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Deep sleep: why we need to talk about Catherine

Monday, 13th February 2012 08:19 GMT By Stace Harman

With the arrival of its long overdue PAL release, Stace received a text from a friend asking about Catherine. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

Hey, did you see this? This came out in Japan and the US last year, right? It looks pretty cool – like adult Manga! Might pick it up.

Yeah, I’ve just finished playing it through, actually. It’s very special. The animation is excellent but it’s the themes that run through it and the actual gameplay elements that are most impressive.

Sure, sure. Also: hot women! Well, there’s a hot blonde chick, the one with glasses looks a bit boring. Do you get to sleep with them? Looks like you do!

That’s not really the point. In terms of the relationship stuff there’s Vincent, Katherine and the blonde Catherine. You choose how Vincent responds to both women; for example, sometimes his girlfriend, Katherine, will text him when he’s at the bar with his friends and he has to decide whether to be dismissive or thoughtful in his replies. He can also encourage Catherine to send him messages – some of which are picture messages.

This trailer probably does a better job of framing it in the appropriate context:

Er, so it’s a relationship sim, then? The picture messaging sounds good, though. Does the hot blonde send you sexy pics? I bet she does, she looks like a right little goer.

The concept of relationships is one of the themes, yes – as is freedom, responsibility, anxiety, guilt, and happiness, amongst others.

Then there’s the actual gameplay. Vincent can interact with people at the local bar, which in turn shapes the story and explores the themes more deeply. However, most of his time is spent trying to solve some very tricky 3D block puzzles. Like this:

WTF?!

Why’s he running around in his boxer shorts holding a pillow? Why does he have ram horns on his head? Is that a baby chasing him? And what the hell is with all the sheep? This doesn’t look like the sexyfuntime from the trailer that I saw. AT ALL!

Ha! I told you there was more to it than just good looks. The puzzle-tower elements take place in Vincent’s nightmares – hence the weird things that occasionally chase him – and the story revolves around men dying mysteriously in their sleep.

Vincent can never quite remember his nightmares when he wakes up; he just knows he’s had a rough night and that all is not right.

As a result, he’s always pretty tired and occasionally gets lost in his own thoughts.

Okaaaay. And the sheep?!

Ah, yes. The sheep.

Well, a number of the men Vincent knows or meets at the bar are having variations of the same nightmare and somehow they’re all connected. The sheep in Vincent’s nightmares share characteristics with the men he meets in his waking hours, all of whom are carrying their own emotional baggage and issues. What’s more, in the nightmare each sheep sees himself as a normal man and all the other men as sheep.

Vincent starts having the nightmares just before meeting Catherine, whom he then gets…mixed up with.

So, it’s a morality thing, then? Cheating’s bad, men are all weak-willed sheep blah blah etc? Jeez, isn’t that a bit sexist?

Seriously?!

From the person that’s interested in the game because it looks like you might get to have sex with a “hot blonde chick” who “looks like a right little goer” and has dismissed another woman because she “looks a bit boring”?

Yeah, OK. Don’t give me that moral high-ground bullshit. I was kidding: it’s just banter. You know what I mean.

Just banter between mates, huh?

Yeah, a bit of fun.

Mates just going with the flow?

Yeah, s’pose so.

Just flocking together?

Fuck off

Haha!

OK, look: yes, there are elements of this game that are deliberately provocative and titillating and, yeah, some of the stuff is sexy. And I completely agree that sometimes people are all too quick to jump on their high-horse about sex, especially about sex in games.

Right, plus, even if I am supposedly being sexist, that doesn’t mean it’s OK for someone or *something* else to be sexist too. Two wrongs… etc

No, you’re right: it absolutely doesn’t mean it’s OK.

The point, really, is that the sheep analogy in this scenario isn’t sexist; it’s a visual representation of a concept that you can interpret in different ways. Most importantly, it’s one that provokes discussion.

Although, a brief anecdote: I was out for a drink one night during the time I was playing Catherine and, I shit you not, while standing at the bar I heard one bloke say to his mate: “You know me bruv, if you want to do it, I’ll follow suit”. That tickled me.

But, irrespective of that, the sheep thing doesn’t necessarily represent what it seems to.

How come? What is it supposed to mean other than: men are all the same, they’re weak and can’t help cheating?

