Peter discusses game mechanics in the recent Atlus release, Catherine.

From the admittedly short part of the game I have seen so far, only a couple of in-game nights, a clear pattern emerges. The game itself is basically an interactive story with a puzzle game bolted on, spacing the story elements with actual gameplay. The story parts are interesting, definately adult oriented (which in this case doesn’t mean pornographic, just aimed at a more mature audience) and the choices quite agonizing at times. The puzzle parts are, when viewed alone, good and challenging. Most of them have several solutions which ensures it’s harder to get stuck in case you don’t spot the “obvious” solution. However, when viewed as a whole, the game modes have very little in common to tie them together.

Certainly, the puzzle parts have snippets of story weaved into them but these are really separate parts in between the puzzle levels themselves. In spite of this, Atlus has managed to meld them together into a coherent whole, the puzzle levels have a definite nightmarish feel to them and various events are skillfully tied in between the waking and dream worlds.

Personally, I’m not much of a puzzle game player. I don’t exactly dislike them, just not my cup of tea. However, to see the story unfold and view the results of my choices in the game, I need to drudge my way through at times quite challenging and frustrating puzzles. Traditionally, games have often had the story described in cut-scenes between or within levels. These games usually have a large focus on gameplay and the player is able to skip the cut-scenes if they’re not interested. On the other hand, Catherine is (in my perhaps not-so-humble opinion) a story focused game. The gameplay parts appear to be skippable, but only after you finish them once. This helps with multiple playthroughs since
the game has multiple endings, but for players who would rather just enjoy the story the first time the skip option would be quite handy indeed. Many games have several mini-games included, for instance many role playing games have dice and card games available in the game world. Other games require you to complete certain sub-games to advance whereas most simply feed you the story as the game progresses.

However, not many games have two separate games combined into one in the way Atlus have. Regardless, I find the game fascinating because it has quite a mature feel, it touches subjects about morality without always being obvious about the outcome of your choices, it presents problems without simple solutions and the protagonist is… well, not what I would call a “good” person. In any case, Catherine is well worth looking into, if nothing else due to it’s somewhat different approach.

- Peter