Catherine is another game from Atlus, the development studio behind the twisted Megami Tensei series of role-playing games. Catherine, unlike Atlus' previous works, is a puzzle-platformer but, in keeping with the studio's Persona line, contains a mature storyline along the theme of internal struggle manifested in nightmarish form.
Read Susan's full preview of Catherine here. The game is due for release July 26 on Xbox 360 and PS3.
Every night, Vincent has a nightmare in which he is climbing a tower of stacked blocks. He must maneuver up the tower, moving blocks, shifting position, and reorganizing them into stairs, so that he can make it to the top before time runs out. Pulling a block out the stack, Jenga-style, allows the one above it to drop, and you can hang from the edges to shimmy around a block you just pulled into the spot where you were standing. As Vincent climbs, the lower rows of blocks fall away into nothingness, so maintaining upward mobility is vital. It's not as easy as simply shifting blocks around, though; some explode, others shoot out spikes, and every so often you'll run into something really special, like ice.
Boss levels are a little bit different. Vincent still has to race to the top of the tower, but this time he's being pursued by a gigantic monster that represents one of his innermost fears. The boss I got to see was, appropriately, Catherine herself, who chases after Vincent with a fork. Each boss has special abilities that make solving the puzzle even harder. In the case of Catherine, she can turn blocks into nonmoving blocks.
Catherine isn't at all what I expected, but it's still something very special and weird. The puzzles, sheepmen, confessionals, chaos meter, and anime cutscenes are a bizarre combination, but it all really seems to work. The multiple endings are great bait for replays, especially once you've mastered the block-shifting mechanics that will help you soar through the nightmare levels.