Well, perhaps some of the men in the game that appear as sheep haven’t cheated; maybe they have their own issues.

Look, I don’t want to say too much about it because I really think you should experience it for yourself. One way of thinking about it is like an Escher sketch

How the hell is this like an Etch-A-Sketch?

Not an Etch-A-Sketch, numbnuts – an ESCHER sketch: Maurits Cornelis Escher.

Something that, at first glance, appears to be one thing and that both validates and contradicts itself from different perspectives – something that doesn’t make sense, but does; like these:

That’s…weird. Makes my brain hurt a bit

Exactly! Another comparison that occurred to me while playing Catherine is to that Robert Rodriguez film that Tarantino wrote the screenplay for: From Dusk Till Dawn. Y’know, how it starts as one thing, goes a little batshit crazy in the middle but still really works?

OK, I think I’m getting your point now. I like the sound of it!

But if I play it, will I actually have any say it what happens? Or will I just be watching pretty cut-scenes in between solving pain-in-the-arse block-puzzles?

You’ll have loads of input into how Vincent handles situations. There are different things that can happen throughout the story depending on the choices you have Vincent make. It’s really very cool. Some of the writing is genuinely funny and the metagames are clever and interesting. The social commentary on gender roles, friendships, even alcohol, is fascinating.

Also, on normal or hard difficulty the puzzles are really tough but that means you’re pumped once Vincent gets through them and escapes from another of his nightmares. Or you can play on easy and concentrate more on the story. Plus there are eight endings – in my play through, Vincent came out the other side of his ordeal a very different man. It was the True Freedom ending.

OK, sounds good, I’m in!

Thing is, whilst what I did and what I experienced made me realise what’s important to me, I know that I treated them both badly and I was selfish. Instead of telling her from the outset that I had a girlfriend, I lapped up the adoration; returned it, even. I guess I enjoyed that little buzz that comes from feeling wanted.

I know that I should have sat down with the one who loved me, and whom I loved, and talked it through. It’s not even like I only saw it in hindsight, I could see what was happening at the time and did nothing to stop it.

I was selfish and I was weak, and I have to live with that and move forward. Life goes on and all that jazz.

Uhm, Stace, you OK? That’s all pretty deep. You’re still talking about the game, right? About Vincent?

You want to meet for a beer later, have a proper catch-up?

I…oh. Ha! Yeah, I ‘m fine. A slip of the metaphorical tongue!

That’s genuinely all the stuff that happened to Vincent during my play-through of Catherine. I’m looking forward to starting over, to see if things turn out differently for him. I’d also like to hear about your experience of it, too.

Anyway, yeah, beer later sounds good – usual place. Not too heavy a session though, I’m really tired.

I’ve not been sleeping properly, lately.

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21 Comments

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  1. gribb85

    Awesome sauce! I was feeling really crappy this Monday morning, but this really put a smile on my face.

    This is why Atlus are one of the most interesting devs around today.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Patrick Garratt

    Yeah. First thing I’ve read about it that really makes me want to play it. Made me very happy to publish this.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Hunam

    The best bit is the confessional questions, where it asks you kind of relationship or moral questions and then shows you how others responded. I mean, apprently a 5th of people think the person to blame when you cheat is the person you cheat with rather than the person in the relationship who cheated.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Patrick Garratt

    Are those real responses from people playing the game?

    #4 2 years ago
  5. scratchy69

    Yeah, but is she a bit of a go-er though? That never got established properly.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    Good Timing.

    Actually just completed it yesterday. Gotta admit, i’m kind of disappointed by the game. I thought the social aspect would be more fleshed out. The only areas you see in the game are the puzzle stages and the bar. The ending felt kind of rushed.

    Some spoilers ahead.

    It’s probably because i expected another Persona, just without the RPG Elements. I also expected the game to deliver more than just the puzzle games, that it would somehow change in the middle of the game. That also didn’t happen.

    I know it’s just a dream, but i kind of hoped there would be more reflective on his current situation and change with it.

    Also i thought the reason why the men were all sheep was pretty clear, i mean the name of the bar is “stray sheep”. They really are all lost.

    My girlfriend bought it for me, because she loves the Persona series and really liked the idea of the game. She can’t play for shit, so i had to.

