair.

It’s as deep as games get in the 21st century too; tackling real-life problems, dilemmas and for once it’s not about saving the world. It’s about one man, his problems and his inability to settle down. It’s a game that tackles real-life issues, allowing you to put yourself in the shoes of the lead character, if only for a minute, and gives you a stark – and frankly honest – look at relationships, commitment, fidelity and the weakness and vulnerability of men. It’s one of few games in recent years that has me compelled to play through it multiple times just to see the numerous different outcomes – of which there are eight. In the space of the weekend, I’ve seen all 8 of those already, and hardly any of them disappoint.

The problem with Catherine though is that the barrier to entry is so exceedingly high that unless you feel compelled by the plot early on – which is unlikely as it takes a while to set the scene – you’re likely to put the pad down and never play it again. That right there, is a shame, because beneath its brutal and clumsy core beats the heart of a game that tackles more of life’s issues than all of this generation’s games put together. With a fresh art style, plenty of creativity and trademark Japan zaniness, Catherine is a Japanese game that could easily resonate with a Western gamer. How far you get down the rabbit hole though depends on your tolerance for pain and frustration. Again, it's another metaphor for life, albeit another rather unintentional one.

Have you played it yet? How did you get on with it? Or did the frustrating puzzles and finicky controls get too much before you put down the pad indefinitely. Sound off in the comments.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 398
Comment #1 by merzitar
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:12:05 PM
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I hope that the EU Marketplace will get a demo like the US did. I'm really interested in this game, but at the moment I will have to wait until it goes a bit cheaper because there are too many games coming out as it is!

Forum Posts: 615
Comment #2 by doomey
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:18:43 PM
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Get your self a us dummy account and try the demo, I have a feeling its a Marmite game;-) I live it however, can't see myself suffering to try and nail that 1k though. :-S

Forum Posts: 34
Comment #3 by SecondNature08
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:21:06 PM
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At #2 that's what I did and I agree, it's definitely not for everybody but I fell in love with just the demo so it's something to be tried :)

Forum Posts: 132
Comment #4 by stianpuz
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:26:16 PM
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really happy you wrote this, finally someone giving this game the praise it honestly should have, that said I guess it's not for everyone, but in my opinion, easily one of the best games ive enjoyed in a long timeee.

Forum Posts: 1585
Comment #5 by Baihu1983
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:27:01 PM
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Love it!

Forum Posts: 538
Comment #6 by DarqStalker
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:29:13 PM
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I'll try it someday, once it gets to like $10 in the US. It's about $29.99 now.

Forum Posts: 329
Comment #7 by Page1992
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:29:13 PM
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I', from the UK and I LOVE this game. It's all my family have heared about for the last two or so weeks. My girlfriend even thought I was cheating on her (untill I showed her what I was on about) As soon as I bought the game and got home, I installed it to my hard drive and booted it up. I like the whole decision aspect of the game because that relates to so many thing in life.

As for the camera controls, they take a bit of getting used to especially (!!SPOILER!!) for those who haven't played it, one boss that launches a ranched attack of hearts that makes the directional pad go opposite to what you enter.

All in all, in my opinion, you should give this game a go. If you put your time and patience into it, i'm sure it will be a decent story for you to delve into.

Forum Posts: 128
Comment #8 by dark wing
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:47:00 PM
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I managed to pop home for lunch earlier in the day and I decided to give this a go, and I must say even though I haven't gotten far yet I quite enjoyed it.

I'm definitely going to be playing it tomorrow and I recommend everyone to at least try it. Hopefully they put up a demo like the US has.

Forum Posts: 338
Comment #9 by MEMANIAsama
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:50:50 PM
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It's a great game, the controls are odd, but once you understand how they work in relation to your character (and not the screen) it all works out. As for difficulty and stuff... well, everybody has different skill levels, but the game gives you a ridiculously large amount of pillows (and usually checkpoints right NEAR additional pillows so you can just keep collecting/failing) that you shouldn't have any issues cranking out multiple failures and trying different techniques.

If you're not spending time talking about techniques with various Sheep you're gonna have a hard time understanding stuff. Additionally, they give you a non-action tutorial world to test out all your techniques, etc. without fearing for your life or any of the chaos that is involved in the normal levels. Yep, that's right... RAPUNZEL! The game isn't mentioning Rapunzel for poops & giggles, it's blatantly saying "Dude, if you want to get through this game maybe you should do a lot of practicing in Rapunzel." There are a number of cool techniques... IE. Stairs/ZigZag patterns with blocks that were indispensable to me as I progressed through the levels. My wife watched me play the whole game, and was impressed to watch me play after I did some Rapunzel training... (she skipped those since they were boring to watch and didn't involve plot.) Bottom line... RAPUNZEL IS WHERE IT'S AT IF YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY ISSUES!

