Catherine Playtest: A Round Of Applause For The Golden Playhouse

By Spencer . July 19, 2011 . 12:20pm


Vincent Brooks doesn’t have to save the world from a pending apocalypse. He’s probably not cut out for that job anyway. The listless hero in Catherine has a personal choice to make. Should he stay with his possibly pregnant girlfriend Katherine who he’s been with for five years or leave her for Catherine, the alluring woman he had an affair with?


catherine_screens_58 catherine_screens_69


The choice is yours and determined by Vincent’s actions in the game. How you respond text messages from the two women is one factor. Vincent receives texts while he’s hanging out at the Stray Sheep and you can shuffle through phrases to answer them. What you say sways the pink and blue meter that pops up at the corner of the screen. Throughout the story, a cupid-like angel from the meter whispers in Vincent’s ear, affects his thoughts, and sways the story. The way Vincent answers people in the bar and even the random questions inside a confessional booth also shift the meter. Atlus created… some interesting questions for players and you can see how others answered if your console is connected online. It’s fairly clear how to guide Vincent down a particular path, but I found it more entertaining to answer honestly just to see where I would end up for my first time through.



Seeing Vincent fumble through relationships is part of Catherine. Scaling a block tower to avoid being stabbed with a fork by monster wearing a wedding dress is the meat of the game. In his nightmares, Vincent pushes and pulls blocks to build a staircase where a bell waits at the top. Ring it to escape and dream another day. Physics are different in the nightmare world because blocks hang in midair as long as they share an edge with another block. Vincent also has superhuman ledge hanging powers that rival Solid Snake. While Vincent cannot climb up more than one block, he can crawl left or right as long as there’s another block to hang on. In later levels, sheep impede Vincent’s path. You can knock them off with your pillow or remove a block they’re standing on to send them falling off the tower. Unkind, I know, but it’s every sheep for himself in Catherine.


Nightmares are broken into stages with save points and more confessional questions in between. Make sure you stop and talk to sheep between levels. Friendly sheep give Vincent tips on how to stack blocks. You can also buy items like insta-blocks, a bell that turn all nearby blocks into regular blocks, and an energy drink that lets Vincent climb two steps at once from a money grubbing merchant sheep. Items can make Catherine’s climbing sections much easier, so don’t be shy about buying them! Each day ends with a boss battle where Vincent must outrun a monstrosity that changes the tower as you’re climbing. I played Catherine on normal for my first run and there’s a cheat of sorts that makes the bosses easier. Normal gives players a chance to undo moves by pressing select. This also resets the boss’ attack pattern and reverses effects like blocks the boss changed.


Catherine is said to be a difficult game and I think the a chief reason why is Catherine doesn’t fall into an established genre. It’s a skill based game without a precedent like other platformers or shooters with familiar bullet patterns to dodge. You have to learn how to play the game as you go through Catherine. And when you just feel like you got the hang of things, the tower becomes increasingly complex. Each night players will have to figure out what to do with new blocks like slippery ice, spiked traps, and sentient blocks that move on until Vincent jumps on them. The other reason why Catherine feels tough is you can’t scan the tower to see what’s up ahead. Even when you pause, the game covers the screen with a filter. It’s impossible to plan a path when you’re going through the game on your first try, so I suggest experimenting and using undo a lot. That and don’t be afraid of dying if you just touched a checkpoint.



The North American version of Catherine has the balance patch released in Japan hardcoded into the game. This means on normal mode players earn two retries per mystic pillow (read: extra life) grabbed. Near the end of the game I had over 70 lives stocked up. As long as I was persistent, I knew I would be able to complete Catherine. A bit of outside of the "blocks" thinking helped too since the sheep don’t tell you all of the tips. For players who are more interested in the story, Catherine has a very easy mode, which lets Vincent literally leap through the tower. However, I don’t think the learning curve for the nightmares is as steep as it has been made out to be. The game (in normal difficulty) has just enough of a challenge where it feels rewarding when you complete a level just like Demon’s Souls or a classic Mega Man game, but is far from impossible either. Perhaps, that’s the old school gamer in me talking.


Rapunzel, an arcade machine in the Stray Sheep, is the real challenge. This retro mini-game uses the same rules as the nightmare portions, but Rapunzel is a pure puzzle game. There’s no time limit or evil babies to run from here. Instead you have a limit on how many blocks you can pull. Rapunzel is optional, but it’s linked to the story. While there aren’t as many elements to interact with in Catherine, almost everything comes together. Drinking at the bar serves a purpose. Talking to people at the Stray Sheep effects the game. There’s even a reason (or two) for Vincent to visit the bathroom.


The story and puzzles get more tense as Catherine progresses. Vincent’s personal problems swell each day, but I don’t want to say too much about those since it would spoil the story. I’ll just say… while Catherine is not a Shin Megami Tensei or Persona title, it shares the similar themes. Atlus did a fantastic job with the game’s dialogue. Lines in Catherine feel natural and fit the game’s setting, which is, believe it or not, America. There are a few spots of spotty mixing where voices are too loud during animated scenes and too soft at the bar. I noticed this mostly in the first few chapters and not as much later on. While Catherine does not have a Japanese language track, the English voiceovers are on point and this is because the voice actors that fit the main characters like a glove.


I think what makes Catherine memorable is because it’s different in both its gameplay and setting. The Persona team created a game based on modern life and turned a character who would be a NPC with one or two lines in an RPG epic into an interesting protagonist. When it comes to video games, I couldn’t agree more with Orlando.




With so many sequels on the market, it’s refreshing to see a game that breaks conventions like Catherine.

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  • AnimusVox

    I kinda want to hug Vincent in that last screenshot.

