I haven’t worked my way through Catherine yet, but I’ve played enough of it to get a good feel for what’s up. All of the shit you’ve heard about or seen is in it– puzzles and sheep and sex and infidelity and all that. And I’m loving it for the most part. It reminds me of that Devil Dice game for the PS1, except with some platformer elements.
But there’s one part of the game that I wasn’t expecting, and it’s pretty cool. And like the title says, it reminds me of Kaiji.
Catherine boils down to some malevolent force luring in down-on-their-luck dudes to participate in a game of death. Instead of punishing them for sins of debt, this force is punishing these guys for sins of the heart. From what I can tell, the main dude and all of his fellow “sheep” are guilty of some love-related problem. They’ve cheated on their lover or done some intentional or unintentional wrong against women, and the game is all about them confronting their guilt and most likely dying in the process.
And these similar set-ups lead to similar scenes of young men bemoaning their existence. Between each stage, you get to talk to your fellow climbers, and they all react differently to the situation. Some become suicidal or homicidal due to their situation, and being the main character of the game it’s up to you to try to calm them down and bring them back to their senses. At the same time, some of the dudes are banding together in order to survive the ordeal together. They try to find strategies that can be shared among the group, support one another, and all that. It all feels exactly like those scenes in Kaiji where he gets his buddies together to try to find some mutually beneficial solution.
So yeah, all that sex and block-pushing and vagina monster shit is awesome, but chalk up Catherine as a cool little companion piece to Kaiji’s new millennial masculine malaise. It might not have the same grandiose, operatic emotional/humorous appeal, since Catherine’s humor is more dry and cynical, but it’s hitting the same notes.