Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Catherine is frustrating, Kinectimals is cute, Dance Central is great

Catherine could just as easily be renamed 'Tower of Ragequit'.

I decided to take a dabble into the world of Catherine, the new game from the developers of the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona franchise. A survival horror puzzle platformer dating sim certainly sounds like a new experience. But does it work?


I haven’t played anything by Atlus before, but if the demo for Catherine is anything to go by, their penchant for frustrating timed-event puzzle-solving holds little of interest to me. The plot for the story is as follows: you play as Vincent, who is in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, Katherine. She is starting to suggest that they take things to the next level and get married. Unfortunately, Vincent is afraid of commitment, and gets drunk one evening and possibly sleeps with another girl, whose name is, dun dun dunnnn – Catherine! You must learn to manage your double life in the daytime, whilst combating your demons by night.

The puzzle-platforming seems to take place in Vincent’s nightmares, where he is pursued by his giant, raging girlfriend’s disembodied hands, perhaps representing his guilt over his behaviour towards her. Unfortunately, the controls seem to be a little pernickety, and led to much frustration whilst I tried to play it. Although all is not lost. There also features an interesting gameplay mechanic of sending SMS replies Vincent’s in-game girlfriend. This is achieved by choosing from a variety of sentences in order to craft the perfect message, leaving you the option to be compassionate, neutral, or downright offensive. Reduced like that, it doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but in execution it feels novel and unique. From what I can tell, the puzzle-platforming is the main focus of the game, though, and this leaves me unlikely to feel inspired to make a purchase. The cinematic segments are very long, and in reality, you are only actively taking part in the demo version for a very short period. The game is not currently set for release in Europe, so if you’re in the North American market, certainly give it a try and see if it’s for you.

Petting a virtual animal is surprisingly good fun.

We took a brief foray into the world of Kinectimals last night. That game is possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen in videogame form. My only bugbear with it is that all of the creatures are feline. There wasn’t a furry puppy in sight. I don’t like this subtle move to ostracise canine critters from our children. Let’s hope that they bring some pups as DLC. Teaching your kinectimal tricks is one of the awww-est moments I’ve witnessed on a 360.

I wonder do dancers get as uppity about Dance Central
as musicians get about Rock Band?
Dance Central 2

After the cuteness, it was time to bring the hotness. Dance Central is still really hard. Perhaps not so much if you’re a beautiful, flexible womanperson, but for me, DC is a game that tires you out, exhausts you even, but that is still very good fun. The range of songs is somewhat limited, and I felt that the tracks were too slim a genre spectrum to bring in many gamers. It might just be telling of my bad musical taste, but I hadn’t heard of most of the songs on the roster. The DLC store showed some more promise, but still seemed to be quite a small list. I hope that as the franchise increases, the back catalogue will reach Guitar Hero/Rock Band levels. It also led to me browsing Amazon today to see how much Dance Central 2 was, as I accidentally convinced myself that it had already been released. Since its announcement was at E3 just over a month ago, this was something of a foolish error. Roll on Christmas, eh?

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