In a worst case scenario you can always rely on YouTube to see how/what people did differently from you. Very rarely did I find myself buying special items or any of that, except for maybe ONE stage where it was just so much easier to use an item then to actually figure the damn thing out.

Forum Posts: 0
Comment #10 by ThisBlueSquid
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 02:53:11 PM
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I feel that this game doesn't get enough love, it was one of my top 10 of last year simply because it had one thing that the industry has been lacking lately, balls. It ballsy to make a plot around a relationship issue with a lot of maturity, it was ballsy to make it a puzzle game aswell, hell it was ballsy for not being a first person shooter. This was one of the most unique titles of last year and I encourage everyone to at least download the demo and give it a chance.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #11 by JustNoStyle
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 03:20:17 PM
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This game sold me on the cover art alone. Once it actually arrived in the mail i was hooked. I can't even remember the last time i played a puzzle game that unique with a real story line. It was frustrating as hell sometimes but it was original and challenging as well. The 1000 grind will be rough, but i feel like i won't mind coming back to this game sporatically.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #12 by HVAC Techie
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 04:11:33 PM
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Getting the 1000G is almost mandatory in this game, to truly understand what the developers are trying to tell you. Completing Babel gives you more information on [redacted]. Completing Rapunzel tells an interesting story - as it was said in-game, the game is surprisingly deep. Playing the game usually shows you the quotes and who the Boss is coping a phrase from on that night as well. Then there's the drink factoids, the story itself, and more... it's a truly deep game. You go, Atlus.

Forum Posts: 242
Comment #13 by JustAFriend
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 04:43:11 PM
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should this be in latest news webb?

Forum Posts: 181
Comment #14 by I Cullen I
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 05:13:04 PM
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i luv it, aint played a game like this in a while, everytime i come off it im eager to get back on it, great game.

Forum Posts: 398
Comment #15 by Wicelow
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 05:41:21 PM
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Exactly why I'll wait for a serious price drop to get the game.
I'll either love or hate it... And I'd be very sorry to spend 60+€ in a game I may wanna throw away after a few hours... ^^

Forum Posts: 64
Comment #16 by Dlark17
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 05:48:42 PM
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My roommate played it on the PS3 because he's in love with Atlas and the Persona games (which, I guess, this is a mini-off-shoot-kinda-thing to). It was really entertaining to watch (though nowhere near as much as Dark Souls), but I got really irritated by Vincent's inability to basically do anything in reality. Of course, we topped that off with a crappy ending, so that didn't help things either.

More than about thoughts on the game, though, I'm wondering if you guys take in Americans to write reviews. I mean, like you said, we've had this game for months, and there's plenty of other 2011 titles currently without review. Do you guys take in new blood that often? If so, I know I'd be more than happy to try and write a piece, here and there, from the American releases.

Forum Posts: 3660
Comment #17 by Akuza
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 06:43:32 PM
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Its a game that looks dodjy ..

But will turn out fantastic

I'll try the demo but from what I've heard from friends who have it, it's nothing to shout about .. I'll wait till it drops alot in price

Forum Posts: 1299
Comment #18 by Chuppernicus
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 07:51:54 PM
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Loved it. I tell everybody about it. If you haven't play it, you're missing out.
Hell even my wife liked watching me play, watching the story unfold and seeing what answers I gave to the questions. Great fun but it's not easy. But if you put the time into it, like life, you'll really be satisfied. Great fun.

Forum Posts: 914
Comment #19 by Delow317
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 08:20:38 PM
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Such an aweful game, I play every demo and arcade trial and if something doesn't catch my intrest in 5 to 10 minutes it's forgotten by me forever. This game was one of those.. Climing up a wall?

Then again, space aliens like these quirky japanese games. Most human beings dont.

Forum Posts: 83
Comment #20 by royzoga
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 09:30:08 PM
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I got Catherine on release date in US I completely agree that it was really emotional and tackled some serious problems, but as you mentioned it's somewhat difficult to play. The expected level of skill a player must play at is borderline absurd even on easy the game is unfair. However, for me anyway, the story was enough for me to finish as I hope everyone else does! Get the Catherine true ending too since Katherine is way too strict XD

Forum Posts: 25
Comment #21 by Fishcracker
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 10:08:05 PM
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I thought it was a phenomenal game and I wish I didn't trade it in for BF3 (doesn't help that I'm broke) but it was a fun game and it shows who chose the answers for the questions that you are asked in the game but I tell you one thing, the hard difficulty is HARD! Normal will give you a workout but hard will make you bust a nut!

Forum Posts: 96
Comment #22 by TrAvIs7
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 11:12:42 PM
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Best game

Forum Posts: 176
Comment #23 by ghsbe
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 @ 11:56:47 PM
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One of my favorite games, I just wish it would stop breaking my balls.

