Catherine First Impressions

Vincent Brooks, you poor, poor sod. I really don’t like you. Your highest aspiration is that things stay exactly where they are; you’ve lived life completely on cruise control. Honestly, I’m surprised you’ve gotten this far–that you have a job, friends or a girlfriend at all.

Catherine is full of, well, unlikeable characters. Not in the sense that they’re bad characters or anything, they’re good characters. They are not there to be liked, they are there to press buttons more than anything else. Each of Vincent’s friends is the embodiment of an ideology or approach when it comes to love. You’ve got the wide-eyed sap, the stoic mystery man and the jaded cynic…and then there’s you, the wildcard.

This is a huge departure from the common picture-perfect depiction of love found in most games (at least, that I’ve played). These people are older and flawed, permanently flawed. They’ve already done their growing up, this is who they are. I don’t get the sense you will influence them or see them grow, and that will throw a lot of people off. You do uncover their story, but it doesn’t seem like you are there to fix them or put them back together. They’re there to make you think about how you will approach love when the time comes, and to give you a sense that you’re not in this mess alone. They are the other stray sheep, after all.

There are big issues at the heart of Catherine, the likes of which–to my knowledge–have yet to be properly addressed in games. Marriage. Love. Cheating. These issues are turned into somewhat of a spectacle. The game starts off by introducing itself as a part of the ‘Golden Playhouse’ programming–as in, a show, a play, something that an audience watches. This didn’t hit me until sometime on the second day, when I noticed that there was an audience that was cheering Vincent on as he climbed the blocks. It was then that I noticed that the upper left corner of the screen had the Golden Playhouse logo on it.

This got my gears turning. What does that contextualization signify, exactly? Are we the audience, voyeurs of some sort? I think so. I’m reminded of reality TV a bit, actually. We like to watch train wrecks and their day-to-day drama. This drama usually sparks the audience to judge and gossip with one another regarding what they’ve seen. In some senses I think of Catherine as a social experiment of a sort. The questions at the confessional reinforce this feeling, we think of the issues presented in Catherine in a larger sociological context. I can’t help but be fascinated at what people answer in these questions, what it says about them. Speaking to friends, it seems that the 360 audience and the PS3 audience think quite differently from one another when it comes to love and life!

I could keep going on and on about the ideas in the game, but let’s touch upon the gameplay a bit. I’m pleasantly surprised, actually. I abhor puzzle games for the most part. I’m terrible at puzzles and often consider them to be a chore. I braved Catherine because it looked good, and, well, it’s Atlus. The Persona team, even. So far I’ve found the puzzles to be addicting, and, even in situations where I’m replaying a level over and over again because it’s so damn difficult…I’m having fun. Right now, I’ll chalk it up to how fast paced it is, it’s a rush to the head. Boss battles in particular, even though they’re hard as fuck, I adore. Maybe I’m a masochist.

One last note that I just edited in right now. This game. This game. It’s so damn addicting. The puzzles, yeah, as I just mentioned but the plot, too. I want to know what happens. It’s the first game in a very, very long time that I’m playing for the plot. It’s not just that it’s so saucy–though it is–but the mystery surrounding everything is intriguing, too. I’ve got some serious Catherine on the brain.

Well, I’d best be going now, I have a date. With Catherine!

One Comment

  1. Got my collector’s edition of Catherine last night. Promptly passed the pillow case off to a friend, donned the boxers and shorts at my girlfriend’s request, and played. I’m liking it so far. The creators must have been aware of the expectations serious critics of the video games industry had for it. I don’t really get the impression that the game is supposed to be “deep.” In fact the narrator makes a crack about that fact when you play the Rapunzel arcade game in the Stray Sheep.

    I just think the game wants to tell an unorthadox (for video games) story about a guy who is struggling with his relationship. I don’t think it’s going to meet anyone’s expectations as an exploration into the complex web of wackiness that is human sexuality, but it’s so far interesting enough that I can’t wait to get home from work and play it.