Catherine (2011) by Atlus

Catherine represents a strange entry on my list of favorite games.  The game is a self described horror, puzzle, dating simulation video game.  Sign me up!  I have always thought that I would love the Persona video game series and I even considered adding Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE on this list, but I feel like the games really on heavy handed plot lines a bit too much.  So when the creators of Persona released an action puzzle game I thought that this would be a great first step into their universe to see whether or not a game like Persona 5 or Persona 4: Golden would be something that I was interested in.  After some careful consideration I do not think that I could play through a game like Persona 5, but Catherine remained one of my favorite games of all time.

The first thing that you will notice about Catherine is the story.  The game is rather heavy with exposition and dialogue.  Mostly in the form of beautifully rendered anime cutscenes.  They are fun to watch, but remain a little bit on the long side.  The story revolves around the main character’s complicated love triangle with his current girlfriend and a new woman who conveniently enters his life at a turning point in his life. The best part about the story in this game is the control that the player has over the outcome.

I used to play a lot of dating simulators when I was younger.  There was a game on the Nintendo DS, Sprung, that I played for hours as I tried to unlock all of the different endings.  I also really enjoyed the character relationship feature in Fire Emblem Fates.  Games like that are fun to explore as your build relationships and are free to choose the characters that you like the most.  Catherine also allowed the player to make conversation choices as you progress through the game that alter the outcome drastically.  There are something like nine different endings for the game and the entire story plays out different depending on your choices.  The first time I played the game I only managed to get a Bad Ending, but that really pushed me to play again for a different ending.

However, unlike Sprung, Catherine is not just a dating simulator.  The best part about the game is the puzzle elements.  The developers created a great puzzle game within a dating sim/anime television show.  You operate on a isometric plane that reminds of classic games like Q*Bert, but you are able to push and pull large blocks in order to climb higher and higher.  Certain stages add new traps like bomb blocks and ice blocks, or even final bosses that chase you up the stage and create new challenges for you to face.  The puzzling is addictive and very challenging.  I played through the game on Easy during my first playthrough and still managed to die repeatedly.  I had to look up some of the solutions to the puzzles, but the solutions are more like tips because the environment is constantly changing based on the moves you make.  The game really rewards quick thinking and adaptability.  The gameplay really reminds of something like Tetris or Lumines, where there is not one solution but multiple ways to climb the tower, and lots of different techniques that you can use to succeed.

During my second playthrough I decided to increase the difficulty to Normal and found myself performing even better than during my Easy playthrough.  I really felt like I had learned and improved upon my skills.  This is a game that rewards experience and multiple playthroughs.  I still use Catherine as a quick game to play before bed or just for a quick challenge mode if I have a few minutes.  It is not a long game, the length is dependent on how quickly you solve the puzzles.  It also includes a random puzzle generator and two player battle modes that really focus on the great gameplay that was developed here.

We are also getting an update to the original game, Catherine: Full Bodied that introduces a new love interest and some new puzzle elements coming in 2019.  I hope it comes to the Switch!

And now we have finally completed all 27 of my favorite games, of all time!  Just wait for my birthday when I add a 28th title to the list.  Look for a compiled list with links to all of these articles that will live on the homepage, and I will be posting some fun recaps about games that almost made the list tomorrow.

More Spoon Deep coming soon.

Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks

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