But Catherine isn’t a sneaking game. It’s not a brawler. It’s not an adventure game and it’s not a shooter. I’m not really sure what it is. It’s a story with a hard core puzzle mode, or a hard core puzzle game with a more complex, challenging, and interesting story than just about anything else I’ve played. The game defies simple definition; in my review I talk about the story, and the game play, and some problems, but I doubt that reading it will really give you a sense of what Catherine is actually like.
The central question posed by Catherine is this: if your life depended upon maintaining a long-term relationship with your girlfriend, could you do it? If breaking up meant death, could you actually make it work? Even when a lithe blond girl ten years your junior appears in your bed one morning?
The particular brand of alchemy that Catherine is employing is had to pin down. On the one hand we have thesoul-crushingly difficult puzzle mode. On the other, we have a well told story that challenges the player to answer questions about how seriously they are able to invest in personal relationships. If you found out that your significant other was a robot, could you still go out with them?
It gets under your skin, claws its way into the most uncomfortable parts of your brain. When Vincent receives a sexy e-mail from his unintentional lover, he’s simultaneously excited and horrified. When he has to write his long-term girlfriend back on his phone, he selects his words carefully. Should he sign off with, “talk to you later,” “good night, Katherine,” or something else entirely? Which is less likely to evoke an angry response? Maybe he should just drink some more before going home. Oh, and we have to make time for a few bleeding walls.
And then, and then, we pause to jump into block puzzle of doom mode, a place that eats your thumbs for lunch.
Catherine is weird, difficult, and wonderful. The difficulty is off the charts and the controls can’t really accommodate it; otherwise it would be vying for my Game of the Year selection, along with Portal 2. Even with the crazy amount of repetition that the end levels require, Catherine is one of the best games I’ve played. Check it out if you like fascinating stories, top-notch art and music, and, well, ego-destroying block puzzles.
Here’s my full review.