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Catherine

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: Jan. 10, 2019

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PC Review - 'Catherine Classic'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 29, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Catherine is an unprecedented exploration of the pleasures and horrors of love. As Vincent, a man recently succumbed to the irresistible beauty of the game's titular diversion players find themselves swept into a treacherous love triangle.

When Catherine was originally released in 2011, it was considered unusual for Atlus. Half of the game was like a visual novel, which the studio had never done. The other half was a puzzle title, which the company had only done once as an arcade game decades ago. The gamble paid off, as fans found the title to be intriguing. Almost eight years later, the game has been ported to the PC under the moniker Catherine Classic, and while advancements in the genres have occurred, the title is still fun.

Presented as an episode of a fictional show called "Golden Playhouse," the story has you play the role of Vincent, a 32-year-old man who has been dating his childhood crush Katherine for a long time. While Katherine has hinted at getting married while remaining career-driven, Vincent wants things to remain the same. Recently, he's been experiencing strange dreams where he has to climb a large tower of blocks or die trying. Single men have also been dying under mysterious circumstances, leading Vincent to believe that he might meet the same fate. On top of it all, he woke up one morning in bed with someone named Catherine, a woman who is the polar opposite of Katherine.


Your opinion of the story will depend on whether you want your stories to be full of surprises. Compared to the likes of Doki Doki Literature Club or A Normal Lost Phone, you can tell which choices lead to which ending, and it certainly doesn't help that your choices are often immediately gauged by a meter to let you know if it's a good or bad idea. At the same time, there aren't too many stories willing to deal with the notion of relationships at a more adult level. It's refreshing that you're dealing with actual adults instead of high school students, and there are certainly questions that'll make you think after the game ends. While the impact of the tale has certainly lessened over time due to a proliferation of the visual novel genre on the PC in recent years, the title still holds up well enough.

Truthfully, the visual novel designation isn't completely accurate because you end up doing lots of things outside of the puzzle segments. Yes, there are plenty of cut scenes and text boxes to go through, but they're all fully animated instead of still pictures of character reactions. You still do your fair share of answering questions, but you also get to move around the environment and talk to people to get a better sense of what's going on at that moment. You can have drinks or play a similar-but-different climbing arcade game if you wish. This is more akin to an old point-and-click adventure game, but the visual novel elements give it a heavier story focus.

Story may be a huge part of the game, but the puzzle element is also equally represented. Each puzzle is essentially a race to the top of the tower, with the limitation being that you can only climb up and down safely if you go one block at a time. Creating pathways requires you to push or pull blocks in any of the cardinal directions, but you need to be mindful of having enough space to move any block. Be aware that blocks can fall down, and it's entirely possible to trap yourself with only a few opportunities to undo the move or simply restart the puzzle.


What makes the puzzles work are the various abilities that you use to tackle them. Special techniques aren't unlocked via normal tutorials; you must actively seek out others in the puzzle world and have them teach you. No matter how many times you do it, it's magical to create temporary stairs in mid-air. The same goes for shimmying across block edges or setting up elaborate climbing paths to snag bonuses and reach the exit. It only takes a few levels to realize why the game has had a community centered around giving each puzzle more elaborate and flashy solutions.

What may make some players curse these puzzles are the elements designed to make you panic. Unless you play the game on easy, you'll find that the floors fall at a fairly quick pace. Sometimes you'll have some time to think, but most of the time, you'll try to rush so you don't fall. In some levels, there are enough sheep to be annoying, whether it's their reluctance to move or their active aggression toward you. Other levels have a large creature actively chasing you, and once you combine all three elements, some stages are absolutely frustrating. Granted, that pressure is intentional and part of the game's charm, but don't be surprised if you shut down the game for a while so you can clear your mind and try again after you've calmed down.

Aside from trying to see the game's multiple endings, there are a few more modes available after you beat the title for the first time. If you can score lots of gold trophies in the story mode, you'll open up Babel mode, which lets you take on even tougher puzzle stages. If you prefer multiplayer to be competitive, there's Colosseum mode which, is essentially a race to the top of the towers. The mode is loads of fun, even if it's limited to offline play.


There is one mystery regarding the release of this game, and that is why was the original version was released on the PC in the first place. PC players are grateful to have a well-regarded console game come over to their platform of choice, especially with the promise of 4K and other tweaks, but this version seems ill-timed when we already know that Catherine: Full Body, the director's cut of the game, is releasing in the same year for the PS4. With PC players having already waited eight years for the game, a few more months would've been bearable if it meant getting the definitive version. There's also no word on whether the content in Full Body is going to make it over later as DLC. Again, getting the vanilla version of the game is better than getting nothing at all, but the decision is still confusing.

The overall presentation was very good before, and the move to PC made things a little better. Namely, the game can hit 60fps during gameplay rather easily with a moderately specced machine. Other than that, the graphics look identical to the older console releases, except for the bump in resolution, and that's not a bad thing since the game's art style is absolutely solid with some nice flourishes. On the audio side, the music remains excellent in providing the right mood for each scene, while the English voice acting is just as good as ever. For the first time, the game on this side of the pond also has a Japanese vocal track, and while it's also excellent overall, players will lament that a few scenes lack subtitles, and there are a few occasions where the English vocal track slips in momentarily.

Catherine Classic may have lost some of its freshness over time, but it remains an intriguing title for those looking for a game that defies expectations. Its more adult style may seem too simple for some, but it's something that very few visual novels attempt to do. The puzzle aspect remains hellish in difficulty but is still fun once you learn all of the tricks and can deal with the imposed time limits. For longtime fans, there isn't much here to bring you back, but unless you don't have your PS3 anymore or an Xbox One to play the Xbox 360 version, Catherine Classic is worth checking out.

Score: 8.0/10



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