Reth Reviews – Catherine

Good day ladies and gentlemen, welcome to today’s review! Returning for a second attempt to tickle your fancies and answer your questions about Video Games, Reth! Today I will be doing an in-depth review on a very recent favourite JRPG with a twist, Catherine!

When I first heard about Catherine a handful of months before it was released this year I was dubious but intrigued by the possibilities. Altus has been one of my preferred companies for JRPGs since I discovered the Persona series, but I was unsure if a company so stuck in their niche of modern urban fantasy would be able to approach the weighty theme of adultery in a way that would prove entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised by Catherine, and would go so far to compare it to some of my Western favourites of a similar style, Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain. Though they are in no way identical, with a vast difference in atmosphere and themes, they follow a similar play style.


What is Catherine?

Catherine is most simply described as an interactive movie experience, segmented by cut scenes during the day that develop depending on the choices you have the protagonist make in the evenings and at certain opportunities at night. At night Vincent is whisked away into a world where we control his every movement through tower climbing puzzles that increase in complexity throughout the game. The overlying purpose of this game is to present the player with moral questions regarding a choice between a young, free-spirited girl who has recently appeared in Vincent’s life by the name of Catherine, or Vincent’s long-time girlfriend who seems to be getting ready to settle down and get married, by the name of Katherine.

First Impression

After reading and watching reviews from other people I was expecting to dislike Vincent as the hapless, easily manipulated, indecisive loser that he is. As a man in his mid 30s still afraid of commitment, I was expecting a character similar to the usual Japanese protagonist tropes following a regular bumbling idiot. However, though most of these traits were true to Vincent, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well-rounded he felt as a character. I felt myself relating to Vincent almost immediately, and empathizing with his struggle a lot more than I was expecting. He was indeed the bumbling idiot I thought, but a believable one. The choice between Catherine and Katherine was made immediately more difficult than I thought it would be and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the way the game managed to swing me from one to the other.

Later on…

After spending the majority of my free time in one weekend playing through Catherine from beginning to end I witnessed the characters, including Vincent and his friends at the bar develop well for such a short game (only 9 hours play time on normal difficulty). As expected I did end up choosing Katherine and managed to get the “True Katherine” ending, which I was very content with.


Like my previous review there are two elements of gameplay present in Catherine which should be treated separately, so starting with the day-time events,

You only get control of Vincent during the day at the bar where you are given a set amount of time slots to interact with other people at the bar and check your phone. Who you talk to and when at the bar is important for future development of the story and side characters, and if you’re not careful some characters might become unavailable to talk to at certain points of the evenings, so it’s almost like a triaging game. The most impressive part of the bar time is the SMS messages you receive from the ladies. Responding to these take up time, and though there is only a set amount of responses scripted into the game, the way they are used and cycled between is original and innovative. Atlus managed to take the very traditional and simple concept of talking to static NPCs in a room and turn it into something far more in depth and entertaining.

The second game play element are the night-time puzzles. These are great, and once again Atlus managed to take a very simple concept puzzle game, not much different to a sort of puzzle game you could find on the iPhone market, and make it far more entertaining with atmosphere, music, dialogue and quirky “boss battles”. There is always a sense of impending doom and urgency through the puzzles no matter how many times you do it, much to the credit of the developers for making a simple pull and push puzzle game so immersive.

I rather enjoyed both aspects of game play in Catherine and hold Atlus in high regard for managing to combine simplicity and depth so successfully. At no point is your play time ever daunted by complex systems that you need to be familiar with before you can be any good, but they still manage to implement challenging puzzles with countless ways to complete depending on your deduction style. Despite this, I keep the game play score far from perfect due to the fact that there wasn’t much more to it other than those two aspects and was I not so contented with the story I probably would have gotten bored from the lack of variety. I give the game play of Catherine a 7/10


As I’ve said before, you could describe Catherine as an interactive movie, and for that reason can’t go into much detail of the story without giving any spoilers. For that reason this part of the review won’t be very long.

