I wanna be the Catharsis

Creator: Hiddow

Average Rating
8.2 / 10
Average Difficulty
66.5 / 100
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Needle (25) Gimmick (8) Long (1) NoBoss (1) EasyMode (1) Chase (1) Original (1) HardMode (1) Art (2) artistic_vision (1) The_Water (1)


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90 Reviews:

"1500 feet above the target, leaving no crater."

With the required sensibilities, it is very easy to distinguish an artist whenever and wherever he/she may arise, regardless of what the artist does. This game is an artistic statement and this is no exaggeration. Enough has been said about the fair implementation of gimmicks, the unpredictably original and good needle platforming screens and about how the challenge, although having a bar sufficiently high for improving the skills of an amateur, proves to be extremely entertaining and highly rewarding.

But as a visual individual, I'm here to talk about the artistic value this creation brings to the table, to a community that doesn't get this kind of proposals often. Hiddow, as any other fangame maker, is an artist. The eternal debate of what constitutes art can be discussed here and I will gladly offer my perspective without attacking yours; however, visually and thematically this game is bringing along a statement, possibly a political one.

As the apolitical person I am, I'm not here to bore you with convoluted themes unrelated to fangaming; however, this fangame begs for discussing themes outside our comfort zone. First: does the visual aspect compensate the lack of design or platforming quality? Most of us will say no, and some high production value games has smashed that truth in our faces. But what happens when the two are in balance? What happens when the maker puts the same amount of importance on both? Gems like this come out, gems that should be appreciated. Symmetry barely begins to describe the visuals because it actually experiments with design while keeping in mind that said experimentation affects the platforming, and the inventiveness applied works amazingly for gameplay.

Now, the following are the most important paragraphs for me. The game represents The Kid's journey through hope in times of war. It is mostly a cathartic and ultimately tragic experience, so expect spoilers in the rest of the review.

The journey is a trip to hell, to warfare destruction, unleashing terror. It begins with a peaceful sky landscape embellished by Ed Harrison's Beacon, from the Neotokyo OST. This soundtrack constitutes the backbone of the game and is the foundation upon which the game stands and it is important to understand that. Atmospheric, chill, and yet a foreshadowing of things to come. Once you stumble upon an allegorically "impossible" platforming segment (it is possible to do of course), The Kid perceives a menace and decides to fall down. There is an imminent terror of bad things to come. The Kid falls into what he thinks is protection, only to be chased by an abstract inner fear of his. This chase makes me remember The Babadook, where the monster is a symbolic representation of fear. The Kid faces this and gets to run away from it. This shelter proves to be an incarnation of fears, as said, and encounters a most controversial one: an atomic explosion.

To make a pause, when I streamed this section three weeks ago, I had some Letterboxd'ers with me discussing films and fangames at the same time, and this caught our attention. The obvious popular mention is Kubrick and his ending for Dr. Strangelove (1964), but no, the first thing that came to my mind while listening to Ed Harrison's Radius (key for understanding this segment) was the experimental work of landmark and extremely relevant filmmaker Bruce Conner, a man whose splendid and ahead-of-its-time work circled around media scandal, human conflict and, what concerns us in the context of Catharsis, nuclear warfare. You'll often see the covers of his work being represented by a nuclear mushroom, and one of his favorite personal works of mine, Crossroads, crept into my mind during this whole time. The song Radius is repeated many times.

Consider that the Radius version with the voice sample says exactly what I quoted in the beginning repeatedly, and it is no accident. The game is absolutely making a statement.

Once The Kid travels to this allegorical "bunker" screens, he finally decides, with difficulty, to climb up to the surface again (as in the film Take Shelter) and encounters a world engulfed in flames. What I observed was that the artwork resembled the Romantic style of the 18th Century. My best friend, who was also watching the stream just for support, commented that the background seemed liked "something painted by Goya, but with more aggressive strokes". Throughout, she kept pointing out painters as well. She's so versed. Anyway, this jump-refresher segment does have its drawbacks as the refreshers are questionably small for grabbing them, making jumps forced and precise, but the overall routes were fun and I loved the alternate paths one could take, something that would be present throughout the game.

Anyway, back to the story (or what is my personal interpretation of it, really), The Kid now faces reality. The fear is now palpable. The world is in a war aftermath. Walking through these screens, The Kid tries to get back to his usual world again. He wants to come back to a reality of peace and beauty. We will encounter the most beautifully designed screens in this portion, the ones with black needle and ground, and light gray background. However, he mentally struggles with this as disturbing imagery will assault him in instances (one particular image that won't leave my mind is the section where he seems to be in a display of security cameras displaying prisoners; I don't know the origin or context of this image, but it is surely unsettling and scary).

Notice the artistic progression the game will show now: shades of gray, like if we were coming closer to the nuclear mushroom we once contemplated from the outside. Here, the art we saw before in symmetry starts to lose two things: said symmetry and the contrast between black and white. Everything starts to mix itself in gray tones.

