Catherine’s Complex Puzzles Capture Romance’s Difficult Questions

Catherine reminds us that our feelings around love, romance, and attraction are messy, complex things. That while we can hope to be faithful or true to ourselves, that the road there is not easy. Quite literally, as you’re going to be solving complicated puzzles in a hurry. All while monstrous personifications of your relationship fears chase you. While such fears rarely come to life and kill us, that doesn’t mean that our conflicted feelings and inability to make a decision can’t ruin lives anyway. Our own, or those of others.

Vincent seems unsure about his current relationship with his long-time girlfriend, Katherine. To be honest, he doesn’t seem that interested in being with her at all. Maybe he was a long time ago, but now, he seems disinterested. And Katherine seems a bit sick of how he acts and carries on with himself. The two seem to have no connection at all when the game starts (look at The Addams Family for a real connection between a horror couple). However, sometimes you keep up with a long term relationship because that’s what you’ve always done.

But then Vincent cheats on her with another woman, and things get progressively messier from here. Like, climbing towering puzzles where you die if you fail, messy.

Catherine continues to follow Vincent’s story of figuring out his feelings about his relationships, giving them form in his dreams at night. A massive hand and fork appear after a tense meal with his girlfriend. A giant butt, complete with a tongue that can stab him, strikes after some lustful times. His girlfriend in a wedding dress, a howling baby, and even a twisted version of himself will rise up to meet Vincent as he climbs the towers in his mind. HIs fears of commitment, and his inability to decide what he wants, hunt him in the night.

These aren’t exactly subtle bosses. They’re about as clear about his fears as possible. And Vincent cannot face these things directly. Instead, much of what he does to face them is to deal with complex puzzles. These involve pushing and pulling blocks to create a path up the various towers the player climbs. Simply pulling the right blocks to get to the top is ordeal enough. However, the game adds lots of trick blocks and gimmicks to make each ascent difficult. Even moreso with a terrifying vision of your own fears crawling up behind you.

It’s that climb that seems to really represent the complexities of what you face in Catherine, and also in our own relationships. Love, lust, and the emotions in between, are all difficult things to work out. Figuring out what you want from your relationships is never an easy thing. It requires you be mindful of yourself when you may not even know what you really want. And the worst part is, you’re messing with someone else’s life while you’re figuring it all out.

This comes across incredibly well in the tower-climbing, which represents the difficulties of relationships in a compelling way. A terrifying one, too. Getting to the top of the tower is hard even when nothing is chasing you. You have a whole bunch of different rules in play about how unique blocks work. Have to figure out a good path up the tower without trapping yourself. You have to be mindful of the trap blocks and how they function. You’re constantly juggling ideas and possible ways to move forward. You’re also always second-guessing yourself, as you never know what that next layer of tower holds.

In romance, and in tower-climbing in Catherine, it’s hard to know what you should do. What will lead you to the happiness (survival) you’re looking for? It’s hard to know the answer. Well, unless you look up a walkthrough. But do you feel any satisfaction from following a manual to the end? Doesn’t it feel a bit better to do it yourself? The act of solving an ever-unfolding puzzle captures those challenges in finding who you are and what you want. The answer before you is never certain, but you need to figure it out.

Mainly, you also need to find out because you’re dragging someone down with you while you fail to decide. In the towers, this is represented by the visions that chase you. Being killed by a colossal butt’s tongue may feel a bit heavy-handed, but you’re ruining your own life and someone else’s by letting these questions languish. Katherine and Vincent may seem cold to one another, but is that largely because of Vincent’s inability to take the next step? Is it Vincent being unable to finally say that he just doesn’t feel that way any more? Which is it? Or is it something else entirely? It’s rarely easy to figure out.

But you need to, because, again, there’s two of you that have to deal with this. As your nightmares chase you, they represent the other person you’re hurting. They do so by placing a time limit on what you decide. And they should, as they’re the person who only gets a part of you in the relationship. Vincent isn’t giving all of himself to any one person, but instead bounces between cheating and trying to keep Katherine from finding out and breaking up with him. All of this because he does not know what he wants. Or is incapable of deciding, at least. Catherine uses these fears as a time limit on his decisions because, for every second that passes, you stand the chance of losing that life you want.

You don’t have infinite time in a relationship. Both of you are working out what you want. If one of you can’t or won’t make a decision on what to do, eventually, the other partner will make the call. So time, in the form of the nightmares, continually chases Vincent up the tower. It forces him to think faster. Move quicker. Because if you don’t, something in the relationship will change no matter what. You’ll die in the game if you don’t make a decision, just as your relationship will die if you never grow or decide what you want. Perhaps this is why Katherine seems to be so sick of him throughout the story. She’s already had to make some calls while he waits and hesitates.

Catherine, through its unsettling towers and the monstrous beings that rush up them, make for a neat snapshot of relationships and their challenges. They capture the difficulties we face in making decisions that will affect our whole lives. Capture how hard it can be to be sure if something is what you want. Distills those lingering doubts that bug you in the night. And also, how your failure to self-examine will eventually lead to something happening no matter what you do. While not without its flaws, it makes for a compelling case to really tackle what you want out of love head on.

Because if you don’t, a baby with a chainsaw might kill you.