ESRB rating: Mature
Release date: July 26, 2011
Last night I was privileged to check out a special playthrough of Atlus’ upcoming action/puzzle platformer Catherine. Going into the preview, I didn’t know much about the game, aside from the sexually charged advertising and screenshots that had been released in the past months. Before I discuss the gameplay, however, I want to discuss some information about the upcoming release.
For starters, the version of Catherine that will be released in the US is the post-patch Japanese version. Japanese gamers complained that the game was too difficult, so Atlus made some changes and added a “Very Easy” difficulty setting. They have also altered a few specific areas of the game that garnered the most complaints. Atlus wants people to know that this does not mean, however, that it has been dumbed down. The game, which will run 8-14 hours depending on your play style, is still very challenging. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions will be identical in terms of content and as of right now there is no DLC planned. The game features only the English voice track, and the character visuals have been re-synced to match the words.
The first thing you will notice about the title is its striking artwork. The style is incredible and the animation, both in-game and during the cutscenes, is extremely well done. The second thing you will notice is the soundtrack, which does a great job of setting the mood. While Catherine is heavy on cutscenes, the action parts of the game are broken into two categories: puzzle solving and exploring. The levels are a vertical climb up a disintegrating tower, where the player can jump, hang, climb up the tower and can even pull and slide bricks into place to keep going. When not in a tower level, the player is free to roam around a small number of locations, including a bar. During the areas where free roaming is allowed, players are free to talk to NPCs and learn things about the story. In the bar area, there is also an arcade machine where one can play Rapunzel, a smaller tower puzzle game, as a bonus.
During the game, Vincent, the main character, will receive messages on his phone. These text messages usually contain questions that you can reply to in a number of different ways. How you respond to these and other questions affects your Law vs. Chaos meter. Catherine features several different endings, and the ending you get for finishing the game depends on where your Law vs. Chaos meter is when the game ends. Questions that are asked at the end of climbing levels will show online poll data from other PSN or Live users around the world. Each chapter has a boss level. The boss levels feature a monster based on one of Vincent’s fears, and each boss has a unique ability that will hinder your progress up the tower.
The game also features two multiplayer modes: Babel and Colosseum. Babel, the cooperative mode, has two players working together to climb a series of towers. Colosseum, on the other hand, unlocks when you have beaten the game. Colosseum is the competitive mode where two players can race each other up a tower. Trapping your opponent or making your way up the tower first earns you a victory. Both modes feature single-screen, offline co-op play.
Catherine will be in stores July 26. Atlus is working on demos for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360, but they have not yet announced availability dates.