By Laura Varley
Vincent, a 32-year-old scared of commitment, is having a mental breakdown. Not only is he being haunted by nightmares full of sheep, death and monsters, he’s also just cheated on his girlfriend, Katherine, with a hot blonde, called Catherine. What will he do? Will he survive? Why is he having these bad dreams? You decide.
Catherine is a game full of choices – you, the player, decide how the story – which is far deeper than it first sounds – will turn out. There’s a choice of eight (yes, eight!) different endings according to the speech choices you make.
Vincent is not the only one having bad dreams. Young men everywhere are experiencing the same nightmares and are represented as sheep during these nightmares. If they die in their dreams, they die in real life.
You must assist Vincent to escape these dreams by sliding giant blocks to help him climb to the levels exit. Push and pull the blocks to create climbable stairs, a simple concept which gets more complicated as the puzzles progress. Soon you’ll be solving these puzzles against the clock or whilst being chased by a giant baby who wants to kill you.
This may all sound completely bonkers but it’s what makes Catherine refreshingly unique. The anime-style, horror-puzzler action and well-developed story makes us glad Catherine was brought over to the West from Japan. Even if the puzzles do, at times, leave us screaming obscenities at the screen and wanting to throw the controller across the room.
The Stray Sheep
However, the hard puzzles are worth it, as the story is so surprisingly deep and captivating that you won’t want to stop playing. Plus, there are sections that break up the gameplay a little – it’s not all puzzle solving. After you finish a nightmare sequence, there are several beautifully animated cut scenes to watch and then you get to hang out in the ‘Stray Sheep’. The ‘Stray Sheep’ is a bar which you can play an arcade game, drink, text and chat with the other customers.
Talking to other people is essential. Not only do you learn much more about the story, you can also pick up techniques on how to solve difficult puzzles. Surprisingly, drinking also helps too. The drunker you get, the faster you can run in your dreams. Who knew being a binge-drinker had its plus sides?
If you’re a fan of puzzle games, looking for a challenge or just want something completely different, Catherine is a must buy. Just don’t play it in a dark room, late at night by yourself, or you might start experiencing the nightmares too.
River Online Rating: 4/5
By Laura Varley