Damn my mono-linguistic nature. If I actually spent more time trying to learn Japanese I may have had a slightly greater understanding of the incongruous events that only recently took place on my television screen. Towers of cubes, screaming abominations, tie-wearing sheep, blood-soaked cutlery and gaping mouths assaulted my senses over the course of the demo for Atlus’ Catherine.
The game, which has garnered a great deal of attention for its developers past successes and intriguing storyline – not to mention the overt sexual provocation – has been rather timid in showing off how you actually play the game. Well, it turns out Catherine is some kind of puzzle/RPG hybrid.
In the demo you help Vincent climb up towers of blocks in order to escape his nightmares by rearranging them into a traversable path. From what I could tell a score system rewards you for performing continuous upward movement and a number of power ups can be collected on the ascent to improve your score or reverse your moves if you make a mistake. All the while, unholy abominations chase you from the bottom of the screen ensuring you keep pushing forward or risk being skewed by their gore-riddled forks. The second nightmare in the demo was actually quite nerve-wracking as I hurriedly pushed and pulled blocks to move up whilst the ‘thing’ chasing me wiped out platforms below with each visceral swipe.
Sandwiched between the two puzzle nightmares was a short section of texting Vincent’s girlfriend Katherine. (Yes, there’s one with a ‘C’ and one with a ‘K’; the story appears to revolve around Vincent sleeping with Catherine whilst still in a relationship with Katherine – chaos and sheep-filled nightmares ensue!) I had no idea what I was doing in the texting session but an obvious morality slider popped up and swung in the direction of ‘good’ for each text I sent to Katherine. From the trailer at the end these RPG sections seem to open up later in the game and perhaps here the morality system comes into use.
I’m still thoroughly interested in how Catherine turns out if it even makes it to the UK. Many others have completely turned their back on the game after the demo, disappointed by the puzzle focused gameplay. Nevertheless, I found it quite exhilarating and only wish I knew what in the world was happening the rest of the time.