Catherine is a favourite haunt of mine, I play through it probably once a year. For anyone who doesn’t know Catherine was made by Atlus, specifically the team behind the Persona games and was actually teased in Persona 3 Portable. The player could meet the main character Vincent, only called “Man Drinking Alone”, who would talk to you about his relationship problems.
Catherine’s story revolves around Vincent and how he tries to figure out what to do in life with his girlfriend, when he drunkenly sleeps with a woman who keeps showing up in his life. His girlfriend is called Katherine, while the girl he cheats with is called Catherine. See what they did there? As an interesting fact, in the Japanese version of the game there is actually no difference in their names, the game is ambiguous as to who it’s talking about when mentioning them.
The game has a fantastic story that gives you choices to determine where it goes and how it will end for Vincent. The choices come in the form of questions, like “Will you fight dirty to win at anything?” or “Could you ever be paid enough to go nude in public?” The game will show you how other people answered between the two options the game offers, divided by gender. It can be interesting to see the answers, but maybe that’s just because I’m a sucker for statistics.
So I’ve only mentioned the story of this game so far, because it’s such a good one, but that doesn’t mean the gameplay isn’t worth talking about. Catherine is a puzzle game that sees you having to climb up a tower made of blocks before the level you are on falls from beneath you. You can push and pull the blocks and there are various special blocks, ice blocks, and bomb blocks and so on.
That’s the meat of the game, figuring out how to arrange and climb the blocks in each stage. These block towers appear in Vincent’s dreams when he goes to sleep, and if you die in the dream you die in real life. Before going to sleep though, Vincent hangs out at his favourite local bar, the Stray Sheep. In the bar you can walk around and talk to other patrons, who knows maybe they could be having some similar nightmares. All of the supporting characters in the game are nicely fleshed out and very interesting, from the waitress to the owner of the bar.
You can also just sit at the table with your friends and drink away. You can order one of four drinks and each time you drink a bit of it the games narrator will give you a small fact about it. It’s an interesting little mechanic that I really enjoy hearing. It even has an advantage, the more you drink in the bar (to a limit of three drinks) the faster Vincent will move during the puzzles that night. So remember to get hammered every night, just like real life eh?
The game is just such a favourite of mine, because everything about it is amazingly well done and it seems like such an odd formula but works so well. The story and animation of the cutscenes is brilliant, the visual style of the game is lovely, the voice acting is impeccable, and the gameplay is fun and very clever. I could go on and on about parts of the game I love, because they are all reasons that I have returned to this game time and time again.
What I’ll leave it at that though, is that Catherine is a real gem. It’s unlikely we’ll see another big game like it, and even if Atlus decided to make another game similar to it we’ll be waiting a long time to see it. I’ll also leave you with what I think is the best trailer for the game, and hope you do yourself a favour and dive into the adventure that is Catherine.