This actually touches on something that’s been poking around my head as I’ve wandered the sea of responses to Catherine.

Almost everyone agrees that Catherine is hard. Some people find this a fatal flaw, and conversely some people find that its the most wonderful part of the game. Indeed, some people can’t seem to have fun without the game savagely beating them to a bloody pulp occasionally (@beige :D). I’m fairly sure though that Catherine has the full range, Super Easy you are basically just skipping all the puzzles, I watched a guy go through the entire game without learning anything more then the basic Cyclone (he refused to talk to anyone on the landings @_@). Easy has a dinger or two in floors 5,6 and 8 but is pretty heavily telegraphed… Normal is tough, requiring serious thought and investment to progress in most areas, and Hard is… well… for the beiges of the world, people who, once they’re experienced at the game want to test their mettle against the highest possible challenge. Babel appears to be an eternally replayable random-esque mode for longevity and the Vs Coliseum is a whole can of worms I haven’t touched yet.

Still, I have trouble backing the statement “Catherine is difficult.” because I’ve seen so many people of various mental acuity, on various streams experiment their way past all problems. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone solve the tough ones the same way… ever, and I’ve seen quite a few streams. Not always efficiently and not always first try but I’ve not ever seen anyone stuck so bad they couldn’t progress as long as they were willing to push blocks and undo. My girlfriends *little sister* was able to beat the game in a day, because she loved the story and had the investment to push the game back when it pushed her. I suppose it’s possible she’s completely atypical, but I’ve seen the same thing on too many streams to discount the experience.

It just seems the more accurate statement is “Catherine doesn’t guarantee you a smooth ride to the end” In fact, it’s probably more proper to say that Catherine guarentees that you WILL not have a smooth ride to the end no matter how smart/good at puzzles/prepared you are. It seems a matter of effort and investment rather then a bar of challenge. To me, Ninja gaiden is “difficult” Shinobi is “Difficult” some people just can’t move their hands fast enough to handle everything coming at them. or they aren’t used to multitasking enough to keep all the threats and their reactions in line. Some people’s “Capacity” just isn’t enough to hold everything serious action games like that throw at you. SHMUPS and Danmaku games are the same way.

With Catherine however, I think everyone has the capacity to pass easy/normal. The trick is, whether they *want* to pass easy normal enough to experiment life after life to see what they can hash together. Frankly, there’s no more then what, 10 reasonable moves on any given line? and of them 3-4 are some sort of progress or setup, combine that with Undo and anyone intrepid is going to be moving on.

The game is definitely odd though, it will ‘stop’ you, but there’s just so many ways to get to the next block up that I can’t see anyone being incapable of doing so if they’re making the effort, What Catherine *will* absolutely do though is stop you at least a few times even on easy. The question is whether you want to continue enough that you experiment your way past or whether you sorta go “meh” and throw your hands up because you don’t care enough about what’s beyond it.

It’s clearly not about some intrinsic metal acuity, I’d expect everyone here has certainly demonstrated at length they are prone to exercising the ol grey matter. Redsirl in particular has amply demonstrated a quick wit and ample mental capacity from here and the 1up days. At the same time however clearly something doesn’t click with some people. At first I wasn’t sure whether it’s a matter of their threshold of tolerance being lower due to modern game’s “every moment spent in this game is guaranteed progress” barrier (Garnett Lee mentioned he stopped playing it because it passed the “two strikes” he’s willing to give a game he’s playing during his free time) Or whether the story and anime tropes isn’t compelling enough to them to entice some people to give the game as much time as they’ll give to say, perfecting combos in MvC, or managing plays in madden or shooting dudes in CoD.

Reading what Red wrote though, I see now the truth is much simpler… they’re just not having fun. For me the fun and thrill of the game is successfully overcoming challange after challenge by thinking in a different way or working out some convoluted McGyver way to pass a puzzle area. (And like McGyver, there’s a ticking time bomb often involved.) I’ve always loved that sort of “Yeah it’s shoddy, but it’ll work” sort of thing. Still, if someone didn’t find that process fun, I could easily see the fun quotient of Catherine being incredibly small, far lower then the challenge it’s presenting, however surmountable. I think someone’s said it before but frankly, the puzzles ARE the gameplay, the story won’t save the experience, the endings won’t save the experience, the Atlus touches won’t save the experience if you aren’t finding the experience of pushing past those puzzles fun.

(on that note, how did so many people not expect so many Atlus touches out of this? It’s like people have forgotten the story elements/twists/meters that have happened in everything from SMT to Persona to… well… basically anything they’ve personally developed ever -_- )

I’m actually a bit surprised the reviews came out 80% positive since it seems the layman’s reaction (judging from twitter/tumbr/facebook is that people either really really love the game, (and there’s been a shocking amount of “couples co-op” on this title which is an interesting factor in and of itself) and people who get in and go “Mmmm…. meh :\” and just… run out of steam. Perhaps its like a riddle? You either snap to the experience immediately or you immediately go “I don’t know, what’s the answer?”

So I guess from now on when someone says “Should I get Catheirne” I’ll continue to say “Play the demo, maybe try to connect the main world to the islands with sheep on them. If you like it you’re good to go, if you don’t, then stay away, because it’s very unlikely that any other part of the game will overwhelm the fact that the puzzling is 80% of the experience”