There are three game modes in Catherine:
- Golden Playhouse (1 Player), the single-player main story.
- Babel (1 or 2 Players), an extra mode unlocked by obtaining Gold prizes on Normal or Hard difficulty of the Golden Playhouse. There are 4 different levels with randomized block layouts, making it very difficult to form a plan beforehand. In "Pairs" (2 Player) mode, you cooperate to get to the top of the tower together, one of you playing Vincent and the other playing Katherine. The number of steps and difficulty of the block drops is significantly reduced in Pairs mode.
- Colosseum (2 Players), where you climb competitively with another player (local multiplayer only) to see who can finish the fastest. This is unlocked after finishing Golden Playhouse once. Each player plays a sheep, one with a blue sleeping cap and one with an orange cap.
The daytime is the adventure part of the game: you can freely explore and talk to friends at the Stray Sheep Bar, listen to unlockable music tracks at the jukebox, send and receive text messages and phone calls, order drinks, play an arcade game, and watch the narrative of the struggle of choice between Katherine and Catherine.
During the game, different characters send text messages and call Vincent. Choosing how to answer or whether to answer at all impacts not only how he reacts to situations in the cutscenes of the game, but how the game ends.
- Main article: Rapunzel
Vincent will meet many regular and irregular bar patrons at the Stray Sheep. They each have their preferred time to show up, and most have troubles that he can help them through.
- See also: Jukebox songs
The background music at the Stray Sheep can be changed at any time by playing the jukebox. One song is unlocked for each achievement obtained in the game. The tracks come from many different Atlus games including Catherine, Persona 3, Persona 3 Portable, Persona 3 FES, Persona 4, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2, and Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.
There are three levels of drunkenness which affect Vincent's ability to walk and move around the bar, though there are no actual downsides to drinking. On the contrary, inside the Nightmare stages inebriation is a positive - the drunker Vincent is, the faster he moves. His level of intoxication is measured by three beer bottles in the lower left corner of the screen.
There are four different alcoholic beverages at the Stray Sheep, each with its own associated trivia: Whisky, Cocktail, Sake and Beer.
No matter what drink is ordered, it takes three sips to empty Vincent's cup and it will fill up the meter by one bottle.
During the night, the gameplay shifts to an action/puzzle/platform game where the goal is to push and pull blocks from a tower to create a path to the top, all the while fighting against a time-limit (the tower is slowly collapsing) or outrunning a boss with special abilities. There are a total of 9 stages of gameplay, and 28 levels altogether.
- Main article: Puzzle Mechanics
At the end of each Nightmare stage, Vincent gets ranked appropriately with a Bronze, Silver or Gold prize based on overall score. When replaying puzzles on the same difficulty where a gold trophy has been earned, the level may be skipped entirely.
At the end of most Nightmare stages is a landing where other sheep congregate. Here, the game can be saved and Vincent can speak to the others trapped in the Nightmare, who often give hints about strategies to use in climbing. Afterwards, Vincent enters a Confessional booth where he is asked a question with two possible answers, themed as 'Order' or 'Freedom'. These answers shift his karma meter which affect his future thoughts and the ending of the game.
There are 8 possible endings to obtain based on the various choices the player makes throughout the game.
- Main article: Difficulties
Both Babel Mode and Colosseum Mode are only playable as local multiplayer, and do not have online capabilities.
Catherine supports Achievements for Xbox 360 and Trophies for PlayStation 3. In addition, it has leaderboards for Babel and the ability to display graphs of other player's actual responses during the confessional questions that are asked. Only the Japanese version is also able to filter answers by gender. If the player is not connected to the Internet, instead of showing live player data, it will display the Japanese results.
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