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Catherine (Xbox 360) Demo Impressions July 15, 2011

Posted by Brandon C. in Impressions.
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I fancy myself a typical American gamer; lots of action, shooting and violence, with the occasional romp through the Mushroom Kingdom. That being said, there’s not many games released that don’t catch my eye for even the briefest of seconds, and there’s not much about video games I don’t know.

Catherine is one of those quirky Japanese titles you hear about all the time, something you’d be surprised to learn has been localized for the US. I’ll admit that I don’t play a lot of Atlus’ titles – games like Shin Megami Tensei don’t pull me to play them. But Catherine has a bizarre pull for me, and I decided “What the hell, it’s a demo. At most it would be a waste of 10 minutes of my time.”

Not so much.

Catherine is described by it’s creator – Shigenori Soejima – as an “erotic” and “adult-oriented” title. Definitely something crazy out of Japan. It’s a hybrid puzzle-platformer-morality-bending RPG of sorts, blending Mass Effect and KOTOR’s morality choices with a dusky murder mystery plot and stair climbing puzzles. What a mess!

Seems our 32 year-old protagonist Vincent is having girl troubles (I feel bad for you, son!) as well as bone-chilling pants-pissing nightmares about climbing stairs. Spooky!

All joking aside, it's definitely not for kids. Strangely enough, I found myself enjoying the demo far more than I expected. Yes, me - the violent American gamer steeped in Halo and Battlefield. The story thus far is nothing hyper-unusual, and very much a dark and gritty drama about being young and carefree and all the haphazard mayhem that comes from the stage in life between living on one's own away from their parents and marriage. Obviously we don't die in reality if we die in our crazy, fucked-up sheep-filled nightmares like Vincent will.

And you will die in this game. Quite often, actually.

While the concept of gameplay in Catherine seems simple enough - climb an oversized staircase as fast as you fucking can before a mysterious black hand stabs you to death with a giant dinner fork - it's a little more complicated than first led on. Still, if you can navigate a Zelda block puzzle then you'll warm up to the basics of Catherine quickly enough. Gamers will find the pace frantic enough to persuade them to fail frequently but learn from their mistakes even more often.

Don't judge a game by it's cover here, because if you did that you'd find two sorely disappointed groups of gamers - the ones that bought the game thinking it was an erotic softcore flick and the others disappointed they didn't pick up this strange title sooner.

Oh, and if I didn't mention it already, the player directly affects the final outcome of the story through morality choices, meaning there's bound to be at least 10 different endings. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing each one when I play the full offering later this month.

The Catherine demo is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and releases on July 26th.