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Love Requited: Catherine Review

Despite an obsession with bombastic violence and a near-constant objectification of the female body, there are signs of maturation in gaming. Faced with refreshingly pensive objectives, Catherine challenges participants to prevail against the type of dilemmas faced by the average thirty-something. Sure, Atlus’ marketing efforts might have played up the title’s sexiness, but Catherine is worlds away from the sophomoric titillation exhibited by Itagaki-san or Bayonetta.

Hardly the archetypical, forceful protagonist, Vincent Brooks is an timid thirty-two year old whose existence is governed by complacency. Tension arises when Vincent’s long-time girlfriend, Katherine McBride, yearns to become the marital partner that her surname suggests. Following a round of drinks with a band of bachelor friends, Brooks’ routine is upended by Catherine- a spirited and adventurous young women who is the polar opposite of his prim partner. While subjects such as the viability of a long-term commitment and fidelity will certainly resonate with a demographic, all should enjoy watching Vincent’s increasingly madcap emotional downfall. Cleverly, the developer prohibit gamers from associating too closely with the protagonist, framing the game as a pulpy television program.

Lest you think the game is a esoteric exercise in navel-gazing, Catherine surrenders a tall tower of conventional, adrenaline-pumping action-puzzling. Here, Altus’ Shin Megami Tensei Team allows players to peer into Brook’s guilt-ladled psyche- a landscape dominated by pillars of blocks, egotistical sheep, and the unnerving klaxon of church bells. Across each evening of the game’s nine night duration, players are thrust into Vincent’s subconscious, where they must push, pull, and navigate their ways to the top of the screen. As players persevere, these stages become increasingly frantic with additional nuances designed to prohibit your ascent to the top of the tower, and back into the game’s storyline.  Smartly, the notorious difficulty of the Japanese release has been dialed down, allowing players without the patience for puzzling to follow the game’s plotline. Additionally, optional tutorials are offered to players in the landings between each tower.

Even on the game’s ‘easy’ setting, Catherine‘s climbing and block manipulation is no pushover. If the developers were hoping to illicit a sense of panic in players, they’ve succeeded marvelously. With a constant crumbling base, bosses which drop down control-reversing  hearts, and tongue blocks which threaten Vincent with a lethal licking, pulses are certain to rise. Yet, despite a lofty level  of challenge and the sporadic frustrating fumble, Catherine‘s climbing game will maintain a player’s interest, through additional two-player and retro-themed variants.

Elegantly, Vincent’s waking hours are just as interesting- allowing for conversations which complement the phantasmagoric jaunts. Here, the protagonist can chat with bar patrons, drink (which affects his speed in the nightmare realm) or communication via phone or text message with Katherine or Catherine. Dialog with the two women involves choosing from a list of varying responses, ranging from douchey detachment to genuine empathy, turning the title into a very elaborate (and fascinating) Rorschach test. As with best works of literature or film, Catherine obliges players to ponder over their own life decisions.

Periodically, players also participate in a poll, answering queries both pensive (“Does life begin or end at marriage?”)  and pervy (“Would you have sex with a ghost if it were attractive enough?”). Each survey response and conversational choices factor into the game’s karma meter, which gauges a player’s morality on a scale bounded by a red devil and blue cherub. While some are bound to be displease with the explicitness of the system, it is instrumental in guiding gamers to the title’s octet  of endings.

While Studio 4°C’s visual interpretation of Catherine‘s landscape is impeccable, with an evocatively drawn cast, a new minor quibbles are sure to erupt from the game’s presentation. Although the localization team did their best to synchronize English voicework with the game’s Japanese-speaking characters, phrasing can sometimes sound stilted. Purists are sure to gripe about the lack of subtitled option, which given the capacity of a Bluray disk, seems like a strange omission for the PlayStation 3 version. Yet, the title’s most conspicuous blemish is the change in sound level from prerendered cutscenes to in-engine segments. Each of these transgressions is relatively minor when measured against the game’s otherwise sumptuous presentation, which is certain to stoke to desires of players anxious for Persona 5.

The overwhelming majority of our games hope to emulate the flash of a summer blockbuster, searing retinas with a brilliantly vapid succession of explosions. Conversely, Catherine is more like the heady indie film, whose taut sequences are bookended by the type of dialog which encourages debate long after the credit have rolled. If you find that prospect even slightly intriguing, give Catherine (and Katherine) a chance to cultivate one of the most memorable and rewarding rapports in gaming.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. Was there any doubt that Deagle would LOVE this game? It Atlus, it’s weird, and its different.

    • Yeah, I think Atlus’ games are perfect for a certain type of gamer. They know what their audience likes. Deagle just happens to be that audience.

      BTW- Played the demo four times. This will be mine.

  2. I gameflyed it and I can tell it’s a good game, it’s just not for me.

    1) Why the puzzle sections? These just aren’t as fun as the plot.
    2) No matter what decision you make you are still led down the same path. All that’s different is the ending.
    3) Katherine and Catherine are both flawed. I didn’t want either of them.

