Thanks to the wonders of the PlayStation Network’s region-free store, I was able to download and play through the demo for Atlus’s upcoming puzzler, Catherine (also on Xbox 360!). While the game’s designer claims it’s “erotic” and “adult-themed,” it the CERO-C rating is equivalent to the high-end ESRB T or low-end ESRB M rating.
The main character, Vincent, starts the demo in a dream; we know he’s in a dream, because he’s got ram’s horns, is wearing boxers with little hearts on them, and is clutching a pillow. He finds himself at the base of a wall made of blocks, and something terrible is clawing its way towards him; to escape, he must climb!
And so the player is thrust into the puzzle portion of Catherine’s gameplay; controlling Vincent on his mad dash up the wall requires moving blocks and taking care not to fall off the wall. Failure ends in death! When he reaches the top, he wakes, and the adventure portion of the game begins.
Vincent and his on-again off-again girlfriend/friend with benefits Katherine (seen on the 360 cover art) are having the talk, and she says that her family keeps dropping hints that she’s in her 30s and it’s about time she got married. Vincent is leery of commitment, and after the conversation is seen drinking with his friends and trying to figure out what he should do. After a brief discussion of the recent spate of mysterious deaths (there are never any strings of mundane deaths, are there?), his friends leave, and a younger blonde girl arrives; by this time, Vincent is drunk, and Catherine (seen on the PS3 cover art) seduces him.
He dreams again, and this time the nightmare is worse; the thing chasing him is some kind of giant monster, and if he’s too slow, Vincent gets stabbed by a giant fork (held in hands that look much like Katherine’s). If he makes it to the top of this wall, he wakes again, hungover. When he spots the younger Catherine latched onto his arm, he freaks out, and the demo abruptly ends.
Choices made during Vincent’s talks with his friends, and the text messages he chooses to send to Catherine and Katherine, influence the path of the story; between the multiple endings, Atlus claims Catherine has more than twenty hours of gameplay.
After playing through the demo, I’m interested in seeing how the full game plays. Atlus is pulling out all the stops on the localization, going so far as to make sure that the English voice actors get their lines synched to the characters’ mouth movements.
Update: Looks like Catherine is being groomed as the start of a new franchise. I knew it had done well in Japan, but I had no idea that it turned out to be this popular.