Girls, drinks and nightmares, what else would you need?
Vincent Brooks' the game's protagonist, he is irresponsible, laid back and not ready to commit, much to his girlfriend's, Katherine, chagrin. It was a normal day, after his every-day routine of joining his friends for drinks, that he meets Catherine and cheats on his girlfriend... and the nightmares begin. Now begins Vincent ordeals, dealing with his pushy girlfriend, the pushy lover and the deadly nightmares. The story is all kinds of fantastic. Taking place during 8 days or so, every day begins with Vincent waking up after a nightmare, AKA gameplay section, then a few cutscenes of character development, a brief playable interlude at the bar and then another nightmare. The formula doesn't get repetitive due to how good the story-telling is and how engrossing Vincent story is, not to mention how eventually other people get sucked into the nightmare, and you get to follow their stories during the bar and nightmare scenes. It helps that Atlus nailed the game's atmosphere just right, and unexpectedly for a Japanese game, they treat the game's themes with maturity.
But then it's time to go back to your house and suffer the Nightmares. This is the meat of the game, in which you must climb a tower of blocks all the way to the top. But you can't take your time, as either lower levels of blocks are constantly falling or you are being followed by a boss. At first, it's simply a matter of pulling and pushing blocks in order to make your way across, but then different types of blocks get introduced: Icy, slippery blocks, Trap blocks, Void Cup-blocks, Spring Blocks and a few others. While it's easy to exploit Retry items, and the 'Undo' feature is pretty generous, the game gets rather brutal at times even in the Normal difficulty setting. I'm not much of a puzzle-game aficionado, so I'm not ashamed to admit that I wasn't much of a fan of these sections. That said, after every stage, each Nightmare being comprised of two-to-four stages each, you'll get to talk with anthropomorphic sheep who soon reveal themselves to be the NPCs from the game's bar section! So even during these you'll get more story bits, and even questions to answer in order to alter Vincent's morality gauge.
Gameplay-wise, Catherine was not my kind of game, but as far as the story is concerned, it's right up my alley. It's a fantastic, original story that keeps you engrossed all the way to the end. So even, even if you are not into puzzle games, the story is more than worth going through the game, featuring mature, serious themes that are displayed in very ingenious ways, mixing Persona's brand of surrealism and fantasy, with more realistic tones. Catherine is fantastic, no two ways about it.
8.5 out of 10