  3. A second opinion from Samurage is requested.

  4. So I see this actually was worth ‘3 pick of the weeks’.

  5. Pretty epic review Deagle. I really need to play this.

  6. I could have done without the whole supernatural crap, but other than that I really like most of Catherine. If anything the game made me really hungry for the next Persona.

  7. Yellow and Black Attack

    My second favorite review after SFX360’s usual, unitentially hilarious bullshit. Take a look at this:

    “I’ve played my handful of puzzle games with Portal being the main one to grab my full undivided attention in the past year and Yet when the game Catherine was announced, I wasn’t sure what to think. At first glance I thought this was going to be a pretty “naughty” game if you know what I mean, but once I saw the gameplay and a glance at the story, I grew very curious about Catherine. Atlus, the creators of the game, already have a good history at messing with people’s minds thanks to the Persona series and I only know that from word of mouth. I have not personally played the Persona series and I can’t really say how those games make some sort of tie-in to Catherine but all I know is that I was already convinced and ready to play it (however with info I gathered from a certain someone there seems to be). I love puzzles and I love a good story but did I love Catherine? While it does depend on which Catherine we’re talking about and regardless of my outcome, the answer is a 100% yes.

    • “Atlus, the creators of the game, already have a good history at messing with people’s minds thanks to the Persona series and I only know that from word of mouth.”

      At least the writer is honest and admits he doesn’t know shit.

    • Stretch Armstrong

      Seriously what are they saying?!?

      Still need to play the demo that’s on my HD. I have a feeling I’ll like the game.

    • Wow, that is some straight-up awful, “I failed sixth grade English” writing. They really need to turn their machines off and pick up a book once in a while.

  8. Devourer of Time

    Very good review, but for my money Parish’s is still the best. Only reason to read 1up anymore is when that guy writes a review.

  9. Sorry but block puzzle game+story isn’t worth $60 or even $40.

    • Umm, have you played it? You should avoid comments like that until you’re at least tried the demo. Otherwise you seem like a troll.

  10. If you’re thinking about getting the game, I’d advice people to stay away from Amazon and Metacritic- both sites have ending spoilers.

  11. Thsi game is crap and so is Deagle. Go play Capt. Forever or ASCII Rogue unless your a manchild like my ex-boss Deagle.

  12. Yeah this is a game for anime porn nerds like Deagle. Play Monster Hunter and grow a pair.

  13. I have a feeling its a good game and all, but from the demo, I don’t think I’d like it.

  14. Got the deluxe edition for $57.96. Thank you Frys!

  15. The real reason why people are buying this game?

    (it’s not the ‘mature’ storyline)

  16. This game looks like a giant cock block

  17. OK, my interest in this just went wayyy up. I just thought it was a bunch of puzzle games with a minor story part.

  18. I really need to get this game.

    I missed pre-ordering it, because most of the podcasts said it was just a simple puzzle game. But now the story has me really interested.

  19. There’s nothing here that the Vita couldn’t handle. Atlus please port Catherine for Sony’s newest system.

    I noticed the volume thing too when playing a bit at my friends house.

  20. If you’ve ever had a girl drop the p-bomb on you (she’s preggers) or say “either me get married or I’m going to have to move on” you must play Catherine. Sure, it gets a bit off-track sometimes, but you will be able to feel what Vincent’s going through.

    As for me, when I was 27, a girl save me the big ultimatum. I let her walk. I probably regret that decision at least once a week. Sure my married friends envy me for being single, but I secretly envy their lives.

    Anyway- pick up Catherine.

  21. I knew I could depend on you for a kickass review.

  22. Meh, I’ll wait until this goes greatest hits or goes on sale.

  23. That review was full of Cath-win.

    Just want I was hoping to hear, and maybe even a bit better.

  24. How about some help with the bosses?

  25. I’m not liking this as much as I thought I would. Too much puzzle not enough story.

  26. To NOT Tidegear and NOT Seannola:I’d love to hear your own personal opinions on some stuff we put up. We already know what the real tidegear and seannola think.

  27. Just finished and I really did not like ending I got. Argh.

  28. Well having now beat the game once, I will say four things:
    1) I want to get some more endings/playthroughs in
    2) The pacing totally went from a happy roller coaster plugging along to a several sudden plummets. I was pleased, it was just somewhat jarring.
    3)I think you definitely get the ending that accurately plays to how you answer the questions. If you don’t get the ending you really like, think about how honestly you answered the questions the game asked. and finally,
    4) I really like that about Catherine. Most games, you get one of a couple or a few endings that are all pretty bland and cliche. But this game really gives you an ending that seems to represent what you’ve done/said you’d do. If the other endings don’t seem that way as much I’ll report as much, but it seems to me that Catherine has endings in order.