Friday, August 26, 2011

Catherine on PlayStation 3 Impression

A mature blending of anime and gaming in the curvaceous Catherine

Catherine blends awesome animation, addictive and challenging puzzles with conversation trees that will determine the outcome for poor old Vincent. Known more for their niche and hardcore RPG’s it’s great to see publisher Atlus putting out a true, next-gen, HD title that is so different and rewarding. Anime fans will be craving a games free version of the haunting tale while gamers will spend hours solving similar puzzles with new and deadly twists. So what’s this love triangle of Vincent, Catherin and Katherine all about? Let’s take a look.

Gameplay – One game and story with three distinct presentations. Vincent is a 32 year old not really sure where he’s going with pressure from his girlfriend Katherine to marry and a chance encounter and relationship with the young, vibrant and seductive Catherine. On top of these relationships and issues Vincent is losing sleep as his dreams are haunted with puzzles, towers he must scale before the bottom drops out and he … well what’s next he has no desire to find out. He chats about both of these issues with his buddies and friends at the Stray Sheep bar where he engages in various conversations with different choices to pick and can even send email and text messages to change relationships. Life is not easy for Vincent and he’s also wondering what the recent rash of male deaths in their sleep is about, does it relate to the odd dreams with sheep and puzzles he keeps encountering?

So the tale is about Vincent and he has three types of gameplay, well two really. First are the very nice animated story sequences that deserve their own DVD treatment while there are large conversation pieces where the choices made determine the story outcome, the morality scale means good or bad choices. The final and meatiest piece of gameplay are the puzzle sequences where Vincent must climb. These are challenging but lack true variety in appearance. It’s a lot of trial and error mixed with some skill so expect frustration. It’s a mix of three very different experiences that works as weaved around Vincent and his ladies. One note is on the puzzles the controls and camera can get very annoying but it just takes a bit getting used to … just hate dying so much while learning.

Graphics – The in-game graphics, conversation pieces are polished and solid but not spectacular. Motions are robotic and the overall feel is just a bit off. This is the polar opposite of the gorgeous animation sequences that move the story along and will drive gamers to solve puzzles to see what’s next. Each character comes to life and these sequences make the connection with Vincent and the preferred lovely lady all the easier to establish. The puzzle sequences are well done but can’t be admired in any sense as gamers will be frantically trying to climb to avoid falling so pause to check out the detail, it’s quit good and Vincent’s character sports decent detail down to his boxers.

Sound – The soundtrack is a mixing of almost house tunes and remixed classical pieces (included CD is ok, not great, just ok). As gamers work to solve the puzzles the music will blend into the background so it’s not a huge loss but those few quirky tunes will stand out. The voice work is great as there are some very recognizable gaming and anime talents at work here (official site will clue in names, check it out). Each primary and secondary character deliver their roles spot on with the right levels of enthusiasm, sarcasm, experience, anger and rage. It’s quite tasty especially as the story and situations escalate but some of the best lines have to be from the sheep … you’ll see.

Design – The mixing of three unique experiences works and does so very well. Telling a story via text based choices, animated scenes and challenging puzzles is quite an accomplishment as it’s not just a puzzle or text game or anime for that matter it’s a mixing of three. The puzzles are brutal in their challenge so gamers really need to pay attention to conversations and tips to advance. It’s like a hardcore workout where the puzzles get gamers pulse up and sweat going while they then cool down a bit during the conversation, relax with the anime then ramp back up in the puzzles again. Well designed indeed, unlike Vincent’s love life.

Miscellaneous – The bonus content is to die for. Soundtrack, boxers and that pillow case, good luck explaining that to your wife or girlfriend (or boyfriend, wait he won’t mind).

Overall Catherine is a unique gaming experience that anime fans should dig for its slick content and story as well as accessible puzzles while gamers will enjoy the frosted side of a challenging puzzler with mature content, an adult story. It’s quite a mixture and fun to play, only question is which C(K)atherine would you choose?

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