The last portion is painted with strokes of gray, and nothing but black lines that represent everything that looked normal before. It is like either walking through war ruins, or the smoke of the explosion itself (I second the second motion). Radius hits us back as the main theme. The hardest screen will be here, which is the second to last. This is tragic because The Kid is still stuck in a version of the world that is too ugly to see. But he keeps going.

The ending is open to interpretation, as it states that there is no Catharsis. This probably means that the protagonist didn't experience it as he was dead all along; The Kid probably died during the nuclear mushroom screen and everything afterwards was a journey to the afterlife, as a spirit roaming around ruins. Or it was everything just imagined. This can be backed up with the game being very vivid during the initial portions, abstract in the middle and visually lifeless (in a good way) towards the ending, and more monochromatic.

Reading too much into it? Who said that was a sin? Art is art and it depends on us to make a meaning out of it. There are no rules.

People often ask/troll me concerning my low ratings; I am rating fangames as art in general, since I consider fangames as real games and videogames in general as art, so I should make no differentiation (shoutout to Racic who perfectly understood this statement of mine in a mature way after NotEvenAmatueR, also respectfully, said he just added two stars to every review I wrote). I do it because I know the bar can always be raised more, and this minimalistic sample is a proof that it can be done, with no boss rushes, high production value, explosions, memes or traps... just straightforward platforming, a distinguishable visual style and a message behind. You have a guaranteed winner in this way.

For people that care for art in general, please watch everything you can from Bruce Conner.

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Tagged as: Needle Gimmick
[12] Likes
Rating: 8.0 80       Difficulty: 75 75
Oct 18, 2020
Catharsis is one of the few fangames I've played with a fully realized artistic vision. The game oozes a dark, oppressive atmosphere, with meticulously chosen music and backgrounds (did you recognize the black and white photo of a nuclear test? because it's there). Hiddow has a masterful eye for spike placement, and some levels are works of art in their own right. Even while working almost exclusively in monochrome, there's a haunted beauty to most of these screens.

The level design itself starts off with a fairly reasonable difficulty curve, which later becomes somewhat arbitrary, oscillating between trivial and very difficult. Not all screens are perfect, either - I'm looking at you, moving platform screen - and the artistry becomes a bit more hit-or-miss as the difficulty increases.

Still, this is one of the few games that stuck with me for so long after playing it purely for its artistic value, and I'd recommend it to anyone (assuming you like fairly challenging needle).

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Tagged as: Needle
[6] Likes
Rating: 9.0 90       Difficulty: 69 69
Mar 5, 2015
i like it

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Tagged as: Needle Gimmick
[4] Likes
Rating: 8.6 86       Difficulty: 57 57
Nov 17, 2017
As a new person to Hiddow's games, I had no idea what to expect. I gazed upon the difficulty scale and said "Why not, it would be a very fun challenge." After 5 hours, I reached the end and was completely blown away by how well done every aspect of the game was.


Excellently done. The unique and difficult style of the needle blew me away. No presence of anything "unfair" and each gimmick was done well. I'm not a big fan of gimmicks; I prefer my needle vanilla, yet Hiddow made sure to insert gimmicks that added to the game's difficulty and "fun factor." Although such gimmicks are quite common in many other games, I appreciated how it was done here. The jump refresher segments were great, the spike switch gimmick was done well, among all the others. Overall, incredible platforming.




I cannot imagine one person who didn't fall in love with such a dark and brooding atmosphere reciprocated throughout the game. As I opened the game, hearing such a slowed down and andante version of the Song of Storms from the LoZ series instantly triggered the nostalgia. Progressing through the game, the theme of such music continued on and really helped dampen my mood as I played. Playing hard needle can infuriate some players, yet I felt no anger as the calm and tranquil music only increased my appreciation of the game. Visuals were fantastic as well; they did well in contributing to the gloominess of the game.


None that I can think of.

Overall rating.

Fantastic. I highly recommend this game to ANYONE who wants to test their needle. Also, anyone who loves needle should definitely try this out. The difficulty is too hard for anyone to play it, but if you feel like you're ready, go for it! It's an amazing game that everyone should play.

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[4] Likes
Rating: 9.0 90       Difficulty: 73 73
Sep 11, 2016
This review is based on a clear of hard mode, although I also played normal mode

This game is very well known and it's quite an interesting game, it's basically the grandfather of what some call "artistic vision" games, focusing a lot of atmosphere. Considering the games age, it's very admirable just how much it accomplishes, there's a lot of variety and unique ideas, especially considering it's older than even CN1. It's not particularly to my taste, there's plenty of parts that don't entirely click with me, but it's incredibly ahead of it's time and definitely worth a shot even today. Truly the embodiment of a classic.

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[2] Likes
Rating: 7.7 77       Difficulty: 68 68
Jan 21, 2024