Quick–before you read another paragraph of this article, watch the embedded trailer. Go on. I’m pretty sure it won’t bite. If you already know all about Catherine, you can keep reading. If not, seriously, watch that trailer.
Now, tell me what kind of game Catherine is. Is it a visual novel? An interactive movie ala a cell-shaded Heavy Rain? A dating sim? If you answered “surrealist horror puzzle game,” you win a prize. That prize is giant corpse-baby knocking on your bedroom window at three in the morning. Have fun with that.
Having reached full-on cult status in Japan, Atlus’s bizarre puzzler Catherine is finally headed for our fair shores this Summer. With special edition releases and a full-on blitz to promote the infamous game, it’s likely that we’ll be hearing much more about it in the coming months.
But what is this strange creature, exactly? Catherine is a self-styled “HD erotic horror puzzle-platform game” developed and published by the fun folk at Atlus. It weaves extensive narrative sequences with gameplay in which our protagonist, Vincent Brooks, scrambles for his life over towers of shifting, trap-laden boxes. Surviving each level requires both timing and a considerable amount of spatial reasoning–move the wrong box at the wrong time or climb up levels in the wrong sequence and Vincent’s messy corpse will soon be decorating your screen.
Simply navigating the shifting box-structures is compounded by the bizarre sights, howling monsters, and psychologically-damaging imagery Catherine throws at you as you play. Traps are hidden among the collapsing structures. Occasionally, you have to outsmart boss creatures ready to make Vincent a bloody smear with their cyclopean thumbs. In addition to the main puzzle gameplay, there are light role-playing sections in which Vincent chats with his friends and plenty of cut scenes (both in-engine and fully animated).
Catherine looks so wacky that it’s hard not to be impressed–if only for its Suda 51-like audacity. Despite its popularity, reviews for the game are mixed so far. Many point out its almost sadistic difficulty as inhibiting any enjoyment of the game’s roundly praised narrative (something I never thought I’d type about a puzzle game).
We have a few weeks before Catherine hits retailers in the US, so let’s have some rather gruesome screen shots to think about as we drift off to sleep tonight.
Have you already imported Catherine and want to sing its praises? Do you want to find out more about this weird puzzle-platformer? Are you as confounded as I am? Share the madness in the comments!
Catherine releases stateside for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on July 26, 2011.
Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.