I regret to inform you all that I may disappear for a while–yes, I am being serious. Not due to illness or any sort of emotional turmoil, oh no no no…..I’m getting quite addicted to the Christmas present my roommate gave me: Catherine for PS3 by Atlus. It’s honestly getting to the point where even once I go to work, I am playing the puzzles over in my head. I like video games, and though most my friends are gamers and I hang out with many gamers, I don’t consider myself to be one. It’s been a while since I have been this stuck on a game…my last major addiction was probably either Kingdom Hearts or the re-release of Chrono Trigger.
Now, this game is nothing that is truly groundbreaking. It is essentially a dating game combined with a puzzle platformer game which calls to mind old school puzzle games like Q-bert with a little bit of insanity (or maybe a lot of insanity), a crap ton of metaphors, and symbols thrown in wherever they can fit. But then again, what do you expect–it is a Japanese game after all. I have seen several reviews now where they try to pick apart the game, analyze the symbolism, talk of the tone and psychological messages presented…..I love the symbolism, the meatphors are great, not to mention the sexual bits….but I refuse to overanalyze. If you’re looking for a review like that, look elsewhere.
In the game you play Vincent, a 32 year-old man with no real ambition who has been dating his girlfriend Katherine for several years…so long he can’t remember how long. (FYI, Vincent: that’s not something your lady is going to like.) Vincent is content going with the flow, but as Katherine begins to hint at marriage, the stress begins to take hold of Vincent and after one drunken night he ends up having a one night stand with the cute and perky Catherine after she comes on to him in the bar. Yes, that’s right. The two girls have THE SAME NAME, only different spellings. Well, at least he’ll never experience that faux pa of saying the wrong name in bed…..
Around this time, Vincent begins to have odd nightmares every night in which he is a sheep and must climb to the top of a tower of blocks or he will fall to his death. This is the puzzle portion of the game, and it gets progressively harder as the story goes on. In this section, you must push or pull blocks in order to form a path to climb up to the top. The climbing theme is rampant throughout the ENTIRE game, and several characters discuss “climbing” in casual conversation to the point where it gets a bit ridiculous. There is even an arcade game you can play within the game called “Rapunzel” which is essentially the same game set to the Rapunzel fairytale. In the nightmare puzzle world, the towers of blocks steadily fall off, btw…so you need to get moving or you will fall to your death. As the game goes on, there are even levels where things are chasing you as you climb, there are various obstacles, and other sheep even try to push you off. When you die–and trust me, you will more than likely die at least once–instead of the game telling you “Game Over” or “Stage Failed” or one of those other typical phrases, it instead proclaims “Love is Over”, a feature that particularly bemused me when I first saw the demo of the game a few months ago.
It is suggested early on that poor Vincent has ended up in this world as a result of his transgressions with the two women and that someone put him there as a “curse”. You also learn that everyone else there, who you see as sheep, are also men like you who made mistakes….eventually you will even begin to recognize a few of them. It is said that there are 8 “levels” of this nightmare, and those who climb to the top and survive get “true freedom”. I could say more, but I hate giving out spoilers, so you’ll have to play through yourself to see how the story progresses. 😉
I love games where your actions determine the course of the story, and this game is definitely one of those games. Depending on how you talk to Katherine or Catherine, and how you answer questions posed to you in the confessional or by other random characters, your morality meter will change. Currently I am playing up the role of being a cheating bastard with Catherine (honestly I think she’s way cuter anyway), but you can play the game so you are 100% loyal to Katherine, or you can even juggle the two if you wish. My hope is to play through a couple of times and see what happens depending on the responses I give in different scenarios. It is also very important to speak to everyone you see in the bar before you go into the dream world. Not doing so will have consequences.
Though this game is most likely not something that would typically appeal to a male audience, I was surprised to find out some of my male friends are interested in playing it when I am done…..however, they are going to have to take a number. I’m not done feeding my addiction yet.