13 July 2011

A Look at Catherine (the Demo)

After playing the demo of Catherine, it left such an impression on me, that I had to write something about it, so here goes. The button layout for this game isn't innovative, but everything is where it should be. The in-game tutorial doesn't throw everything at the player at once, but instead paces it so the player only learns the mechanics as they become available or necessary. The difficulty levels (the demo only allows for easy) seem like they will be well-scaled. Even on easy, it offered a slight challenge. Hard will not be just a name. From what I hear of the Japanese version, it will be difficult.Speaking of gameplay mechanics, the morality mechanic offers an interesting twist. Our protagonist, Vincent, converses via text message, and depending on what you choose, Vincent's emotions will change throughout the game. No idea how much this will affect the story, but +points for innovation. At first the way the different things you can text seemed a bit tedious to navigate: pressing A, then B, then A again for a different message, cycling through with this method to see all of your options. But looking back at it, even I text like this -- writing something, erasing it, rewording it, repeat. The text message system allows a connection between player and protagonist, giving a realistic portrayal of life, rather than some Hollywood crafted drama.

The story itself actually seems rather compelling. This is definitely going to be a game unlike many others, if any others. Without more to go on, I can't really comment further (especially since the game has already released in Japan). The horror plays well into the story, by offering an uncanny, other worldly affect to it. Even during the demo, one specific part set my hairs on end. Combining horror with a puzzle-based, story-driven, platformer is something I don't think I've ever seen done. Integrating that many genres into one game can either lead to a masterpiece or a train wreck. Hopefully Atlus worked out a way to allow them to all compliment each other, rather than compete for the spotlight.

Sometimes the animations are beautifully rendered... but then something happens. The characters go off into a different art style. Maybe this has something to do with the contrast between dream and realty, but there is such a shift in the art design that it's almost overbearing. But since we're talking about graphics, they are shifty to say the least. There are no texture popping issues, but at points, the characters look more like cardboard cutouts than animations. The level of detail extends from "We just HAVE to get this crack in the brick right" to "Eh, it looks good enough... I guess." More important than graphics, though, is the grand color scheme and the aesthetics of the environments. This is such a welcome change from the brown-grey color scheme of all of the Unreal powered games out there today. If the full game keeps the pace of the demo, there's definitely a great title out there just waiting to be enjoyed.


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