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The interactive story parts of the game are fairly straightforward. You play as Vincent Brooks, a young man engaged to a girl called Katherine McBride. Katherine believes Vincent is having an affair with another girl called Catherine1. During these story phases in the game, the player makes choices. These choices determine whether other male characters live or die, and also the final ending of the game.
The main attraction, however, are the puzzle sections. These occur as nightmares experienced by Vincent, and are push/pull block puzzles, all with escalating difficulties. These 'Nightmare' stages conclude with a 'boss', an end of level in-game character that Vincent must defeat in order to continue.
During the day, Vincent is an ordinary man who goes to work, has lunch with his friend and colleague, Orlando, and coffee with his girlfriend, Catherine. During the evening he goes to a bar called The Stray Sheep. It is during this time that he can make choices, reply to text messages and talk to other people in the bar (or not), and his decisions will determine the eventual ending of the game.
At night, Vincent is transformed into an anthropomorphic sheep dressed only in boxer shorts and carrying a pillow. This is where the puzzles begin. The puzzles are timed block push/pull/climb scenarios, with Vincent trying reach the top while the lower blocks fall away.
After each stage, Vincent enters a lobby where there are other sheep to talk to. He can encourage them (or not), and can learn new techniques in order to get to the top faster and overcome obstacles. There is also a 'Confessional' at the end of this section, where Vincent answers a question and is transported to the next stage of the nightmare for that night.
The final stage each night is a 'boss'. Not only are the lower blocks falling away, but Vincent is being chased up them by an entity inspired by something in his waking life2. The puzzles become increasingly harder, and also introduce new types of blocks.
There are eight different endings to the game, which are based on your answers to the questions posed in the Confessional, before the final 'boss' stage of the game. In order to complete all the endings it is possible to simply save it before the final stage, and then change your answers.
There are three side-games which you can play:
This is the arcade game in The Stray Sheep. On your first playthrough you can only play the game three times a night, although on your second play you have infinite lives. You play as a knight trying to reach Rapunzel in her tower. It is a simplified version of the main puzzle section, but rather than being timed and the blocks falling away from the bottom, you are limited to a certain number of moves. There are a total of 128 different levels.
Available from the start of the game, this is a variation on the Nightmare Stages which can be played by two players, either cooperatively or competitively.
Another variation on the Nightmare Stages, which can again be played by two players, but is only available once you have achieved a gold ranking in the main game on those stages. There are four stages which change every time you play.
There were several different versions of the game published. The inlay on the Playstation 3 version was different to the Xbox360 version (although the alternate cover was on the back), and there was an Artbook3 available with some pre-orders. The 'Stray Sheep' Edition included a small pizza box, a t-shirt (as worn by Vincent), a poster, and Stray Sheep drinks coasters. The 'Love is Over' Edition included the same items as the 'Stray Sheep' Edition, but also contained a pillow case and Artbook. The latter was only available through certain retailers.
Is It Worth Playing?
Catherine is a very quirky game. It received mixed reviews upon release, with most of the opinion that it was worth trying. The puzzle sections on the Normal and Hard difficulty settings can be very challenging, and the 'boss' section can be quite infuriating. If you can find it second-hand or rent it, though, it's well worth a punt.