Catherine Review

Over the past week, I feel like I’ve been tortured by
Catherine (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, PC)
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: July 26, 2011
MSRP: $59.99

Nothing about Catherine is particularly satisfying. The climbing-on-blocks gameplay is repetitive and boring until it’s hair-pullingly annoying, and the social side of things is so insubstantial as to be utterly weightless. And there aren’t even any naked breasts.

I assume I expected more from Catherine because it’s the product of Atlus’ “Persona team,” but it turns out there’s nothing here that would lead you to make that connection on your own. It’s sort of amazing that a group of people would regress so much from their work making the social aspects of Persona 3 and 4 so interesting and fun.

Really, it’d be a misnomer to call anything about Catherine “social.” That part of the game, which takes place between puzzle sessions, consists of you making Vincent get drunk, triggering conversations that you only occasionally get to take part in and maybe replying to three or four text messages from Katherine, your girlfriend, and Catherine, your new secret lover. And none of that matters much to the game until the very end.

The story of Catherine follows Vincent, who is more or less a non-entity loser who lives in a tiny apartment and somehow has a hot girlfriend named Katherine. Why are he and Katherine dating? Good question. We never really get to know Katherine, and as far as I could tell they have nothing in common, they don’t talk to each other often and they don’t even really like each other that much.

So ten minutes into the game when Vincent discovers a blonde bombshell in his bed one morning after a night of hard drinking, it feels like a good thing. We, the players, don’t give a rat’s ass about Katherine, and Catherine has bigger boobies, so yay! Vincent, though, is filled with guilt, because maybe he actually does like Katherine. And that’s where the main plot kicks off.

There’s also another main plot. When Vincent leaves the bar and goes to bed, he dreams of a world where he has to climb giant towers of block puzzles. But while this world is a dream world, it has real-world consequences; if you die in the Matrix, er, the dream, you die for real. The puzzles are simple in spirit; you move blocks around so you can climb up the tower. It’s all complicated by different types of blocks — there are blocks you can’t move, trap blocks that impale you with spikes, ice blocks, and so on.

In between towers are safe areas where you can speak with other real people trapped in the nightmare. From some folks you can learn dozens of techniques for climbing the towers. For the most part you’re only use a few techniques and forget the rest, until it comes time for you to use them, at which point you’ll get stuck and spend an hour or two trying to figure out how to progress until you accidentally stumble upon the solution.

Unlike with, say, Portal, there’s no sense of triumph after completing these challenging sections. That’s because these more difficult puzzles are not intuitive in the least. I liken it to an old PC adventure game in which the only solution is to come up with some totally esoteric combination of items, and the only way to determine what said combination is is to slap a bunch of s–t together until something works. That’s how it is with the most difficult portions of this game; you just move the blocks around at random until you can move on.

The two plots only sort of intertwine for most of the game. Men who die in the collective dreams end up on the news the next day, and a night of climbing leaves the surviving men exhausted. And there’s this rumor going around that men who cheat on their women are curse and whatnot. But, since the dreams are, in fact, dreams, the men don’t really remember them when they wake up, and thus they can’t pull any Nightmare on Elm Street tricks to try to stay awake.

Eventually, the two plots collide head on, and the result is spectacularly bugf–k insane. It’s stupid beyond belief. By that point, I was already so irritated that it’d probably be incorrect to say that where the plot went also irritated me to some great extent, but I really can’t oversell just how ridiculous this game gets.

The worst part about it is that it applies an epic meaning to Vincent’s specific situation that is just so unnecessary. Vincent’s awake plot is relatively grounded until it meets up with the dream plot, and that’s probably why it shocked me so much. Until then it felt right to think of the dreams as a giant, almost literal metaphor for the real-world plot, which was uniquely small scale for a video game.

The dream stuff does still serve as a metaphor, though, and the folks at Atlus really want to make sure you know that. Once the game is over, a woman with a giant afro explains the game’s metaphors, just in case you missed them. I’m sort of appalled that someone thought that was a good idea.

That’s pretty much how I feel about the whole game, which was a huge chore to get through. Catherine is a pretty thorough miss from the Persona Team, which is sad in more than one way. Hopefully they’ll remember how to make games before they try another one.