    • UberNoCrono

      But hes a cheating bastard :(

      • AnimusVox

        I was just gonna edit that into my comment.

      • Shinji Kazuya

        Oh poor Vincent! It wasn’t on purpose! I think O:

      • savvy30039

        Yeah, the married woman part of me is wondering how I’m gonna end up liking Vincent when I identify more with the woman he cheated on. The gamer part of me is just excited for such a unique game.

        • puchinri

          I’m not even married, but I don’t think I can approve of Vincent entirely. Certain spoilers in the game kind of want me to be more lenient on him, but he is effectively trying to have a cute, younger girlfriend on the side. But the game is incredibly fun~! (At least you can choose Katherine.)

          Then again, I think Vincent being so listless (and kind of wanting it all but not really working toward anything) kind of makes me like him less too than I used to. ( For me, he went from the really cute and well-designed guy that I kinda felt for, to ‘meh, there’s that cheater guy. Lets see how this goes.’ x’D; )

      • Aoshi00

        Not taking the side or trying to defend the cheaters.. but when you’re married to someone for decades, there’s no guarantees that things don’t happen, and Vincent is not even married yet.  Some married women neglected by their husbands might be tempted to cheat too if the opportunity arise, not everyone has a clear head and could be absolutely faithful throut their long lives.. Also emotional affair is actually much more devastating than physical affairs, knowing that your spouse actually falls in love for someone else (not a temporary physical need) after years of history and even sharing children, and Vince certainly loves Kat and not Cat. Also this is kinda a nightmarish scenario too like in scary movies or Twilight Zone..

  • The game in this description doesnt seem as daunting as I imagined it. Thanks for the write up, Spencer.

    How was the music and atmosphere in the game?

    • When you’re climbing the tower, the songs are actually remixes of classical pieces (as in classical music). At the bar the music is lounge-y and can be changed at the jukebox (there are Persona songs there).

      Let’s just say the atmosphere, especially at the latter half, is tense. I was glued to my chair after a certain point and felt compelled to complete Catherine.

  • kyuketsukimiyu

    I am still kind of surprised they put the undo function into the normal mode now. That would make normal a lot easier than in the Japanese version. I guess it is good though as I don’t want the game to catch a lot of backlash just because of it’s difficulty, like it did in Japan.

    • Aoshi00

      Yea, I’m surprised as well.  I guess I could finish the game in Normal this time.  I only completed the Jpn ver on easy because w/o undo, normal mode (w/ its few and sparing checkpoints) was too frustrating since you are not given a 2nd chance at all if you made a wrong move that hit a dead end and need to start all over again.  It really wasn’t backlash, the game still rec’d favorable reviews, it’s just that it was quite unforgiving.  Being able to do Undo makes a heck of a difference for some stages.

      I have to say this definitely makes the game more balanced, that gamers could still experience the harder block pattern/obstacles on normal but w/ undo that makes the game less frustrating, otherwise pulling or pushing one block by mistake you need to start from very early (some checkpoints are very unven thruout the stages). This is definitely a one of the GotY for me being so unique in every way, touched me very deeply like Nier :)

  • hystzen

    Any news on a EU release or should i import this?

  • Covnam

    Is that Golden Playhouse logo present in the retail game like it was on the demo? I found it very out of place and a bit distracting having it there almost all the time.

    If it is, does anyone know the reason why? (if it’s explained in-game, then you can just say that to avoid a spoiler)

    • Yes it’s in the game too and there is a reason why. I’m not sure if it would be considered spoiler territory so I’ll stop right here.

      • Covnam

        Thanks, that’s good enough for me. Guess I’ll find out in a week or so.

  • The more I read this article, the more this game seemed weird…the more intrigued I became lol.

  • Why…do I want to play Chip’s Challenge now?

    • SolidusSnake

      Probably because it’s a great game.

  • Zeik56

    It’s a bit disappointing that the sound issues are still present in the full version, but it’s at least good to hear it’s only a temporary problem. Hopefully Atlus can patch the rest though.

  • I don’t like the way she stab that cake with the fork.

  • cj_iwakura

    By the way, you can ‘pause’ the game and still see what’s going on by using the PS button on the PS3.

  • z_merquise

    “With so many sequels on the market, it’s refreshing to see a game that breaks conventions like Catherine.”

    Hell yeah!! I agree with you!

    I just played the demo recently and I love it! Gotta admit, I wasn’t really interested in this game when it first came out but after trying the demo, I think I’m going to get it. It’s kind of similar when I first discovered Vanquish. First reveal trailer of Vanquish didn’t interest me, gameplay trailers made me check the game, but playing the demo turned it to instant-buy and it also became one of the best games I played.

    The English voice acting for the game Catherine was also great. It’s just too bad that there’s no Japanese language option (I just wanted to hear Miyuki Sawashiro’s voice as Catherine) but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.

  • I played the demo and loved it. I was horrible at figuring out the puzzles but I am bad at puzzle games. lol. This was a refreshing game and was really fun. It reminded me of a twisted Q-Bert sort of and I love Q-Bert.
    The graphics are great, the voice acting is solid and the music really builds the creepy atmosphere.

  • LezardValeth

    Last statement in the post says it all basically. Nice review, even nicer closing statement. If only the gaming industry felt the same way…..

  • SolidusSnake

    Damn I’m so fired up for this game. The story and gameplay both sound great. Kudos to Atlus for taking a chance and making a unique game.

    • Ditto! I already put my landlady on notice that I’m camping out in the office on the 26th.

  • Loki

    Already got the love is over edition pre-ordered. I can’t wait to play this.

  • blah blah

    I’m just curious about one thing?
    Does it leave room for a sequel?

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