In 2011, Japanese video game developer Atlus released an entry for the seventh generation of video game consoles titled Catherine, an interesting puzzle/platformer game that was released to a positive reception from critics and fans due to its extremely bizarre storytelling, weird imagery and cutscenes scattered throughout the gameplay.
Despite not having played the game at the time, I remember the talk about it and how strange it was. The game still never really fell onto my radar until Atlus announced a remastered/enhanced release of the game for 2019 titled Catherine: Full Body for the PlayStation 4. Full Body included additional content that was not present in the original, such as new scenarios, an added difficulty mode, several new endings, and a brand-new character. It wasn’t until 2020 would Nintendo Switch get the Full Body treatment. Thankfully, I had a good time with Catherine: Full Body for my first experience with the game in general and I’m glad Nintendo is not missing out on this peculiar entry. As the saying goes, better late than never, right?
Catherine: Full Body begins the story with 32-year old Vincent Brooks, a man who is seemingly directionless and too laid-back when it comes to not just his general lifestyle in terms of long-lasting goals and/or achievements, but also with his current relationship to Katherine, who feels as if she is pressuring him into the next big step into a relationship; marriage. Vincent is unsure if he is able to commit to something that he feels may strip him of his freedom in terms of hanging out with friends and drinking at the local bar, and is unable to make a definitive decision on what he wants to do, much to Katherine’s observation and obvious disappointment.
While staying at the bar one night once all his friends had left, Vincent meets a mysterious girl called Catherine (That’s Catherine with a C, mind you) who represents everything Katherine, Vincent’s girlfriend with a K, is not; flirty, cheeky, bubbly and rather adventurous. The two end up having a one night stand, much to Vincent’s absolute horror when he wakes up the next morning and finds himself torn between what to do, now that he has a very attached Catherine continuously texting him non-stop, unaware that he is already taken and is not a single man.
The game takes a turn for the very weird when Vincent begins to have nightmares involving him climbing a tower of blocks to the top to escape. If he fails to do so and falls to his death or is killed by a weird entity awaiting him in his nightmare, Vincent will die in the real world. Full Body also includes a brand-new character to the story who can help create different story scenarios and even become a love interest, based on the decision of your actions should you choose to do so, an amnesiac girl called Rin, which is short for (and I am not kidding you) Qatherine.
There’s a lot to like about Catherine: Full Body. Firstly, the puzzle gameplay that requires you to reach the top to escape is quite fun. I’m not the biggest fan of puzzle-type gameplay but I found myself enjoying this much more than anticipated. The creativity to move around and reach the top is very well done, clever and it’s never just one definitive way to get to the top. You are able to push and move blocks around you that are all connected to create platforms. As long as the edges of a block are connected to another, they will not fall and will stay in place, allowing you to climb on top. Not every block is movable however, so think carefully about where the movable ones can go to. This requires you to get creative (especially as you progress further in the game) and gets you to think outside the square (pun not intended) allowing you to create staircases, bridges, anything that the blocks will allow you, so long as those edges touch one another.
You are also able to hold onto the edges of blocks and shimmy over to other platforms of blocks to move elsewhere, with the ledges highlighted once you are holding on, so you can see exactly where you are going or can go if you are stuck. This nifty little feature of a highlighted line of ledges was absent in the original and is included in Full Body and I welcome this very much as it helps greatly with where you may need to go if you get stuck. If you still find yourself stuck, there is an ‘Undo’ feature in the block puzzles that will allow you to undo the last move you did on a block if you feel this was a mistake or want to do something else with the block. While you initially start off with a total of 3 undo’s, you can collect items along your way in these towers in the form of pillows, which grant you an extra undo. This is a great idea and really encourages you to, again, think outside the square and approach how you would reach pillows to get more chances in winning each nightmare overall.
There’s also a new difficulty mode called ‘Safety’ so if you want a much easier and smoother experience without the dread of feeling pressured to get to the top, Safety is there for you. If that isn’t enough, Full Body also adds in another new feature called ‘Autoplay’. If you are truly stuck and have no clue how to progress upwards, the autoplay feature brings you back to the start of the puzzle, but will automatically take the easiest route to the top without your input for help. You can cancel at any time and continue straight from there onwards once you feel you’ve gotten a good grasp on how to proceed. It’s optional and is there if you really can’t comprehend where to go, as these puzzles increasingly become more and more aggressively harder, and I love this feature. Highly welcome in my eyes.