Pros:

  • Technically well made game
  • The puzzles are, uh, unique…

Cons:

  • …but not really fun in execution
  • Poorly written story
  • I don’t give a damn about the characters
  • You don’t really need to explain the very obvious metaphors

Final Score: 30/100

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19 Comments on Catherine Review

Aids

On August 1, 2011 at 3:02 am

Oh no. Anime has ty stories and no depth. What a surprise!

CHoedy

On August 1, 2011 at 7:43 am

Finally someone who tells the truth about this ty game.Phil Owens needs a raise.

Steve

On August 1, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Hah. I thought this game was going to be hentai (base on all the hype). It might have actually succeeded as such given the lackluster gameplay. Looks like they tried to go the artsy route and ended up with one big tease of game. Fail.

hurf

On August 4, 2011 at 5:48 am

buhh buhhhh this game sucks where are the boobs????? i can only function on an absolutely superficial level dont judge me for my manchildism :( ((((

Funny

On August 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Funny how this is the only negative review of Catherine. To me, judging by the demo I’ve played, I’d say it deserves the praise it gets. What Phil should’ve have done was stick with Call of Duty instead of playing Catherine.

Phil Owen

On August 4, 2011 at 3:56 pm

But I don’t play Call of Duty!

Jason

On August 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Literally the only bad review I’ve seen. OH NO, NO BOOBS. AND REPETITIVE GAMEPLAY. Orly? A puzzle/strategy game is repetitive? Huh. “Hair-pullingly annoying”? Are you sure you’re not just retarded?

Joseph

On August 6, 2011 at 7:47 am

I thought I was in the Twilight Zone. Was I the only one who thought Catherine was a complete asinine frustrating irritating morning dump of a game. Phil Owens was generous with a 30/100. I played the demo and thought wtf is this game? Struggled to stay awake playing the plot portion then have to struggle through a dumb unexciting uninteresting nonsensical increasingly frustrating pyramid puzzle. WTF is with the sheep and pillow. Is that suppose to be art? Calling it unique and artistic is like calling a strip of red paint a Picasso masterpiece. I thought this game was going to get slaughtered in the reviews. I think Phil Owens is the only one who didn’t get bribed with a Catherine blow up doll by the publisher.

Yar

On August 6, 2011 at 7:49 am

So what he doesn’t like the game. At least he gave legitimate reasons for it. What a bunch of fail trolls. Go read a jim sterling review of it and jack off over the screen for all I care you bunch of hipster retards

Joseph

On August 6, 2011 at 8:40 am

Some Reviewer’s Reputations Should Be Questioned. Any reviewers who rate this game very highly should not be taken seriously anymore. Those reviewers must have been bribed to give a high score. I understand ppl have different taste but to give this game anything higher than 50/100 just defies logic. Now I personally think this game deserves a 10/100. I wouldn’t even buy this game for $10. This game would have be given to me for me to have in my collection. But I understand not everyone shares my tastes and preference. But in a pure objective sense, this game is puzzle heavy and the puzzles are asinine. Portal 1 & 2 are excellent examples of a well thought out logically designed rewarding puzzles. Catherine is like…imagine all the most frustrating, irritating, annoying badly designed redundant puzzle sections of all other games-that is the theme of Catherine’s puzzles. How anyone can enjoy this type of puzzles is unbelievable. In fact I don’t believe it. I think some of these reviewers lost touch of what is fun. Its like those art critics who think a toilet seat attached to a fridge is ground breaking courageous art and worthy or praise and million dollars. I am going to take note of those reviewers who rate Catherine highly and take any future comments by those out of touch idiots with a 10lb bag of coarse sea salt.

Nate

On August 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Wow I almost forget how unprofessional and poorly written some reviews can be. Not that I support the super sites like IGN.com but come on… at least TRY to be impartial. Bad article.

Dragoon

On August 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm

“Any reviewers who rate this game very highly should not be taken seriously anymore.”

Nearly EVERY review gave this game a high score, buddy. For the record, I enjoy the puzzles greatly, and I’d give Catherine a good review. It’s not without its flaws, but damn, I can’t stop climbing blocks long enough to care.

Ron Whitaker

On August 8, 2011 at 6:26 am

I find it amusing that people who disagree with Phil’s assessment of a game somehow equate that to “unprofessional.” Isn’t the job of a reviewer to play a game and give his honest opinion on how it plays?

