Publisher: Atlus / Deep Silver
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Puzzle Platformer, Survival Horror, Adventure.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day is a game about the fear of monogamy, impending fatherhood and adultery.
You play as Vincent, a 32 year old waster growing increasingly worried that his long term gf Katherine is seeking a more serious relationship. Poor timing ensues as he accidentally has an affair with a far younger free spirited woman named Catherine just as Katherine may be pregnant and young men all over the city are dying from the ‘women’s wrath’: a death that only affects cheaters. This is all the more relevant for Vincent as each night he dreams that he, and his fellow sheep, must climb upwards for if they fall they will die.
The story and gameplay here are distinctly divided. The plot is driven by non-interactive anime cut scenes which are directed by your decisions in the gameplay mode. If you act a jerk in the game, you will be a jerk in the cut scenes. Or more correctly you can be an unrepentant or whiny jerk, as Vincent is hardly the poster boy for mature relationships. The main driving force of gameplay is Vincent’s nightmares where he must push blocks to manipulate a route up an insurmountable tower as it disappears from the bottom up. The levels are littered with other men trapped in the same situation as Vincent who you see as sheep (they see you as the same) and you may need to fight them to proceed but during rest points you can interact with them and learn more techniques for climbing. Also, at the end of each level of the tower, you must not only climb the collapsing structure but also escape from the personification of Vincent’s relationship fears (lust monster, evil baby etc).
There is no way around this: Catherine is a tough game. The climbing sections are unrelenting and I did turn the game off in anger on a number of occasions vowing never to return. But return I did, largely because I wanted to see what happened to the three main protagonists. The clear divide between story and gameplay is still frustrating. Gameplay sections always runs the risk of going on too long to make you lose interest in the story. As for the cut scenes, when gameplay starts and your wireless controller has tuned off because of inactivity, it is a bad sign.
The cut scenes are affected by your dialogue choices and one of the main determining factors are the questions you are asked in the confessionals between sections of the nightmares. These questions are meant to probe your view of relationships but generally seem too constrained by having only two polar opposite choices. As the game keeps track of everyone’s answers and will show you the results, it seems a poor choice to link it to the game's morality meter. Most players first instinct, like mine, was to stay with Katherine either for moral reasons or because Catherine is the most likely candidate for evil succubus witch that you can think of. The morality questions were therefore mostly answered to get the ‘good’ ending rather than any soul searching. Without linking it to the story’s progression, these poll questions may have led to interesting observations on the players.
An attempt is made to make to increase the replayability with randomly generating puzzles (including two player mode) but as the main reason for getting through the puzzles was to see plot development, I doubt this will be a major attraction except to sadists (which as it happens is a significant portion of the audience, at least according to the in-game poll question are you a sadist or masochist?).
The stereotyping of men and women aside, this is one of the very few games that really deals with the adult issue of relationships and is definitely worth a look just for that. I had no desire to replay the game to see the alternative storyline due to the difficulty level but I found the process of the getting through the game surprisingly rewarding. Buy this game if you want something different but, fair warning, thanks to the cover art you will feel like a pervert for buying the PS3 edition.
Reviewed by: JP Gallagher.
Story by entertainment.ie | 13:01 | Friday 10th February 2012 | Games
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