Games can be many different things to different people. Whether it be a mindless escape into guns and violence, a chance to escape everyday life by immersing yourself in an expansive RPG, or even by pretending to be a top flight sportsman, the one thing that all game genres and gamers have in common is the ability to forget about real life for a while. And with the year we’ve just had, who can blame you? The subject of this Looking Back article is something a little different however, as it deals with infidelity and the fallout that comes the way of the straying main character. Intrigued? Well, come with me to the weird world of 2011’s Catherine!
Vincent Brooks is a troubled man, and it is into Vincent’s boxer shorts we find ourselves squeezed. Now, Vincent is dating an old high school friend by the name of Katherine, and while she is pressing for them to get married, Vincent is, I think it’s fair to say, not very keen; dragging his feet. Obviously, this isn’t going down very well with Katherine, and so there is a little tension in the relationship. Enter, stage left, a beautiful young lady by the name of Catherine, who ends up seducing Vincent and spending the night with him. Naughty Vincent!
Catherine then sets about pursuing Vincent and trying to steal him away from Katherine. Unbeknownst to Vincent, Catherine is not a young lady at all, but a succubus who seduces men for her own purposes. So, the scene is set for a showdown, and while it may not sound like the usual set-up for a game, it’s certainly interesting.
The game itself plays out in two halves, with the story split into the day sections and those of the night time. During the day, Vincent must interact with his friends and girlfriends in The Stray Sheep bar, and the conversational gambits he attempts have a bearing on the ending that can be achieved at the end of the game. This is almost a social simulation game, and once Vincent has had a chat with everyone, when he leaves the bar, the night time section of the game begins.
This is more of a nightmare than anything else, as Vincent sports a fetching pair of ram’s horns and a lovely line in boxer shorts. He finds himself on a tower made of blocks, that he must climb to the top of in order to escape. However, not only is the tower collapsing behind him, he must also rearrange the blocks in order to spring higher, keeping away from the lethal trap blocks which are present as well. If Vincent falls victim to a trap, or the collapse catches him up, he will fall and either have to start again from the last save, or if he has found or bought a pillow, he can respawn on the tower. And yes, Catherine – the game – is about as weird as it sounds and completely unlike anything I had played before.
So, this is the game in its entirety. Try and manage your social relationships in the day, before attempting to climb a tower all night long. It’s no wonder Vincent begins to look a little fraught! With many conversation options to choose from, and a cumulative story that is built up depending on how you answer, Catherine does have a variety of endings to aim at. Will Vincent end up with Catherine, Katherine, or alone? Whichever ending you choose or end up with, it is explained that the tower is supposed to represent a journey into adulthood, and to divide the men who want an exciting life from those who want a life of comfort, which I assume is personified by the two women in the story.
I do however remember being completely blown away when I first played Catherine back in 2011, and with its Japanese style and execution, it was very hard to almost retrain my brain in order to get into the mindset to make sense of the story. I did have a lot of fun playing though, and with various deities coming into the game in the closing stages, if anything it got even weirder the more progress was made.
These then are my memories of playing Catherine back in the day. Did you play it in its heyday? Have my witterings and reminiscences made you want to play it? If so, you’re in luck, as it was added to the backwards compatibility program on Xbox, so find a disc in your local games emporium and give it a whirl. You’ll find it present and correct on the Xbox Store if you prefer digital – it’s playable on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox 360.
If you do, or have strong memories of the game, be sure to tell us about them in the comments.