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Sore Thumbs

August 11, 2011

'Catherine'

By Matthew Scott Hunter

Unlike any game you've played before

(M) ****

Atlus

Xbox 360

Whether you love or hate "Catherine," you won't be able to deny that it's unlike any game you've ever played before. You play as Vincent, the anime-drawn, commitment-phobic boyfriend of Katherine (that's Katherine with a "K"), who nags him to take their relationship to the next level, i.e. marriage. After a night of heavy drinking, he wakes up to discover that he's shared his bed with Catherine (that's Catherine with a "C"), who is a sexy but dangerously unpredictable force of nature. Thus begins Vincent's exciting but increasingly stressful efforts to juggle two very different women. You'll discuss your situation with bar patrons, tiptoe through text exchanges with your two paramours, and answer occasional questions the game asks, like, "Does life begin or end at marriage?"—the answers to which affect a Freedom/Order meter and, ultimately, the outcome of the game.

But the core gameplay begins whenever Vincent drifts off into an uneasy slumber. Stress-induced nightmares feature Vincent stripped down to his boxers and adorned with sheep horns. At a frantic pace, he's forced to solve block puzzles and quickly ascend a tower that's crumbling away beneath him. As the levels progress, booby-trapped blocks and bizarre bosses threaten his progress. Fascinatingly, the nightly puzzle portions make you feel the increasing stress and frustrations that Vincent exhibits during his daily exploits. Some people may be turned off by the morally ambiguous character or the punishing difficulty of the puzzles, but others will have a burning curiosity to see how the whole strange affair turns out. CV



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