Catherine mixes a sort of dating simulation and a puzzle game with a splash of survival horror. It doesn't fully succeed, but it's completely original.

You control Vincent, a slacker who's muddling through a relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Katherine (with a K). She's beautiful, smart and ambitious, but she's getting a little impatient waiting for Vincent to grow up.

Along comes Catherine (with a C), a girly-girl who's wearing little more than lingerie when she wanders into the bar where Vincent and his friends hang out. Vincent and Catherine end up in bed together, and the drama unfolds from there. Will Vincent confess his infidelity? Will he tell Katherine to beat it? And what's the story behind an epidemic of young men dying in their sleep?

That's where the puzzles come in. Every night, Vincent has a dream in which he's forced to climb a towering wall while being pursued by a monster from his subconscious: a furious Katherine, perhaps, or a ravenous, caterwauling baby. The objective is to keep moving up, so you have to pull bricks from the wall to create staircases that Vincent can climb.

In between the nightmare levels, you learn more about Vincent's relationships with Katherine and Catherine through long, noninteractive animated sequences. You also spend time at the Stray Sheep bar, where you can chat with your pals, other patrons or the mysterious bartender.

RATING M for Mature

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PLOT Romance and puzzles? Together?

DETAILS Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, $60

BOTTOM LINE A journey unlike any you've ever experienced