Just judging from the comments on this review, it’s obvious that Catherine is a game that people either really enjoy or strongly dislike. Is it any wonder that there are reviews representing both ends of the spectrum?

Keep in mind that just because you disagree with something, it doesn’t automatically become incorrect or invalid. It just means someone else has a different opinion than you. Luckily, they make lots of games, so everyone can find something they like.

If you still require further instruction on the reasons why no review can ever be incorrect, impartial or objective, I highly recommend you read Jim Sterling’s excellent piece here: http://www.gamefront.com/there-is-no-i-in-review-oh-wait-yes-there-is/

Joseph

On August 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm

The Jim Sterling article recommended by Ron Whitaker was enlightening. As was the comment by Ron himself. I see their points and understand their arguments.

I confess that I think Catherine is, for me, is the WORST game ever made. I’m not trying to exaggerate here. I literally think there cannot be a worse game out there. Go to the bottom of the list with the lowest ratings and I’d rather play that game than Catherine. It would be psychologically painful and exhausting to play Catherine. So when reviewers rate Catherine HIGHLY its so perplexing that conspiracy theories starts to broil up. “Did these reviewers get bribed? Did they actually play the game or just following the herd? Can I trust these reviewers in the future anymore if they are this far off from what I think?” I mean I generally agreed with most reviews in the past, how can our opinions be this far off with this game?

The problem isn’t that they say Catherine has merits and some ppl may enjoy it but it isn’t for everyone. Its the fact that many rate Catherine AAA 90+ score. That’s putting Catherine in the same class as Uncharted2, Red Dead, Bioshock, GTA, LIttleBigPlanet, GOW, Assassins Creed etc. Its just totally dumbfounding to me. If it was rated 30-70/100 that would indicate some ppl may enjoy it but it is not for everyone. I actually have a hard time believing that some of these reviewers LOVE this game. I want proof. Let me see you playing it for 2 hours and still have a smile on your face. While you’re playing it let me check your closet…aha! What’s this badly abused Catherine blow up doll. The publisher did bribe you. I knew it! I knew it!

You don’t have to be a critic to know whats is good quality and what is pigeon crap. For example you don’t have to be a TV critic to think that The Big Bang Theory or Battlestar Galactica is a good show and Jershey Shore is a bad show. I understand lot of ppl like Jershey Shore but don’t try and tell me Jershey Shore is worthy of an Emmy or Oscar. Some ppl may actually find Snooki appealing but don’t try and tell me she’s as classy or sexy as say Jessica Alba. They are both on different levels. But come on, its obvious isn’t it? Both Catherine and Snooki are obnoxious annoying irritating one legged cows with foot and mouth disease that should be quickly taken to the back of the shed and put out of misery…Sorry, letting my personal feelings cloud my objectivity again.

What I realize is that sometimes my opinion and reviewers opinion can be drastically on opposite sides. I have limited time and don’t like wasting money so I read reviews before I buy a game. But its really caveat emptor.

Ron Whitaker

On August 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Joseph, one recommendation I make to a lot of people is to read multiple reviews by the same reviewer. If you find someone who you nearly always (or at least very often) agree with, then you know who you can trust to review games in a similar way that you would. Let that person’s opinion be your starting point. After all, if you like a lot of the same games, you’ll probably have similar opinions about future titles.

Chris

On August 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Perhaps the worst “game” – ever. Need I say more?
PS. Mr. Owen, thank you. Though, 30/100 was a bit generous… :D
Oh, Joseph(s?) – you da’ man! :D

Roxanne

On August 20, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Joseph, totally agree with you.

I played the demo and it was enough. They should have made it a 20mins-ish gameplay version as a mobile phone application. It’s worth paying a dollar for some weird puzzling-cheating-whatever action, but seriously not for 60$.

But I do like Vincent’s T-shirt, worn by Catherine, with the heart containers in the deluxe edition of the game.. And the kewl pizza box.. +1 Atlus.

Dimitry

On February 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

Extremely disappointed. Poor story, dull characters and non-existent gameplay to top it off. 30 out of 100 is what it deserves. Wast of my time… oh year AND money.

Dustin

On July 9, 2012 at 1:55 am

Thank you for this review. I couldn’t agree. more. An absolutely terrible game.