July 26, 2011

Play More Games: “A Girl Named Catherine”

Contrary to whatever the hell I committed to in VGH#2, my junior prom date was actually a girl named Catherine. While I would eventually grow in to the shining example of maturity and social grace that listeners of the podcast have come to know, the late 80s/early 90s were not the best of times for me: I was chubby, nearsighted and bespectacled, prone to wildfire breakouts of acne, and hopelessly awkward. Why Catherine ever asked me to go to the prom with her (yes, that’s right — she asked me), remains a mystery for the ages.

In Catherine, the new game for PS3 and Xbox 360 from Atlus, gamers play as Vincent, a thirtysomething office drone whose life is thrown into disarray after a one-night-stand with the titular character. Despite a 5-year relationship with his pregnant girlfriend (named, oddly enough, Katherine), Vincent is quite literally haunted by his encounters with Catherine: much of the gameplay centers around a series of nightmares where our protagonist must climb crumbling staircases, avoiding obstacles and death, to reach the top and survive the night.

While a patently adult-themed video game about the lurking horrors of modern relationships was initially quite intriguing to me, it’s this detail (along with the reported extreme difficulty of Catherine) that has me hesitating: will balancing the intricacies of Vincent’s life during the day and surviving the nightmarish puzzles every evening keep me locked in to the game for 20+ hours and across multiple varying endings?

As long as one of those endings doesn’t involve me sitting alone in my room, still wearing my powder-blue accented tuxedo while listening to The Cure’s “Pictures of You” on repeat, Catherine has to be more compelling and satisfying than Prom Night 1991 was.

Also out this week and worth mentioning: XBLA’s Summer of Arcade continues with From Dust, Eric Chahi’s (Out of This World) spiritual successor to Peter Molyneux’s 1989 game, Populous. In the game, players will assume control over the environmental elements in a barren archipelago in an attempt to allow a nomadic tribe to flourish. Sounds interminably boring to me but I know there’s a huge audience out there starving for modern “God-games” like this.  PS3 and PC versions of From Dust will arrive later this year.

3DS gamers (both of us!) will be happy to see that there’s another release this week that might actually be worth playing: Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions brings six new versions of the classic Namco games to Nintendo’s handheld, including the addictive Pac-Man Championship Edition and Galaga Legions. Surely those must be worth a $40 purchase, right? RIGHT?

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