Even after many years of having games made for all ages, some people still believe that games are made primarily for kids. Catherine is a prime example of why this belief is completely and utterly wrong. Catherine is a very adult game and I'm not talking about adult as in adult movie or adult magazines. Catherine is an adult game because it deals with adult themes and doesn't shy away from uncomfortable topics.
The game starts out with the main character, Vincent, in a rather awkward and uncomfortable relationship. After a series of events leads Vincent to being unfaithful to his girlfriend, he starts suffering very bizarre nightmares where he must climb a giant staircase or fall to his death. It becomes increasingly clear that this is not an isolated incident and that if anyone having these dreams falls, they die in real life as well. Vincent must not only figure out how to end these bizarre, deadly dreams but he has to figure out how, in the real world, to deal with his unfaithfulness and choose between his girlfriend Catherine or his lover, Katherine.
The plot may sound ridiculous but it strikes a very solid emotional chord whether you have been in a similar situation or not. As you switch between making decisions for Vincent in the real world and helping him survive in his dreams, it's easy to form a strong attachment to these characters and the game never allows you the comfort of easy choices. While you may have very clear opinions on the morality of cheating, the situation becomes increasingly complicated as things continue and it doesn't remain a clear black-and-white decision. Also, just because the story revolves around a male picking between two females, doesn't mean this is a game just for guys. I played this game with my girlfriend and she become engrossed in the story as well.
Many story-based games start to disregard gameplay to a certain point and while Catherine certainly seems repetitive after a while, the difficulty ramps up quickly. In the dreams, Vincent is wearing nothing but his underwear and has goat horns but is otherwise the same Vincent. Each staircase is made up of large cubes that must be pushed and climbed to reach the top while the rows start dropping below Vincent. If Vincent doesn't move quickly enough, the floor beneath his feet will drop out and he'll fall to his death in a rather shocking display of spikes and blood. These puzzles are extremely simple to understand but become extremely difficult to complete especially by the end. While some players will become frustrated by them, the sense of reward from completing each level is something very few modern games can provide and the subsequent cut-scenes act as the prize, making the storyline even more interesting as time goes on.
Many anime games suffer from stereotypical characters and mediocre writing and acting. Catherine does not have any of these problems. Characters are some of the most memorable and three-dimensional characters this generation and the voice acting is spot on for pretty much everyone.
Many people will ignore Catherine for what it is. A relatively obscure title, made in Japan with anime stylings, a puzzle game, the list goes on. Still, many people would be making a mistake and would miss out on one of the most unique and interesting titles to be released on the Xbox 360 or any other console. If you shy away from difficult games, this may not be the game for you but if you are willing to fight through and persevere, you'll be greatly rewarded.