Atlus has never been a company to shy away from unconventional games and that's why we love them. Many people simply don't "get" the appeal to Atlus' games... something to truly pity them for. Whether it's the distinctly Japanese aesthetics, the old-school RPG mechanics or the fact that you can't choose the original Japanese dialogue. Whatever the case these types of people are truly to be pitied for they will never enjoy the truly unique games that Atlus puts out on the market.
Catherine, the most recent release from the guys who worked on Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, is one of these bizarrely unique games we so love. Who but Atlus, in this day and age, would release a game that's almost like two entirely separate games.
The first part of the game takes place during the day, is all about the drama of our lead Vincent, his girlfriend Katherine and the mysterious lady Catherine. During this part of the game you'll mostly sit back to watch how Vincent interacts with the other people in his life, notably the two ladies. You'll have the ability to chat with people in the bar Vincent visits, the Stray Sheep, or converse with others via text messages. All of these interactions have an impact on some sort of morality bar that says it will impact the story the extent of these changes are currently unknown but definitely something to encourage multiple playthroughs.
But the real meat of the gameplay comes at night, when Vincent is in the Nightmare world. In this mode you will control Vincent as he attempts to travel up numerous towers made out of blocks. He must move these blocks to make his way to the escape at the top. This sounds simple, and it starts off as such, but even in the next level it ramps up considerably. So while it's simple enough it turns into quite a brain bender quite rapidly. You'll find yourself scrambling to escape from a gigantic monstrosity that wants to murder you silly, stuck in one spot as you stare blankly at the screen and look for a path.
This means the game has a really fascinating dichotomy. During the day you have lots of drama being slung around. Then as it leads into night you can chat up bar patrons at a fairly lazy pace to get some further information on the world around you. Maybe send a text or two... save the game, you know the usual. But then night comes and all hell breaks loose as a giant monstrosity with a fork tries to stab you dead. It lulls you in, turns you around and then boots you right in the keister. Enjoy the long fall!
In the short amount of time that we've spent with Catherine there's one thing that's abundantly clear this isn't just a game, it's an experience. If you're willing to immerse yourself in the story and care about what's going on with Vincent then this looks like it'll be a hell of an experience. If you're looking to pick this one up then you might wanna get your preorders in before the game hits store shelves, July 28th. If you do then you'll receive an art book and soundtrack CD, both of which seem to be extreme high points for this game. Unless you don't like Shoji Meguro, in which case I don't even know you anymore.