Sexy puzzle game Catherine is being almost universally lambasted for being of the “sadistically difficult” school of game design, to the extent where many players report not even being able to clear it on easy, let alone normal.
For the first time, Atlus has actually released a video concentrating on the gameplay and not the events – it is not hard to see why:
Reportedly many players have been forced to abandon their games at normal difficulty, and not a few find it impossible to complete even at easy.
A sampling of the player reviews which have emerged so far, with the game generally receiving an Amazon average of 3.7 out of 5:
“It’s addictive but very stressful. You only have a limited number of retries, but the puzzle gameplay can hook you.
However, losing all your lives and seeing the Game Over screen over and over, and being dumped back to the title screen and having to reload the game and rewatch/skip all the events is seriously tedious.
Why they limited the retries when you are just forced to reload it all and start over is the real puzzle in this game.”
“This is only for the hardcore. Be prepared if you buy it.”
“It has multiple endings but it’s a puzzle game and is so difficult I really wouldn’t want to play it through again.”
“Most of it is the puzzle parts, and they are fiendishly hard.”
“The action parts certainly are difficult. But I can’t help but think they are unnecessarily brutal…”
“They should have added some kind of relief for light gamers…”
“You certainly get a sense of accomplishment from beating something this difficult.”
“It’s too hard even on easy. I made the mistake of starting on normal and I got stuck later as I could get no further.”
“It is certainly so hard it may break you. But if you stick at it you may be able to clear it, I think!”
Practically every review, whether positive or negative, complains of excessive difficulty and overly punishing design.
Its mature content and well developed story are probably at odds with it being an insanely difficult puzzle game requiring hours of repetitive block pulling – one player puts it this way: “If you keep at it you can probably clear it, but I think most adult players will not take kindly to wasting all their precious time on the puzzle parts.”
That the game would be something of a disappointment was basically a given from the moment it emerged it was not an RPG and was (as the developers seemed strangely keen to conceal) in fact a block-pushing puzzle game, although Persona fans have generally extended considerable forbearance on the basis that it is supposed to be the immediate precursor to the development of Persona 5.
Whilst producing a super-hard puzzle game with a strong story is all very well (if a little strange), the real issue is whether the shade of Atlus can afford to make a lacklustre game given its precarious position – as little more than a brand owned by a mobile phone software company, it may be in danger of being further downsized to the point where it is no longer able or allowed to make full-scale console RPGs.