Originally Published 6 January 2012
Earlier this week, I finished up my playthrough of Catherine. The game itself is somewhat difficult to place into a genre, which is one of the things that made this review difficult.
The premise of the game is that you play as Vincent. Vincent has a dead-end job, but it’s enough to pay the bills; and a long-term girlfriend. The girlfriend–Katherine–has started hinting that she wants their relationship to move forward with the presumption that it is toward marriage. On the same day that she starts dropping these hints, he ends up having a one-night stand with another girl. The rest of the story is about his trying to come to terms with both his betrayal and what he wants to do with his life.
At the same time that Vincent is having this life crisis, he has begun to have terrible nightmares. In these nightmares (which he can’t remember after waking), he is forced to climb a wall or die. Every night, the complexity and danger of the wall increases.
These two ongoing parts of the game intertwine into one strangely coherent narrative on what the best way to move forward in life is. Vincent’s daytime problems are addressed by interacting with other characters, sending text messages, and trying to figure out his situation. The nighttime problems show up as a sliding block puzzle that is both simple and surprisingly deep. The puzzle game aspect was interesting enough that, even when I didn’t need to do the puzzles (due to having cleared them previously with a high enough score), I still did because they were fun.
Overall, I found Catherine to be very compelling. It was a game in which adult themes–love, fidelity, and finding a place–are address in a relatively adult and realistic way. Finding non-indie games that address these themes is rare enough; finding one that addresses them well was a great surprise.