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Hands on Preview: Catherine

September 15th, 2011 by

During the forthcoming winter games release schedule, as many gamers prepare to speak in the tongues of dragons or engage in Modern Warfare, a few will pull up the collars of their coats and walk the other way.  These gamers are interested in a darker and definitely more quirky experience – a few nights in the company of Catherine.

From the minds of Atlus (think Persona, Digital Devil Saga and Trauma Center amongst many others) comes a tale and a game unlike any you have played on the current generation of consoles.

Catherine is unique.
How do I know?  Because I’ve already met her…

Describing any Atlus game experience is rarely straightforward.  Catherine is one part anime cut-scene, one part interactive anime and one significant part tower puzzle (and an occasionally fiendishly difficult one at that).

You play Vincent, a 32 year old who is busy avoiding the responsibilities that come with a steady relationship whilst regularly drowning his concerns with friends at the game’s main hub, the Stray Sheep.  It’s a bar full of character and characters.  Many are men who all have a strange tale to tell of nightmares involving sheep and tower climbing…

Before the tale can further unfold, you too experience your own bovid based night terrors.  Armed only with a pair of boxer shorts, a pillow and a hefty pair of horns (I kid you not) you are forced to climb a set of structures quickly enough to avoid an unknown evil pursuing you from beneath.  The evil takes many forms throughout the game but if it catches up with you, it’s all over (depending on the difficulty setting played, you’ll get a limited number of ‘retry’ credits).

Each tower is made up of mysterious blocks which can be dragged and pushed to create bridges or steps to aid your ascendance.  Some paths are easy to spot, others not so, but make it to the top and you survive one more night and a chance to speak with some rather familiar sounding sheep.

Cut-scenes move the story along and create additional problems for your weary character before a return to the Stray Sheep and a chance to drink, mingle with the clientele, and play the jukebox or a retro arcade machine.

You can check your phone to find out what your girlfriend, Katherine, is asking or to check your statistics and save your progress before returning to the real world.

It’ll also be where a young lady called Catherine will start contacting you once you meet her after a late one in the bar early in the game.  Who is she? Where did she come from?  And how has your character apparently ended up sleeping with her even though you can’t remember what happened?

Vincent’s story and that of a tale involving a witch’s curse are unravelled day by day leaving you the job of staying alive at night.

So what makes a suitable closing comment for a game like Catherine? Flawed brilliance and extremely playable in short or longer bursts, it’ll undoubtedly lose the prime shelf spaces to the AAA titles coming out at the same time and pass many gamers by.

But, should you find yourself drawn to Catherine (your interest piqued by the need to play something a little different this Winter) the game is scheduled for release on Xbox 360 and PS3 at the end of October…just make sure you keep climbing and don’t look down…

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