Up until its release, I’d written off Catherine as a niche porno game. While there’s nothing wrong with that if you’re into that scene, that style of game is not for me. As it turns out, this is not that type of experience at all. Instead, it’s equal parts puzzle game and dating simulator. It’s also one of the most unique and awesome games to come out of this generation.
While very Japanese anime in its approach, Catherine tells a very mature and well done tale about infidelity. Though the ads and the box art may suggest otherwise, the game itself never has any on-screen sex, nor is the actual act of sex itself all that important to the story. This is really the story of a guy torn between two women; a tale that’s rarely ever told in this medium. During half of the game, you have interactions with a number of different people and make decisions that will impact the story.
In the midst of this love triangle is a strange phenomenon where adulterous men have been dying in their sleep. Turns out, all of these men are caught in a deadly tower while in a dream state, and their only way out is to survive the puzzles. The mechanics of this puzzle element are fantastic. I had a blast working my way through all of the puzzles, even if the game got really hard.
Catherine could have very easily been a disaster, but ended up being one of the most original – and best – games of this era. I proudly proclaimed it as my 2011 game of the year and stand by that decision. Even now, I still reminisce fondly on my time with it, and hope that Atlus is cooking up something along these lines in the future.