The June ruling of the Supreme Court decided video games are a means of expression and a medium of social ideas. One would expect more games to explore human relationships and the world around us. The game “Catherine” in some ways steps up to this from a unique angle. While it bears a rating for mature audiences for its use of sexual themes, alcohol and violence, it isn’t so much of an action-adventure game as most of those that were pointed out as negative influences, instead falling more under the horror/thriller genre.

There have been many horror games in the past, such as the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series, however this game’s style sets it apart from most. Atlus has stepped into the ring now with their physiological thriller genre with “Catherine.” While “Catherine” at first looks more like something you would expect from a television show due to its storyline and graphics, the development team seems to have pulled off a unique game that has so far proven to be a great success in Japan.

Atlus has long produced games with unconventional and dark storylines such as their Megami Tensei and Disgaea series. A quick glance at “Catherine” with the anime cut scenes and stylized graphics makes the game seem light and almost comical at first. Its dark and slightly erotic theme, however, quickly shows a game with a multitude of layers, just right for the thriller genre.

“Catherine” has an interesting rendering of this genre with its story and puzzle-styled gameplay. The main character, Vincent, is between his longtime girlfriend, Katherine, who wants to get married and a mysterious Catherine whom he has an affair with. This provides the main backdrop of the storyline with Vincent needing to make a choice between the two women. Along with a cast of characters, who range from drinking buddies to co-workers each with their own developed personalities, this seems almost like a simulation video game.

Simulation would not really describe it though. Despite its strong story element, the gameplay is that of an action-puzzle game with the game split into three parts: story, adventure and action. Story as well as different action elements occurs during the day with some, such as how much Vincent decides to drink, having an effect on his dreams. The main adventure and puzzles come as Vincent tries to survive nightmares that have crossed over into reality with the penalty of dying in the real world if he dies in his dreams. As he survives his dreams, he learns more and finds others he knows who are trapped as well.

“Catherine” provides players several ways to play other than the main story. The game has three modes including the main one, which is called Golden Theater. The first, Babel features bonus segments unlocked in the Golden Theater mode and will rank players by how fast they get through stages. Coliseum is a multiplayer competitive mode where two players go through the game’s action segments at the same time, assuming control of sheep as their characters.

With its multiple endings and non-linear morality system, “Catherine” will provide players with hours of gameplay.

“Catherine” is currently available for Xbox360 and Playstation 3.