Once you've bested the boss, your reward is a dose of anime that advances the plot and a trip to the Stray Sheep, the bar where Vincent hangs out with his buddies every night. Take the time to chat up the patrons and you'll quickly recognize some of the sheep that hang out on the landings. If you spend enough time with them, you may be able to save them from the nightmares, but you can also ignore them if you'd rather just play the arcade game in the corner or drink yourself into a stupor. Both Katherine and Catherine will text you while you're at the bar, and how you choose to respond to them will affect a running meter reflecting what kind of man Vincent is. The meter isn't as simple as good/evil , it's more like "swinging bachelor" vs "stand-up guy." Sending Catherine saucy texts will send your needle towards the red, while thanking Katherine for being concerned that you're stressed out will nudge it towards the blue. The meter doesn't affect gameplay, just how Vincent reacts to situations in the story, and ultimately what ending you get.
It's a clever way to encourage replay, a problematic subject for Catherine. Once you've solved a puzzle, it loses most of its challenge. You can always try for a better score, and getting Gold on every level will push your skills to the max, but for many players, one time through will undoubtedly be enough. That doesn't mean their stay with Catherine will be brief, however; depending on your particular skill, getting through the main story plus all of the special Babel challenges can easily take 20-30 hours. Just getting into Babel might be a challenge for you; its levels are unlocked progressively as you earn Gold trophies in the story mode of the game, an accomplishment many players will never achieve. It's a shame that Babel - which offers randomly generated puzzles for both single player and co-op modes - isn't more readily accessible.
I'm normally in favor of players lowering a game's difficulty to Easy should they just want to experience the story, but in this rare instance, I'm going to advise against it. The difference between Easy and Normal is pretty immense, and if the Nightmares are a cakewalk, you'll get less from Vincent's journey than you would if you had to struggle more. I literally screamed in frustration as I tackled a boss for the umpteenth time, but my suffering made me empathize with Vincent far more than I might have otherwise. He's a shnook and a fool and he wouldn't be in this mess if he could just be a man and make a damn decision, but even he doesn't deserve to be tortured every night.
Bottom Line: Catherine is oftentimes agonizing, but like the blonde vixen that bewitches Vincent, it keeps you wanting more, just the same. The story, helped along by beautiful animation and first class voice acting, never stops being interesting. The puzzles test your mettle with genuinely clever design.
Recommendation: Catherine gets everything right. Unless you absolutely can't stand puzzles - or don't want to answer awkward questions from your significant other - grab this game as fast as you can.
This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360