Forum Posts: 53
Comment #24 by Nuke2099
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 02:12:25 AM
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#19 Is one of those that couldn't pass the first level on easy :D (I started on hard and about to start stage 7).

Forum Posts: 1615
Comment #25 by Nitnoid
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 02:56:07 AM
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@6 - I've been waiting for the $19.99 or $29.99 price since it released. I was afraid I'd get frustrated and didn't want to waste a full price game. But the price didn't drop for the first 6 months. Not at all. It's now at $39.99 at Gamestop but I think with the release in the UK, if it doesn't sell very well, it may drop again soon. I hope anyway. I did enjoy the demo but it seems way repetitive for my taste and very very difficult from what I've read.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #26 by TwiIight
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 07:28:59 AM
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I didn't care much for the puzzle aspect of the game, but I pushed through so I could see how the story unfolded. All in all, a decent game.

Forum Posts: 5
Comment #27 by ServbotNamedSxE
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 08:21:38 AM
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I love this game!

I fell in love with it after playing the demo. Just that little bit of the games story had me hooked! I just had to find out how the rest would play out with my influence guiding me to (what i'd say) a satisfying ending. :)

Although after I beat it once I did find myself having to shelf the game and not jumping right back into it. The puzzle gameplay parts of the game I muscled through to reveal more of the story but i'll be damned if I'd say the design of the puzzle portion wasn't original. Unfortunately that originality kicks your ass and doesn't let up (at least in the block climbing segments).

It was in my "Top 10 Games of 2011" list and from all the raving I did about it to friends, they ended up picking it up and really enjoying too (even one friend who hates slower paced games and puzzlers in general!). :D

Catherine will NEVER leave my gaming library (So glad I threw down the $20 more for the 'Love Is Over' Edition! :3)!

Forum Posts: 40
Comment #28 by TheRequiem95
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 08:33:48 AM
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I've played it and enjoy it so far, but I'm really picking it up between games rather than playing straight through. I do wish the language was a little tamer so I wouldn't be limited to playing it only after the kids go to bed, but that is a minor gripe for such an interesting game.

Forum Posts: 66
Comment #29 by Coroner117
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 10:10:05 AM
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"... and littered with shrewd metaphors that could very well pass most players by."

What metaphors?

Forum Posts: 19
Comment #30 by wickedclowns95
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 12:31:04 PM
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The general consensus here seems to be positive so maybe I'll pick it up and have a go. Completely disregarded it when it came out in July, mostly because there were a lot of other titles coming out that were day one buys for me.

Forum Posts: 56
Comment #31 by Ravenkrak
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 @ 11:14:50 PM
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I didn't quite find the controls to be frustrating so much as precise and unforgiving. In a game where there are only four directions, analog sticks just muddy the waters and give a bigger chance at screwing up. And D-pad? Do I even need to mention how horrible 360 D-pads are? I can't help but think that, like many fighting games, the PS3 controller would be a huge advantage for this game.

Nevertheless, I found myself sucked into this game pretty thoroughly as it went on. It always made me want to give it just one more go before giving up on a level. And when that didn't work, I still wanted just one more.

I have to really disagree with Webb here about the endings though. They all took what was a serious situation and turned it into something petty and juvenile for the cheater endings, and generic and unimpressive for the lover endings. The freedom endings I felt were just asinine. The bad lover ending is the only one that I felt had any truth to it. The only other bits of the endings I liked were the bad cheater ending, just for its hilarious stupidity, and the true lover ending, only for the Erica moment at the end. Both of those moments were just silly jokes, and that really illustrates what the ending did for such a compelling premise.

Don't think that means I dislike the game, though. I may not have liked the end, but the rest of it was addictive and well worth the playing. People should definitely try the demo. It's a game that I never would have expected to like.

Forum Posts: 17
Comment #32 by Nick1227
Thursday, February 16, 2012 @ 03:42:53 AM
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I can see what you mean with love/hate relationship I have played this game on my ps3 a while ago (imported it)but I have not yet finished it because the end puzzle just frustates me. I do want to reach the ending cause i really love the cinematics the anime style it looks just so good and that story just wants you to play further. But really those puzzles just bug me it doesnt really fit into the game.

Forum Posts: 38
Comment #33 by Aussie27Legend
Wednesday, May 02, 2012 @ 09:28:03 AM
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I frickin love this game.

Forum Posts: 9
Comment #34 by IzaHova
Sunday, June 16, 2013 @ 04:22:01 AM
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@6 It's $9.99 on the dashboard right now...Sunny Day Sales.

Forum Posts: 9
Comment #35 by IzaHova
Sunday, June 16, 2013 @ 04:23:31 AM
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Err 14.99...close enough?

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Game Info
Studio 4C


US July 26, 2011
Europe February 10, 2012

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