When I stepped onto the E3 floor, I saw a lot of very unique things from interesting booth babes to wacky people, but nothing got to the level of the Atlus developed title Catherine. When I sat down for hands on with the game I had no idea what to expect and I can say now, this game is nothing like you would think.
From the start one thing was made incredibly clear; Catherine is not an RPG even though the development team is the core group from titles such as Persona 3 and 4. No, Catherine is an adventure game full of action and puzzles intended to test player’s quick thinking in the face of adversity.
In the game you play as Vincent, a 32-year-old computer programmer who is at a crossroads in his life. His girlfriend Katherine is wanting him to settle down and have a family; something that scares Vincent. One night after plenty of drinking he awakes next to Catherine, a girl who is the exact opposite of girlfriend. Now he is thrown into a weird love triangle and a world of nightmares and confusion. All of this is coming at the hands of someone the player knows and now must complete the 8 nightmares to stay alive.
The biggest part of the gameplay are the nightmares that Vincent will find himself in. These nightmares take place in a tower where the player must escape manifestations of his real life fears of commitment in an all out climb to the top. Along the way, you will have to re-arrange blocks to allow you to climb higher. Grab power ups to add blocks where needed, or clear off effects to the blocks made by the demon trying to knock out the blocks below you. The gameplay really keeps you on your toes as you not only have to pay attention to what is trying to catch you from below, but you also must plan moves ahead so you can quickly make your way up to the very top. At the top you will be asked a question that will change how lawful or chaotic your character is and these choices can have an impact on the kind of ending you will see. Best part of this is being able to check online and see the percentage of yes/no choices around the world, bringing an interesting extra to the gameplay.
Another cool part of the game is a co-op competitive way of climbing up the blocks with a friend. In this mode you select a level and either sabotage the other player on your way to the top or work together to get both of you through the level. It is a lot of fun pulling blocks away from the other players or slapping players down, even if that player getting destroyed was me at the hands of Atlus PR.
Outside of this core gameplay mechanic the game itself will be very story driven with a lot of depth and detail given to the characters in the game along with the environments. Speaking on that, the game looks incredible, with amazing in-game scenes and animated cut-scenes done by Studio 4C. This is a step in the right direction for the team at Atlus and hopefully their next Persona game follows suit. The game will also feature multiple different difficulty settings to make it more accessible for any level of gamer that picks it up.
At the end of the day, I came away completely impressed with the unique experience that Catherine will give players in July when it releases on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. When you are not frantically trying to escape the grasp of your commitment issues in your dreams, you will be attempting to juggle two girls at once in the real world. This won’t be a game for everyone out there and those expecting their RPG fix will not be happy, but this could be one of the freshest games coming out this year.