Catherine is a Japanese dating sim and puzzle/platformer game.
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Story & Themes
At night he meets his three best friends—Toby, Orlando, and Jonny—in a bar called The Stray Sheep. They talk about life, commitment, women, work, etc. After his friends leave, Vincent stays in the bar, still upset by his talk with Katherine. The next morning he wakes up in bed with another woman: a seductive blonde named Catherine.
The gameplay is divided into two parts. In the bar every night Vincent can talk to his friends and the other bar patrons. He also receives texts from Catherine and Katherine, and he can reply if the player chooses. Speaking to the other bar patrons directly affects who will survive the game.
When Vincent goes to sleep at night, he has terrible nightmares in which he and a group of sheep are forced to climb towers of blocks. Some sheep fall off the blocks and die, while others devise strategies to climb further. As the finale of each night of climbing, Vincent must flee from a terrifying monster that represents the anxieties of his everyday life (popular monsters include demonic versions of Katherine and Catherine, as well as Vincent himself, and an enormous bloody baby with chainsaws for hands).
Vincent has no memory of these dreams, but he and his friends become increasingly nervous as they realize that men of their age group are dying inexplicably in their sleep every night.
Throughout the game Vincent will be presented with choices in his interactions with others. He can trend towards the “Lawful” side of the scale or the “Chaotic” side. The ending of the game is determined by where Vincent falls on the scale. He can also choose to reassure and encourage the men that he meets in the bar, which will allow them to survive the game. If not, they will die off one by one.
Eventually it is revealed that every 100 years a demon named Mutton (who happens to be the bartender) forces unfaithful men to climb towers as a way to weed out and kill those who won’t settle down and have children (especially those who are unfaithful to women). Vincent defeats Mutton and forces him to stop this inhumane practice.
There are eight possible endings to the game, depending on how Vincent treats Katherine and Catherine and also where he ends up on the Chaotic-Lawful scale. You can check the endings out here.
The game makes a lot of interesting commentary about independence and commitment, and it definitely provides a lot of talking points for more mature players. Vincent’s trials and the stories he hears from the other victims are harrowing. Some have tales of abuse, some regret mistakes they made in the past, and many regret how they have treated the women in their lives.
Vincent’s fears will be more relatable for adult players than for teens. Worrying about settling down, being able to provide financially for a family, and being responsible enough to be a parent are common themes of the game, addressed through conversations that Vincent has with his friends. These issues are all presented within the (understood) context of Japanese culture. American players may find some of the ways these issues are treated confusing, but it's a very insightful look into ways that masculinity and femininity are commonly viewed as binary opposites.
Some players won’t be able to relate to Vincent simply because he’s a character who repeatedly cheats on his girlfriend and then spends his nights pursued by hideous monsters. In his boxers.
The monsters that Vincent flees from are horrific representations of things from his daily life. When he thinks his girlfriend might be pregnant, for example, he is chased in his dreams by an enormous, bloody baby. A monster made of tongues and eyes and a zombified version of his girlfriend are among the creatures that attempt to kill him. These representations of Vincent's fears are visceral and surreal—not for younger players.
The environment of each dream level often takes on a frightening theme—blood is a common decorative motif. If Vincent uses the sink in the bathroom of the bar, blood will come out of the walls and a monster will briefly appear in the mirror as a preview of what he will face in the dream world that night.
Catherine wears a tiny white dress and garters, and is occasionally shown in states of undress while in bed with Vincent. Vincent himself is shirtless and in boxers for all of the dream sequences, and often shirtless (presumably naked) in bed with Catherine. Catherine will occasionally text pictures of herself, scantily clad and in compromising positions. The player can choose whether Vincent looks at these images or not.
In one of the game's endings the waitress, Erica, is revealed to be transgender. Unfortunately, this is played as a joke and when her boyfriend finds out he is repulsed. This portrayal feeds into negative stereotypes of transgender people as predators.
- Throughout the game Vincent must answer questions which make him either "Chaotic" or "Lawful." Do you try to choose the answer you believe in, or do you choose the one you hope the game says is "right?"
- Vincent can choose to end up with either Katherine or Catherine. Which woman did you choose? Why?
- What do you think of the block-moving strategies the game teaches you? Do you think you got better and learned more as the game continued?
- Did you want to save the other men that climb the towers with you? What makes you decide to save someone or not?
- Many of the men in the story mistreat women in their lives. Could you sympathize with them? Why?
Action/Adventure, Platformer, Puzzle
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Cannot be played online