I've finally gotten Cathrinein my hands and I hate it. It’s one of the most frustrating games I have ever played. The controls are horrible, the puzzles are trial and error, the time limit is too strict, and the game does horrible job at explaining itself. If I was reviewing the game I would give it this site’s lowest possible score of 1 out of 4; Except I'm not reviewing the game. In fact, I'm glad I'm not working for a website that is forcing me to review the game, because I would not be able to do this game justice. Everything I complained about is my fault.
No doubt my experience with the game was unpleasant. First, I would often die while hanging off the side of a block because I hit the ''’ button expecting Vincent to climb up. When in reality, it made him drop down to his death. Secondly, when I come up to a wall of blocks with a time limit to worry about, all I can fathom to do is randomly push block blocks around hoping to find the right path. To top it all off, the worst experience was when I finally got a game over on the third chapter of the game which took me to the title screen only to find out that the game doesn't auto save. I now would have to start over from the beginning. From that moment on I hated the game. I don't think there's anything it could do to save itself.
These experiences were all negatively affecting my review before realizing it might just be me. Most people that buy a game like Catherine are probably smart enough to learn the different control scheme and to save when it tells you. It’s my fault that I could not. I remember once upon a time being upset at a certain God Hand review for the reviewer being bad at the game.
Now I find myself in the same spot Chris Roper was in, reviewing a game I just couldn't play correctly. I don't want to do the same thing Roper did and just pass off the game as being bad, but I also can't just ignore my own negative experiences with the game. So then as a reviewer what should I do?
The role of the game designer is to teach you how to play the game so the designer does have to answer for something. The gaming crowd is large enough that there is bound to be someone else who makes the same mistakes as I do and therefore hate the game for it. All game designers work hard and test hard in order to make these incidents as rare as possible, but it’s impossible to catch everything. However, the line has to be drawn somewhere.
Shawn Elliot, of the Bioshock Infinite team, once told a story about tester who would not even touch the right analog stick. No matter how many times they explained the joystick mechanics to him, he still couldn't get it. As a result, that tester must have had a horrible experience with the game, but it would be silly to expect the game designers to put a one hour tutorial teaching players to put their thumb on the right analog stick.
Video games have that unique characteristic of interactivity which can cause opinions to vary more wildly than any other medium we know. How we interact determines our overall experiences with the game which leads to greatly opinionated viewpoints than we are used to. If it takes me a full frustrating hour to figure out a simple puzzle that would take others just minutes to solve, then as a reviewer I have the obligation to detail my reasons for being upset.
I believe I also have an obligation as a reviewer to pinpoints parts of the game that could very well be a problem only I would have. In the end I would probably give Catherine a lower score than most publications. I just hope readers take this article as a warning that video games, more than any other medium, require an understanding on how reviewer reached their overall opinion. Just take this example as a lesson to not take a simple score at face value without reading the reasons behind it. It’s entirely possible all the problems I had would never affect you.