There are some very strange games out there that I'm very glad I've tried, such as Katamari Damacy, Killer 7 and Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. If I'd written them off as too strange, I would have missed out some really good experiences. So when I heard about Catherine, I put off on buying it for a while, until I finally decided to just go ahead and do it. The game's many elements, from its "social" gameplay to its story, its block-pushing puzzles and its morality meters all come together to form a surprisingly cohesive whole. The mixture of a puzzle game about a man who climbs block towers in his dreams as a punishment for the things he's doing with his love life somehow stopped being weird to me very quickly, and I just accepted it. The puzzles are hard. VERY hard. I played on Normal until I got overwhelmed and just wasn't having fun anymore, so I lowered the difficulty to the inaccurately named "Easy". I also like that they split up the puzzle gameplay into two variations on the puzzle gameplay - the time limit-based normal gameplay in the nightmare world, and the moves limit-based gameplay in the bar's arcade. Each variation forces you to think differently. The story generally does a great job of balancing the real world and Vincent's relationship troubles with the nightmare world and the supernatural mysterious deaths going on, as well as believable drama with cartoonish exaggeration (mainly Vincent's attempts to cover up the affair). I have a few complaints though. For one, I think the social aspect of the game could really be expanded upon. You can talk to people in the bar, and the order in which you talk to them seems to influence what topics they talk about. Occasionally, you get a chance to respond to someone, often influencing one of several morality meters that appear. However, this occurrence isn't as common as I feel it should be. Ultimately, the bar amounts to an extended dialog sequence with limited player control, and very few choices. Also, the story has some supernatural elements, but at one point they enter into the forefront of the story and overshadow the realistic infidelity plot in a way that made it impossible for me to take the rest of the plot seriously. Still, with these caveats, this is a very creative game and there's nothing else out there like it.
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