The entire game goes over the period of about 1 week of Vincent’s life. A lot happens in that time, and the game calls out to the player’s morals at frequent intervals to decide Vincent’s fate – I felt the narrative style of the game made for a fantastic story. The topic is however a sensitive one, so I would not recommend it for the faint of heart. Some of the values are questionable and for some people adultery is a very real issue very rarely explored in the gaming medium, especially when the one committing adultery is the protagonist we are meant to empathise with. So I would caution everybody to think deep if they may be offended by having to take control of the life of a man who has cheated on his girlfriend before they pick up Catherine! Overall the story of Catherine was delivered in a fantastically mature, realistic and relatable style that I enjoyed immensely, giving it a 9/10


The soundtrack of Catherine is made up mostly of recognisable classics remixed with enthralling electric guitar riffs and catchy drum and bass beats. Now I may hold some bias on this due to personal music taste, but I felt the music was chosen perfectly. During cut scenes and the puzzles the music set the mood flawlessly and I have nothing bad to say about it. I especially liked the dark and foreboding remix of the traditional wedding tune we are all so familiar with – this is just an example of how the music manages to manifest itself to represents Vincent’s feelings and rub off on us as the players. I, for example have had no previous fears of the concept of marriage, but hearing that theme in such a sinister tone helped me relate to Vincent’s struggle further. When I bought my copy of Catherine I received a copy of the artbook and soundtrack, and though I usually don’t listen to game soundtracks by without the accompaniment of the game itself, that CD is now playing in my car whenever I start it up, a true sign of a lasting soundtrack! 8/10

A taste of the magnificent OST,


Graphics and Aesthetics

The graphics of Catherine was one of its downfalls – I expect something with much smoother edges for a Playstation 3 title. The occasional animated cut scenes were great but the majority of the game was in the same graphics engine we see used in the puzzle mode. Character features were rough and comparable to the graphics of some of the better Playstation 2 titles. For a game designed as an interactive movie, this was not good.

The aesthetics however were a different story – the art, especially in the nightmare levels, set the mood exactly as intended; Dark, hopeless, unfamiliar and riddled with death. The character designs suited them all perfectly, including Vincent’s friends such as Orlando. For a fan of anime, one familiar and appreciative of the style would enjoy the aesthetics as they are, but I feel for someone less inclined the less than impressive graphics would detract far too much. 6/10

In Conclusion

A few people I’ve known have settled down to play this game together with their partner, and though in concept that sounds like a lot of fun, being a game about relationships you could share a few laughs over Vincent’s idiocy, but once you’ve played the game for a while you will realize this is a big mistake. Many of the questions you are asked during the nightmare scenes are designed for the player themselves, not Vincent, and these questions are incredibly sensitive that you may not want your partner to know the real answer to. Sometimes the game asks the player outright how they feel about relationships in regards to issues such as cheating, commitment and their own future desires. Also, if you are connected to the Playstation network then your answers are automatically uploaded onto a survey record anonymously, and you can compare your answers to others who have played the game, separated by male and female answers in the form of pie charts, and some of the results took me by surprise. One example is the question “Are all men stupid?” to which approximately 50% of females said yes, and over 70% of males also said yes. That got quite a laugh out of me.

Overall 8/10


Reth Reviews – L.A. Noire

Hi All, welcome to the first Review of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I, Reth, will be your host for today. My reviews will mainly be focused around Video Games! Check back later for more entries from other Extraordinary Reviewers!

Today I will be reviewing Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire!

Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire was a title I was anticipating as soon as I heard about the innovative and original style of play. Adopting many game play traits from popular Rockstar title Grand Theft Auto it would be easy to make the mistake of presuming a similar style of play. However, this is not the case.

What is L.A. Noire?

L.A. Noire is a detective game following an army veteran recently returned to L.A. to take up a life in the police force. Cole Phelps is a virtuous and somewhat out-of-setting righteous hero in 1950s America. Following Phelps from night patrol as a uniformed policeman all the way to the top of the crime investigation career we witness a completely different game play focus in the form of CSI, witness and suspect interrogation. The technology used by Team Bondi allows for a never seen before attention to detail of character expression that is important for detecting lies or truths. Identifying these is essential for moving forward in a case. Don’t be too intimidated though, it doesn’t take a qualified psychologist to recognise the sort of blatant signs most of the characters drop to show a lie. In fact if you’re too familiar with real signs of lying, you may even be hindered slightly, as some of the actors most certainly aren’t. If you were looking forward to Grand Theft Auto elements, do not be too disappointed. There is plenty of completely optional sandboxing to be had. There are dozens of crimes occurring constantly in the city which you can choose to intervene in where you get to experience traditional gun fights and car chases.

First Impression

Picking up L.A. Noire for the first time I immediately noticed how straight forward a lot of the cases were. Without even interrogating the suspects it was fairly easy to come to the correct conclusion of the case. Though this later changed as evidence on a crime scene became harder to find and the cases less linear, if you could piece together the puzzle near the start it was generally easy to get through all of the cases by following your assumptions – there wasn’t many twists in any of the cases, which was a bit disappointing. Very quickly I found the case structure repetitive and bland. It started to be more of the same thing as every case followed a “murder scene -> clue hunt -> interrogation -> lead following -> final suspect interrogation -> case closed” cycle. After getting about 60% into the game I lost interest and put the game away while I pursued other ventures.

