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Catherine Review

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No squealing, remember that it's all in your head...

★★★★

Perhaps the best way to describe Atlus’ nightmare-fuelled, block sliding, puzzle game dating sim – as if that’s not a striking enough proposition – is that it’s likely what would result from Hitchcock and Lynch collaborating on an interactive anime movie. In fact, compare Catherine to Lynch’s Twin Peaks, replace the dancing Man From Another Place with talking sheep-men, and you’re halfway there in the weirdness stakes alone.

Split between daytime relationship elements and nocturnal puzzle gaming set in an abstract world of Catholic imagery and bizarre metaphors, the game follows 32-year old Vincent through a hellish week. Torn between marrying his long-time girlfriend Katherine or having a fling with the younger, sexier, mysterious Catherine, Vincent’s dilemma is surprisingly relatable subject matter, and handled with unexpected maturity despite being viewed through a fantastic lens.

While the daylight sections are largely a passive experience, spent talking with friends or constructing text messages that can affect the cast’s emotions (and the flow of the game), night-time, where the bulk of the actual gameplay occurs, is fraught with danger. The concept is simple – ascend a staircase of moveable blocks before whatever waits below claws its way up and kills you. The reality is one of escalating difficulty as ever more obstacles and rivals block your way. A palpable tension falls on you as you strive to find the quickest route to the top and the brief respite it brings. Collectable items and blocks with unique attributes can assist but personal reactions and skill are key for survival. However, you may find yourself having to employ checkpoints and extra lives frequently, as Vincent often refuses to climb or drop from a box at the exact point you want.

Despite its diametrically opposed components – or maybe because of them – the game oozes originality and style throughout. Essentially a statement on growing up, morals and responsibility, Catherine is a strange game in every sense but one that must be experienced.