Written by on

Developed by


ESRB Rating: T(een)
Genre: Adventure/Action

So here it was, another Sunday morning, and once again I had awoken too late to attend church services. My mind raced; what could I do to atone for my slothfulness? Read the Bible? Nah. That small print hurts my eyes. Put Jesus Christ Superstar on the stereo and sing along? Pop Monty Python's The Life of Brian into the DVD player? No, those are my Easter and Christmas traditions. Hey, I know! The package that miraculously appeared on my front porch yesterday contained some sort of religious game. Catty Combs, Kitten Men--oh, there it is--Catechumen (pronounced kat' i - kyoo' men). What better way to show my faith than by spending my "day of rest" blasting my way through an action/adventure first-person-shooter while converting shameless hussies to Christianity and dispatching soulless demons back to Hell?

The year is 171 A.D. Your mentor and his Christian brethren have been captured by the Romans, and only you can rescue them from their certain death in the bowels of the Catacombs. Standing in your way are possessed Roman soldiers and diabolical demons. At your disposal are eight different Swords of the Spirit, the Armor of God, and Scrolls to increase your faith. Angels from on High will guide your way as demons from below attempt to send you heaven bound.

Catechumen is in fact based on historical events. The Roman Empire had waged war against Christianity. Scores of Christians were executed for refusing to renounce Christ and bow before the Roman gods. Thousands more were captured and put to their deaths in the Colosseum. In an attempt to protect their faith from infiltrators, new converts had to study with a single mentor for a period of one year. Known as "Catechumen," these initiates were pivotal in the growth of Christianity.

First impressions are often incorrect, and so it can easily be with a game like Catechumen. For what seems to be at first glance a nonviolent, gore-free, first-person shooter attempting to shove religion down one's throat is actually a well thought-out, addictive game that happens to have religion as its main theme. "But Randy," I hear you asking, "how can a first-person shooter be a nonviolent game?"

Spiritual warfare is the answer, and spiritual weapons are provided to accomplish your goals. At the beginning of certain levels, angels appear who will equip you with Swords of the Spirit. Each of these swords has its own unique power, and they grow increasingly stronger as the game progresses. (About these angels, though, they sport some huge Popeye-like forearms. In fact, Big Poppa Pump and Hulk Hogan would be envious. Steroids in Heaven? Arf. Arf. Arf.) Each sword emits a laser-like beam that has a different effect depending upon the foe. The numerous types of demons are vanquished back to the netherworld. Possessed Roman soldiers are converted to Christianity and kneel down to pray and allow your passage. Yes, you read that right, they kneel down and pray. Now the first time you see this occur, it is humorous, but it soon becomes as much a part of the game as, say, guts and entrails bloodying the corridors of Doom or Quake. Which begets the following question: will the same people who claim that violence in gaming has no effect on children also claim that religious aspects in a game also have no effect? Or will they wring their hands, worried that their children may be converted?

As the Catechumen travels through the eighteen levels of catacombs, the foes and the puzzles become increasingly difficult. Anytime it seems as though boredom with the similarity of a level is about to occur, something new always seems to appear to rejuvenate interest in the game (I particularly enjoyed fighting lions in the Colosseum). Besides the Romans, you must also face off against demons, devils, lions, hounds, fallen angels, and leviathans. And what would a Christian game be without big red himself, the foe of all foes--Satan. If there is a major downside to Catechumen, it is the lack of originality in the puzzles. They are for the most part the same old find-a-key, push-a-box garden variety, but there are occasional bursts of inspiration, such as a puzzle involving a pipe organ and Amazing Grace. Some sleuthing is required as it is not always wise to confront a guard, and sneaking past open doorways that emit voices is often recommended.

Graphics are the typical 3D, first-person viewpoint that is common for this genre. While not on the order of Quake orUnreal, neither are they subpar. Dynamic lighting, rendered fog, and other goodies to test your 3D card are present. Some of the colors seem to be especially more vibrant than any I have seen in other similar products. Voices were done in-house by the staff, and there are some humorous one-liners (I'm getting too old for this job) that provide some mirth in an otherwise gloomy scenario. The music is a notch above the usual pulsing rhythms heard in shooters and is easy on the ears. (I can't wait to read some of the reviews from the hardcore gamers who will try to justify their hypocrisy for fear of offending religious groups: "Dude, like I got nothing against religion or God, but this game sucks. It's bad enough there's no gore, but there's not even any cleavage!)

Adventure gamers who have been searching for the perfect action game to baptize their trigger fingers should look no further than Catechumen. Having encountered numerous problems attempting to master the keyboard and mouse commands for other shooters, I found the mouse control to be intuitive and only occasionally had to use the keyboard to save a game or use the crouch command. There is never that frantic pace that can be so jarring in the mainstream releases, and if you do feel overwhelmed, there is always the option to be repentant and choose from an easier level of play (I played through on the Normal setting).

So what do you say about a game that sings a chorus of hallelujahs when your character is slain, that scatters scrolls about that contain Biblical verses for spiritual reflection when the game is paused, that bathes heathens in a heavenly light when they are converted to Christianity? You say it is different, and different is not always bad. If nothing else, the N'Lightning staff has proved that a game does not have to be violent to be involving and tense. Now let's put that talent to work on a Christian-themed adventure game. A killer who leaves scripture as clues, a detective who is a defrocked priest with a mysterious past. I think this may be the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

Final Grade: B

If you liked Catechumen:
Watch: Ben-Hur
Read: The Bible
Play: War in Heaven

System Requirements:
Windows 95/98
Pentium 300
3D accelerator card
2X CD-ROM drive
Soundblaster-compatible soundcard
Mouse, keyboard
DirectX 7.0 (included)

Cheat Codes:

Cheat 1

1. Start a game.

2. Once you re in the game hit the ESC key and it will bring you to the main menu.

3. Very slowly type the following: franchiseme

4. When the code takes you will hear "Hallelujah."

5. Click on resume game.

At this point you can use these letters on the keyboard:

R = life
Y = shield
I = weapon
u = super jump

Cheat 2

1. Start a game.

2. Once you re in the game hit the ESC key and it will bring you to the main menu.

3. Very slowly type the following: iaminahurry

4. When the code takes you will hear "Hallelujah."

5. Click on resume game.

At this point you can be taken to the start of the next level up to level 7. But if you do not obtain the weapons on the levels before skipping you will not automatically get them, so be careful using this cheat!


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