Later On…

After picking up the game for a second try there was a twist in story, change in narration style and enormous shift in case structure immediately after the case I left the game on. In one swift moment all of the slow development of Phelps and the other detectives all started to make sense – the game was building you up and slowly introducing the characters of the world for an immersive and emotional second half. Very quickly the monotonous case structure was forgiven as pieces fell together and the stage was set. Be prepared for a thrilling story in the second half of L.A. Noire!

Game Play

For this game I feel it important to separate the action element of the game play from the investigation element for judgement. So, starting with the action:

The action and controls of L.A. Noire was incredibly reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto. It controlled exactly the same in all aspects, and felt rather fluid and polished due to that fact. I enjoyed the shoot outs and car chases, and though I didn’t pursue many of the sandbox elements I did enjoy them when they were present in the main story. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to stick to tried and true methods, so I cannot blame Rockstar’s influence showing through on this front.

As for the investigation element – I wish I could get up in arms on how silly it was that the controller vibrated whenever you stood on a piece of evidence to look at, but I’m not going to lie, I made great use of that feature and came to rely on it a lot in later cases. Due to the camera angle and the fact that we’re not all professional detectives, we as gamers are in no way qualified to recognise what may be helpful and not helpful for a case, especially in a world where only so many possible leads have been programmed into a game! I would say the clue hunt was well designed overall, but I cannot say the same for the interrogation scenes.

I was quite disappointed with the way the actors performed as suspects in an interrogation – nearly every time it was impossible to tell if they were lying solely based on their behaviour. Following general rules I’ve learnt from my own interest in psychology was useless, sometimes the only real way to tell if a character was lying was if you already knew the truth before you asked the question through evidence you carried with you. Sometimes the difference between “Doubt” and “Truth” was so vague and unclear that it was absolutely impossible to know which to choose. This became very frustrating when you were speaking to an old lady who looked like she was hiding a few extra details from you, but after selecting “Doubt”, Cole Phelps was suddenly convinced that the poor old lady next door was in fact the murderer herself and was one offensive accusation away from pulling a knife and cutting down the startled elderly himself.

I give the game play of L.A. Noire a 5.5/10. Where they tried to be innovative they struggled, but with the familiar action style they succeeded, overall giving them an average score – plus half a point for trying something so refreshingly original.


From the very start to the very end the story of L.A. Noire was excellent. There were certain cases I did not care about, but from the get-go Phelps was a character I liked, and as the story progressed it wasn’t just about Phelps, but several other major characters who were also well rounded and developed. Cole changed over the length of the story and was affected by the world around him, granting him forgiveness for his highly unbelievably modern beliefs. Sometimes I felt Cole’s ideals were a little too “21st century” for the setting, but as the story went on you became to understand why, and that even he had his flaws. Other characters that originally appeared far less than perfect also show their true colours later on as figures with their own important values, showing a brilliantly executed shift of perspective.

L.A. was a masterfully written narrative for a video game, using some excellent characterisation techniques to create an immersive, relatable and deep world, giving it a solid 8/10.


As the title suggests, the setting is in L.A. and the feel is Noire. Both of these factors are carried perfectly by the music playing on the radio stations, and the music playing in the background of important scenes. I enjoyed listening to Billie Holiday and many recognisable Jazz standards as I drove between leads. The soundtrack overall was nothing original or memorable, but suited the setting well, for that reason I give it a 6.5/10

Graphics and Aesthetics

Everything was always crisp, and despite my previous complaints about the smaller tells when it comes to telling lies, the facial structure of all of the characters in itself was perfect. It was even good to the point where I could easily recognise the actors when they appeared in the game, such as the cop from Heroes – that really took me by surprise.

I saw absolutely no flaws with the graphics and the aesthetics complimented perfectly. 9/10

In Conclusion

L.A. Noire was a worthwhile purchase to last you a full weekend worth of playtime or spread out over a few weeks depending on your play style. Due to the episodic breakdown of the cases, you can spread it out as much as you like, in fact I’d recommend doing that so you don’t get burnt out of the detective style. If you have a friend willing to sit down and watch you play it really helps to have a “partner” to give you a second perspective on things and bounce ideas off – typical of the crime and intrigue genre. I give this game thumbs up and would recommend it to most gamers who enjoy a healthy balance of action and intrigue.

Overall 7/10