To make things interesting, blocks of different varieties start appearing as you progress in the game, such as breakable blocks that shatter if you step on them too many times, blocks with spikes, ice blocks and even heavy blocks that take up your time to move can appear. Along the way you’ll encounter other men in the hellscape you are trapped in that all appear to Vincent as sheep. While you are on a checkpoint of sorts (a middle ground, so to speak), before proceeding to the next tower, you can talk to other sheep to learn new techniques or even buy items with the money you may find along the way, such as being able to double jump up two blocks or buying a white block to create a 3×3 platform. The final tower to climb results in a gigantic creature, a manifestation of Vincent’s literal nightmare, ready to attack and kill you if you’re too slow. A kind of boss fight, in a way. Reaching the top gets you out of the nightmare and you’ve managed to live another day, back in reality.
If you enjoy the block puzzles, or are familiar with the original Catherine game, Full Body has included a new puzzle mode called ‘Remix’. Remix offers a much harder take on the puzzles, blocks are now coloured and combined (kind of like Tetris blocks) that all move together when pushing or pulling. This can make or break the platform you wish to move to and makes things much more complex. This feature is more recommended for returning Catherine players, or if you feel like you’ve conquered the standard puzzles. There’s even an online mode where you can compete with other players in these towers, something also not in the original game, for anyone who wants to go up against puzzle lovers. A neat inclusion for competitive players who like to challenge themselves.
The game feels like it’s split up into three parts before moving on to the following day, with 9 days in total for each playthrough. The first part is a cutscene of some kind (usually in a very nice anime-drawn art style) depicting the scenario in which Vincent is in, setting up the story. The second part, and most likely the most integral part for how everything plays out in the game, is controlling Vincent during his night out with friends drinking and allows you to have options of speaking to characters for information, checking and texting on your phone or simply drinking, which will affect a meter that helps Vincent’s inner feelings. This meter initially starts right in the middle, between the two colours red and blue; red being ‘freedom’ and blue being ‘order’. You can change where the meter should go depending on how you react to certain things and the choices you make. Vincent‘s fate is determined also by answering questions to a mysterious voice in a booth while in these checkpoints in the nightmares, creating different scenarios each time you are on a different playthrough, especially if you choose to get all 13 different endings, with 5 new ones being included in the Full Body edition.
The second thing I adored about Catherine: Full Body is how stylishly the game looks. The CGI models all look really nice and slightly updated from their original PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 counterparts and are extremely expressive when it comes to showing emotions, particularly Vincent whenever he freaks out or looks like he’s ready to explode out of fear. Sometimes the way the game presents itself and how the camera showcases close-up shots of characters and several angles almost gives off a horror or thriller-type vibe. It’s a puzzle game, but I can’t help feel a little creeped out here and there with the portrayals of the characters and the warnings of what may come for Vincent. Even the main menu is stylish and sleek, such as how the options to pick your difficulty before starting the game are all each written over a super close up of piano keys, with a lovely piano track playing in the background.
While the gameplay is fun and can be really interesting, I found fault with the characters, in particular Vincent. I just could not really find myself liking him a great deal, with his cowardice and inability to break it to Catherine, the new girl, that he is taken but appears to fail to do so on multiple occasions. Hell, all the male characters didn’t really seem likable at all. I just felt irked with them all and didn’t have any favourites or any particular male character I liked that appeared on-screen. Whenever I would make sure to stay faithful to Katherine on my first playthrough with decisions and choices made, I still didn’t like Vincent and found myself annoyed, despite the fact that I’M Vincent in the game. I never felt emotional towards him, even when I was fighting for my life during my playthrough, so I wouldn’t die and made sure to keep him alive.
Playing the Nintendo Switch port, I had no issues to report with the game. My entire time, whether docked and handheld, played flawlessly throughout with no issues of frame rate or controls. Safe to say that the Switch port is absolutely fine and worth your money if you want to play sitting around the house or on long trips away.
Catherine: Full Body is a very interesting and unique title. A puzzle game that feels part dating sim/part horror/part visual novel, it’s an interesting game that boasts very stylistic visuals with a strange story but just suffers from unlikable characters that I was not invested in, especially Vincent and the rest of the men. However, if you like puzzle gameplay and also enjoy the multiple endings aspect with your ‘choose your fate’ gameplay, you’re bound to find a lot of fun throughout, especially with Full Body being the definitive edition to play.
Catherine: Full Body is now available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. A copy of this game was provided for review purposes by Five Star Games.