Recently, 'Catherine' has been released in the UK for Xbox 360 and PS3. I've been wanting this game for quite some time, and was finally able to purchase it yesterday.
Catherine is mainly a story-based game, with puzzle elements. Half of the game works like a visual novel system, where answers you give and choices you make effect the outcome of the game. The game allows for a lot of freedom of choice in these decisions; you can walk around, choose who to talk to and when, and you can even take a drink at the bar.
The basic premise of the game is that a flurry of cheating men have been killed via their dreams, waking up in the morning dead with a horrorfied expression on their faces. Vincent, who has been in a long term relationship of 5 years with Katherine (with a K) suddenly wakes up next to a blonde, seductive lady, Catherine (with a C) after a night drinking too much at The Stray Sheep.
The story is incredible. Character development is very realistic and believable, and unlike a lot of games or films, most of the time the characters reactions are something you'd think you'd do yourself. It has a lot of charm about it, with some horror elements, and other more comedy moments which you'll have to find for yourself. There are a lot of different personalities mixed and, and it's extremely interested to see a video game that deals with the theme of relationships, something yet to be tackled well in games. 'Catherine' deals with it excellently. I would say it's representation of women is a little off, but to be fair to the game, aside from the main characters it does have more positive representations of women, and equally the representation of men and the themes surrounding cheating are pretty even overall.
This is where the game splits in two; the nightmare mode, and the real-life mode. In real-life, you make daily decisions which effect how people feel about you. Most of the time is spent in the bar, chatting with friends. The more you drink makes you climb faster, but can also effect the story. There is another mini-game called 'Rapunzel' that you can also play, which is like a mini version of nightmare mode.
A great little feature is the texting feature; you can get out your phone and choose a variety of sentences to send to your chosen lover. This can change whether or not you are good or bad, which determines the development of the story.
You'll often find some crossover between nightmare mode and the real world, but this is down to your own discovery!
Nightmare mode is the puzzle element of the game, it's a very simple premise that can get very complicated! You need to shift blocks into different position in order to make stairs to reach the exit and ascend to the next level. Every night has three different levels before you wake up. The one thing everyone has been saying about this game is that it is very difficult, so I started the game in Easy mode, and I have actually found it easy as listed. There are certain rewards for playing in Normal mode though, so make sure you go back and do so.
As well as this, between each level you are asked questions about your morals, again changing the progression of the game. If you have Xbox Live, is shows you answers others have given, if not, if shows you offline answers gathered beforehand. You can switch between male and female, and the results can be really interesting!
The challenge increases throughout the game with enemies, different types of block and so on. You can get items to help you out if you get stuck, and in easy mode you can rewind if you make a mistake by pressing [back.]
Contrary to what people have being saying about the gameplay being frustrating, I've found it very enjoyable, and the story is so great you will always be coming back for another go. There are rewards for doing well in the nightmares, including bronze, silver or gold trophies which can be collected to unlock certain modes.
I have yet to unlock multiplayer co-op mode, so have yet to review it. However I think the fact you need to unlock a multiplayer mode to be rather annoying, especially since it's not particularly easy to unlock as far as I know. However, it does look very interesting. It works the same way as single player, except you have the expertise of each other to pull blocks and help each other out. There is an added challenge though; if one of you dies, you both do!
Finally, the graphics and sound are superb. It features full 'anime' style cutscenes, and nicely detailed character models. Everything is well designed and has a continuing theme throughout that works very well. Even the ambient sound, like the bar background music, works well. You can even choose what plays there.
Overall, Catherine is a fresh look at game development and fills what I always felt was missing from the video game market. Something that promotes such an emotional response makes the game very engaging, you can sympathise with the characters and it feels like they are a part of the real world. It's easy to get lost in the world of Catherine and it's very well crafted. Even the themes surrounding sex, often done badly in the gaming world, have been dealt with considerably realistically here, even though it has that stylistic look about it. I have been looking forward to this game for months, and it has met and gone beyond my expectations.