Catherine is a puzzle platformer game being published by Deep Silver here in the UK which will take you on the most bizarre journey of your life. You are quickly introduced to the main character, the scrawny looking 32 year old Vincent Brooks who begins experiencing strange and tormenting nightmares involving sheep. Trust me, it gets weirder…
The main story is introduced from the Golden Playhouse, and the player will get to experience to distinctly different parts to this game, Vincent’s daytime life and his nightmares. Vincent sits in the local Stray Sheep restaurant contemplating marriage to Katherine McBride, who has been the love of his life for five years. Up until now, their lives have been happy and complete, but Katherine decides she wants to get married to Vincent and the pressure is on for him to pop the question. Vincent likes hanging out with good friends Jonny, Toby and Orlando at the local bar and spends a lot of time talking about his relationship with Katherine. Things get even more complicated for Vincent when he meets a beautiful woman called Catherine. As she wanders into the restaurant and sits next to him, he realises that she is exactly what he is looking for in a woman. Eventually they spend the night together.
Within this waking world is where the majority of the story plays out and Vincent can interact with his environment and others around him whilst the story unfolds. His love is being torn between two different women, Katherine and Catherine, and the decision of which to choose is messing with his life. Decisions will have to be made as the player progresses which will have an effect on how things play out.
The core of the gameplay, however, takes place within the nightmare world. It would appear that many of the local men are experiencing the same dreams and even meet each other within these dreams, although they all look like anthropomorphic sheep, usually wearing ties. The threat plays out in that if a person dies within these dreams, they die in real life.
Each stage is set up in front of Vincent as a giant staircase constructed of large blocks, which is slowly collapsing beneath him and will result in his death unless he reaches the top. This involves Vincent pulling, pushing and climbing blocks all the while planning ahead and trying to avoid being trapped by unmovable blocks or falling foul of collapsing blocks and other traps. Climbing the staircase quickly will gain you a score multiplier, if you make it to the end of the level in one piece.
During their climb, the player will come across items that will aid their quest to reach the top, such as a pillow which gives the player an extra life. The key to success is planning ahead and creating a route to the top, not an easy task when time is slowly ticking away. Players are able to hang from the edges of blocks in order to “shimmy” along their path, and as they progress through the puzzles new blocks are introduced to mix things up, such as trampoline blocks which will let you reach previously unreachable blocks, or ice blocks which can cause you to slip to your doom.
The story takes some bizarre twists and turns as Vincent struggles with his nightmares and his impending choices between Katherine and Catherine. The player will find themselves receiving text messages from the two women in Vincents life and will have to respond, and those responses shape the direction of the game, with a handy meter showing which way Vincent is leaning – Katherine or Catherine.
To be honest, it is quite a strange game. On one side there is the decision-based gaming of Vincent’s waking life, and on the other are the incredibly difficult puzzle-based nightmare sections. The entire game is very well made, looking gorgeous and weaving an interesting story, but the difficulty of the puzzles can be off-putting, leaving the player feeling defeated before they get past the first few levels.
For the novelty factor, Catherine would certainly get full marks. But the reality is that the game is made up of dialogue decisions and block-based puzzling, which can get a bit repetitive if you are not the sort of player who can get invested in the characters and story. The game is strange and mysterious, and will no doubt gather a cult following, but it is by no means suitable for everyone.