Contrary to some of the information I read about this game before playing it, and indeed the suggested content based on the box art, Catherine is not a game of nudity and boobs. In fact, if you were to buy the game for titillative purposes I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed.
That’s not to say the subject matter doesn’t make an appearance, as it does albeit in a just off screen or implied form. No, the game is about men cheating on women and coming to terms with this by becoming sheep and playing block pushing games in their nightmares.
Vincent is a man who is being pressured into marrying Katherine, his more successful long-term girlfriend. He’s not sure that’s what he wants yet, and this triggers a series of events where he’s haunted by these block game dreams, and finds himself in a relationship with the mysterious Catherine who he meets at his regular bar. As the game progresses, it’s clear Vincent doesn’t seem to have much of a say in what’s going on with Catherine, and once Katherine reveals she’s pregnant, things get complicated.
As Vincent spends his evenings drinking at the bar, we find out that other men who also drink there are having nightmares too. Nobody can remember them, but you – as the player – soon realise who the sheep you keep meeting in your dreams are. Sheep who die if they don’t make it through their nightmares, as reported by the grizzly news reports the next day.
One half of the game is the interaction between Vincent, his friends and fellow barflies, and the two women in his life. The other is the block moving and climbing game. The aim of these sections is to reach the top of a tower of blocks, by pushing and pulling them into position not completely unlike in the game Pullblox. Some blocks can’t be moved, others break if you stand on them, and other still explode, have spikes, push you, or otherwise cause problems on your ascent. As you climb, the lower blocks disappear meaning you can’t just stop and think for too long. At the end of each night there’s a level where you’re additionally chased by a demon of some kind who can thwart your progress, or kill you.
I’m not often one for block pushing games (and I’ve commented on the horror that is adding sokoban-style levels to games before), but this is a little different, and for the most part fun. A few levels were frustrating, including a later one where your climb can be stymied because of random blocks causing progress impossible: No amount of planning will let you past, but you have plenty of lives to play with, you can undo moves, levels are pretty short and most have checkpoints, all of which help.
As for my playthrough, it took around 12 hours and I completed it with the “I’m a good boy but lost my woman anyway” ending. Apparently this was mostly down to the choices I made during the final section of the game (you have to answer relationship questions after each level), so there’s a chance I might replay that bit and try for something better. Or maybe I won’t? Catherine is a decent enough game, and certainly more than worth the £1.60-ish I paid for it on PSN, but I’ve so many other titles vying for my attention I’m not sure I can justify another runthrough.
If you like slightly frantic puzzle titles with bizarre storylines that make you feel like a bad man, you’ll probably like Catherine. If you just like boobs, then there’s not enough here for you I’m afraid.