Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Catherine Review

Anyone who’s played a Japanese game will immediately tell you how different they are from typical American games. The same can be said for Japanese movies and TV shows. The fact is that the culture of Japan itself is much different from what most of us are used to, different culture breeds different media. These differences in media can sometimes seem strange and unfamiliar, but it can also introduce something revolutionary. Catherine is a game that walks the line between bizarre and brilliant.

After being forced into thinking about marriage with his long-time girlfriend, Katherine, Vincent Brooks finds himself in a bit of a predicament. A strange cocktail of stress, alcohol and a mysterious woman named Catherine give rise to an affair that Vincent can’t even remember having. After this encounter, Vincent starts having terrible nightmares that could very well be the death of him. Vincent must not only survive these terrifying dreams but also choose between his two unknowing lovers.

The gameplay of Catherine is divided into two distinct modes: conscious and nightmare. While conscious the player is confined to the Stray Sheep, a bar where Vincent can strike up conversations, drink and play arcade games. After leaving the bar and going to bed the player enters the world of nightmares.

Nightmare mode is where the actual gameplay takes place. The player must solve a long stream of puzzles, all of which involve moving and climbing blocks in order to reach the top. Although these puzzles seem simple at first, they quickly become very challenging and addicting.

In addition to its unique style of puzzles, Catherine also implements a new kind of morality system. Instead of making choices at pivotal conflicts as most games do, the player instead crafts Vincent’s personality through seemingly trivial conversations and text messages. How the player developes Vincent changes what decisions he makes at large plot points. This gives the game a much more discrete and natural feel to it than “I chose to do the right thing” morality decisions.

Despite all of this, the game loses a lot of immersion simply due to gratuitous and lengthy cinematics. After a while it felt more like I was watching a movie, not playing a game.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed playing Catherine, the puzzle-platformer, survival horror romance is hardly a typical game genre. The originality of this game is truly astonishing. I just wish it made the player feel more involved in the game. 
Video / Audio
Huevos Factor



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