Players flick back and forth between conversational cutscenes and block-pushing puzzles, a disjointed criss-cross of styles that starts to irritate the further into the game you get. It certainly doesn't help that the game is also really, really chuffing hard, and the actual difficulty curve of its intricate puzzles will knock most players for six (I unashamedly wound the difficulty back to Easy on my first playthrough and still found it pretty challenging). And while the game introduces a variety of block types - springs, bombs, slippy-slidey icey ones - most players will find themselves fatigued long before the game's denouement.
The setting of its world is enough to keep you ploughing through, however. But this is a storyline that shies away from making clear judgements, with its creators leaving their tale purposefully vague in the hope to have players decide - though the complementing cast offer their own varied opinions. Rugged Orlando scoffs at the idea of commitment and marriage, idealistic Jonny hides a secret in his search for a soulmate, and the virginal Tobias longs for monogamy.
Yet this attempt at open-ended storytelling robs the game of its ability to advance the narrative beyond its core concept. Katherine is obsessively maternal and aloof to a fault, Vincent is spineless and Catherine is always a bubbly, barely clothed sex-fiend with a penchant for snapping naughty photos on her cameraphone and a suggested fondness for engaging in some of life's more adventurous sexual activities. Then the final act rolls around, and all the characters immediately change based on the players' answers throughout the game.
Perhaps I'm just bitter and disappointed. Catherine attempts to explore themes previously untouched by the medium, which is exciting, but decides answering them sounds like way too much bother and wraps everything up with a silly supernatural conclusion. It's a game afraid to legitimise its own plot. And because, hey, this is more than most publishers are willing to attempt, there's a tangible sense that the audience is just supposed to just sit and accept it, this is the games industry, after all, where games about fidelity and matrimony are advertised as a titillating old romp that'll help young boys go from six to midnight.
It's a shame the ending lets the game down, then, as Catherine presents an intriguing proposition for the human condition - that life will force all of us into a crossroads, and it's only through grabbing the sheep by the horns that we can really become ourselves. Push the wacky surrealism aside and you've also got a detailed, down-to-earth world that you'd never expect as you first slide the disc into the tray, alongside a set of subtle questions that will invoke sentiment and thought.
This is a game that'll stick in your brain by virtue of originality alone, then, but if Catherine can't take itself seriously then why should we?
Version tested: PlayStation 3