    It did spark some very interesting conversations between us, but i wouldn’t say it changed the way we view each other, we’re pretty much on the same page when it comes to relationships.

    I really liked the questions that the game asks you between the stages, really can’t believe that 40% of women think it’s not their fault when they cheat on their partner, but the person who they cheat with.

    There are other things i didn’t like about the game. For example how the game forced me to betray Katherine, without you actually being involved. How Katherine directly started out as a stressful control junky. I mean they didn’t even share the same apartment and she already talks about wedding and child. That is kind of odd.

    I dunno what Ending i had, in the end, Vincent told Katherine the whole truth and begged her for forgiveness.

    It really left a lot of questions though, for example;

    what did Sheep-Jonny meant when he said “I betrayed my best friend”?

    I’m gonna replay the game on the weekend again and try to see what changes when i follow the Catherine-only route. I’d love to see how different Vincents reactions are.

    Am i also the only one who finds it odd that Vincent talks so openly with his friends and the waitress about something so private?

    I never betrayed any of my girlfriends, but if i did, i’d only talk with my best friend about it, somewhere completely isolated from the rest of the world. And i definitely wouldn’t drag it on like Vincent did. And i’d definitely tell my partner about it. Even if there is no way she would find out.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. YoungZer0

    @4: Nope, i actually think they did some surveys before the release. There are two surveys, one offline and one online. I think the online one is the one the people share through gaming.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Patrick Garratt

    @7 – Ah. That’s a shame; would have been very cool if you could see opinions from the player-base in real-time.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. YoungZer0

    @8: You can. All you need to do is to be logged into PSN (Or whatever it is called now) and you should see the Online results at the end of every answer you give. These should be from other players.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Patrick Garratt

    Ah, I see.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. NinjaMidget

    Great read, didn’t know much about the game at all.

    But I think I might have to pick it up now at some point!

    #11 2 years ago
  12. YoungZer0

    Another Spoiler:

    Also, is it just me, or is the second Boss really just a butt with a melted face on it?

    And the next day, Vince wakes up next to Catherine again and she talks all about how she “never did it before” and how “kinky” that was. So … buttsex perhaps?

    #12 2 years ago
  13. NeoSquall

    Pretty kickass review.

    Kudos to the author.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. deathgaze

    I watched my wife play this game and I can vouch for the gameplay — it looks pretty damn fun. The storytelling, on the other hand, depends on your tastes. If you don’t mind super-exaggerated takes, rampant plot holes and average voice work (as is common in anime nowadays) you’ll likely enjoy the story. If you’re not an anime fan, however, this aspect of the game (which is a large part of the game!) may bore the shit out of you.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Hunam

    Oh, and yeah, the answers for the questions are all based on users first time answers from the game, but you need to be on Live/PSN (yes it’s still going to be called PSN people) for that to work.

    Also, the game gives you trivia about what ever drink you’ve just finished, so you finish a cocktail, it gives you a cocktail factoid, usually obscure and not well know facts that just add the the slighty mental attitude the game seems to have. Heck, if you get blind drunk at the bar on the night you move quicker in the dream :) You even get a text in the game basically telling you that getting wasted every night is the best course.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. NeoSquall

    Average voice over works?

    Okay, right.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Hunam

    Some characters, mostly the sheep, i’d say are decent but not exceptional. Catherine and Vincent are amazing though. But they are still anime styled, which I guess some people might not get on with. (like, most of the bar staff and Vincents friends are very anime styled in VA)

    #17 2 years ago
  18. JokersUav

    I no shit just stumbled across this game and was thinking about getting it as well, after this little exchange of messages I am sold. I heard of it previously but dismissed it with out really giving it a chance but now I see it looks pretty entertaining.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. osric90

    I would have preffered all the game being real-time cutscenes and not the anime ones (which are awesome).

    That “conversation” is damn too long. It might be the format.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. TD_Monstrous69

    I definitely need to get this from either the PSN or Amazon. Wanted it when it was about to launch here in the US, didn’t have the cash though.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Hunam

    Although, a few of the puzzles (about 3 that I’ve seen) have one way only to do them, which kind of ruins the flow as most of the others are very much multi-solution.

    Oh, and who ever made stage 8 needs to burn in a special kind of hell made for the worst people ever.

    #21 2 years ago