I was looking for something unique and stylized to keep me entertained for a bit. However I didn’t know this until I was shown something unique and stylized a few months back in a blog that I like to read from time to time. It comes at the very end of the post, a quick mentioned about something named CATHERINE and how it will never see the light of day in America. Armed with that information and an internet connection I quickly discovered that this was a video game that would indeed be seeing the light of day in the states somewhere around the end of July.
The day finally came in late July that I was able to go to the local store and pick up my very own copy of Catherine.
But is it any good?
You play the role of Vincent, a man who does just enough to enjoy life and nothing more. He’s got a girlfriend named Katherine who has, for reasons I cannot fathom, stuck with him for the last five years. She’s getting tired of Vincent’s slacker lifestyle and wants him to better himself and prove he is someone she could spend the rest of her life with. After one drunken night at the bar Vincent wakes up with a girl in his bed, a girl other than Katherine. So begins an eight-day journey through which Vincent showcases an amazing lack of decisiveness, who whines and moans about his predicament into which he put himself. If he grew half a testicle and made a decision he’d have been out of this problem on day one. But if that happened we wouldn’t have a game, so let’s crack on.
Turns out there’s one other tiny little wrinkle in Vincent’s life. It seems men about Vincent’s age are being found dead in their bedrooms. There are rumors going around of a curse on men who cheat on their girlfriends. There’s also rumors floating around that if one falls in their dreams and die then they die in real life. And, oh boy, Vincent’s been having some pretty funny dreams lately about climbing up a giant wall of bricks. Put four and two together and you’ve got just enough premise to get you past the 10 minutes of animated cut-scenes and tedious dating sim bullshit to get you into playing the actual game.
Yes, a dating sim. You get to drink at the bar with friends at night or sip coffee during the day with your girlfriend all the while receiving text messages from that cute blonde you fucked, but can’t remember the actual fucking, and by the way how the hell did she get your number?
Your responses to various questions posed to you throughout the game control a meter that measures how good of a person you are. This meter then controls what side of your personality, the good person or the cheater, will respond at key moments in the game’s story. Some questions, presented to you after completing a stage, are compared with other responders via your console’s gaming network. The end result is a nice blue and red pie chart that tells you how others responded to the same question the first time through. That’s an important distinction to make here, answers are recorded only on the first time receiving them. I, like I’m sure many others, am playing this through answering questions with “good” or “proper” answers because I want a “good” ending and I think the pie-charts reflect that I’m not alone in this. The next time through (if indeed I have the fortitude to do this a second time) I will be a complete asshole and push that meter off the asshole end of the scale.
But all this dating sim crap bores the hell out of me. The one bright spot was the promise of getting “pics” on my phone from that blonde I fucked that time. But the pics she does send are all very PG. Which is odd because this game isn’t PG in the least. The dialog is full of shits and fucks and other foul mouthery that is, I guess, supposed to give this game a visceral, real-world feel to it, but all it does is remind you you’re playing a dating sim that’s trying too fucking hard.
What about the meat of this? The game play.
This is a game that, even on easy, is not fucking easy. It’s so difficult in fact that the game makers patched the Japanese version and built into the American release a secret super-easy mode for those people who aren’t Rain Man.
The levels of the game are broken into nights. There are eight nights to the game, and eight levels, and lots of dating sim bullshit during the days, ugh. Each level has three stages with the last stage being something of a “boss” fight where, as you see in the video above, some horrific creature is chasing you from below. Each “boss” also comes with some extra ability that makes the climb really fucking difficult. For example the third night’s boss monster rains hearts upon the wall you’re climbing and if you get hit with one your controller directions are reversed for a short amount of time. Left is right, up is down, and you’re fucking dead in three seconds because the controls, even when not upside down, are shit.
For example, while moving around the level you can, at times, fall down and grab onto the ledge of the blocks. You can them shimmy your way along the blocks. This being a game of three dimensions your character can move about in three dimensions as well so when you come to the edge of a row you will go around the edge and then shimmy along the back side of the blocks. Sounds cool except for a couple of minor details. The first is that when you make that first turn and are now perpendicular to the camera it’s a 50/50 shot at whether the controls will be reversed. Keep pressing left to move to the left and when you turn and hit left again you’ll find yourself moving right and come back out to where you just were. In a game where time matters, and it seriously fucking matters, this isn’t just annoying, it makes you want to rip your balls off in frustration.
The second minor detail is that when you are behind the wall of blocks you can’t actually see yourself anymore. The camera doesn’t turn with you, it stays in one spot like a well-trained dog. Because this fucking mongrel won’t fucking move with you it will eventually come to pass that you will get stuck and you won’t know which way to push on the controller because the fucking controls change direction on you and you’ll have to kill yourself. Awesome.
A third detail I’ve only just now remembered, having been hidden from view by my blind, frustrated rage, is this whole dropping down to shimmy along the blocks. This is a maneuver that is encouraged by the game and indeed there are moments where this is the only way to continue up the wall. The problem is you can only drop down and shimmy if there’s no block immediately below you. If there is, you just drop down to the block. There’s no way to force your character to shimmy in these situations. Thanks a lot, assholes.
Despite all this I enjoy the game. It’s a challenge. It has tension. You will die and you are limited in the number of continues you get to use. Fuck this up and you’re back at the beginning (or at least to the last point at which you saved). Which brings me to my first key to winning the fucking game: save your game every fucking chance you get. Do not get lazy and walk by a save point because you will wind up using all of your continues on the very next stage and now you have to start the whole level over again.
A second key to winning the fucking game is to use your multiple deaths to your advantage. Many stages contain one or more pillow objects which, when you grab it, gives you an extra continue. At least that’s what it says in the book, but in reality it gives you two continues. So if you can play a stage at least up to the point where you grab a pillow before you die and keep doing that many times over while learning the stage you’ll come out of it with many, many continues. Because of this you may want to, when presented with the option on the continue screen, to continue from the beginning of the level rather than the checkpoint if the pillow is before the checkpoint.
This game can end in one of eight different endings and I have no fucking desire to play this game eight different times so go fucking YouTube the endings when you beat the game the first time through and then find someone you hate and give them your copy of the game.
There is a moment of clarity in this game where the programmers give you, the player, a massive fuck you! on multiple levels. It happens when you’re free to walk around the bar. There you will discover an arcade game called Rapunzel that emulates a 16-bit style graphics environment in which you play a knight who must climb a tower of blocks to rescue Rapunzel. The first time you play this game you get a little message telling you it’s a great way to practice your skills before moving on to the next level. In other words: Fuck you, we know this game is hard we’re going to make you play it TWICE! And as you play this game you realize it is exactly like the dream levels when you’re climbing up walls. Fuck you, you just wasted $60 on a game that can be boiled down to a 99 cent phone app. Thanks for the money, chump.
This game is getting lots of good reviews. This isn’t one of them. I think there’s a novelty factor to the game that attracts the quick and positive review, but prolonged exposure tends to sour the experience a bit. I think my greatest issue is with the characters in the story; they are one-dimensional and annoyingly so. I don’t want to sit through 10 minutes of conversation in which a program tells me I need direction and should commit to something. Nor do I need a game that tries to throw tits and ass in my face, only to place some item strategically in front of the camera just as things are about to get visually interesting. Fuck that! I have an internet connection, I’ll use that to get my tits and ass. Just give me a fun game play and not a fucking dating sim.
Rent this one, don’t buy it. Or better yet, find someone who bought it and piss them off enough to have them give you their copy.
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