You ever have one of those dreams where you fall over and your body has an involuntary spasm that immediately wakes you up? Vincent, Catherine: Full Body’s main character, is experiencing a lot of those dreams, except if he falls in his dream, he dies in real life. Think of it as The Matrix for cheating men, but with infinitely more man-sized sheep. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.
Catherine: Full Body is the updated version of the 2011 (or 2012 in PAL regions) puzzle/narrative hybrid, that introduces a brand new love interest, new story elements, new endings, a brand new Safety difficulty setting and a remixed mode which changes the core puzzling gameplay in an interesting way. As updated versions go, Catherine: Full Body has enough to entice new and returning players alike.
For the most part, Catherine: Full Body follows the same story beats as the original game. You play as Vincent Brooks, a 32 year old who is in a relationship with Katherine. Katherine has started talking about commitment and the future, causing the living embodiment of “going steady” to have a bit of an internal crisis. This crisis is compounded by the strange nightmares Vincent has been having, along with the carefree Catherine, who gives Vincent a glimpse into a life free from fidelity.
Also thrown into the Full Body version is the mysterious Rin, an amnesiac who clearly fits into the naive waifu bait character but conceals secrets of her own, along with some new side characters that Vincent can encounter while in the nightmares. With this in mind, Full Body feels more like a Director’s Cut than a full overhaul, which is no bad thing. 8 years after the game’s initial release, there’s still nothing else like it.
The core gameplay of Catherine is a block-based puzzler where you push blocks in order to try to ascend a series of towers that increase in difficulty. Vincent can only climb up one block at a time, but he can push blocks into more favourable locations, or he can hang off the side of blocks to access new areas. It’s about using the resources and tools at your disposal to climb.
Each level has its own layout, and every stage of the nightmare introduces new block types and elements that create additional nuances when climbing the towers. While there are certain stages that require specific solutions, with Stage 7-4’s 10-storey wall being the most infamous example, for the most part you’re free to find your own way to the top, and reaching the top on some particularly frustrating levels is incredibly satisfying.
In between these nightmare levels, you’ll have to answer questions about what you value in life and your relationships. Do you suspect your partner of cheating? Do you prefer the excitement of chaos? Are you a different person while texting? It’s essentially the world’s most complicated Buzzfeed personality quiz, and your choices in the nightmares will ultimately affect Vincent’s outlook on life.
It’s a more passive approach to narrative choice, but it’s one that mostly works. Instead of making inconsistent choices during every situation Vincent ends up in, his reactions tend to match the values your choices have instilled in him. That said, it can be annoying to watch Vincent bumble his way through two-timing his girlfriend because he’s indecisive and afraid of commitment when you know what choice you’re ultimately going to make.
Still, to err is human, and Vincent sure as hell does his fair share of erring. His dithering and cheating might be irritating, but it’s also irritating to everyone around him too, as his friends and cohorts often chastise him for the situation he has found himself in, a point that’s only aided by the game’s stellar voiceover cast.
Vincent is never portrayed as anything other than a bit of a pillock for the majority of the game’s main plot, which makes him one of the most human protagonists in gaming. He’s not some all conquering badass that’s here to save the day: he’s an average schmuck with his own worries and neuroses. It’s only during the side stories and latter stages of the plot does he finally begin to show traits of a “hero”, and by then it feels earned.
Outside of the nightmares, the majority of your interaction with the game comes from your time in the Stray Sheep, a bar where Vincent and his buddies hang out. Here, you can either drink yourself stupid, speak to the local barflies who are experiencing their own problems or receive calls and texts from your three potential love interests.
Time is limited while you’re at the bar, so you have to choose what you do wisely. If you spend your time drinking, you’ll be much faster when climbing the tower in your nightmares, but you might miss your chance to interact with side characters. Failing to interact with those characters will result in their deaths as they fail to escape the nightmares, so you can either play selfishly or focus on interacting with everyone possible.
The inclusion of Rin to the game adds a new wrinkle to the game love triangle dynamic, while bringing the overall amount of endings to 13. Without delving too deep into spoilers, the nature of Rin as a character and the ability to pursue a relationship with them presents an opportunity for Vincent to learn more about sexuality, even if it’s done in the weirdest possible way.
That said, Catherine: Full Body is still dealing with hang-ups from its previous iteration, particularly with its representation of the character Erica. Her involvement in the Rin storyline gives her some added visibility and importance. For the most part, the transphobic jokes she was subjected to have been toned down or removed, but certain elements of the story that people found issue with before are still present, particularly regarding why she’s getting the same dreams as the men in the story, along with certain comments made during one particular ending.
On the whole, it feels like the characterisation of Erica has improved, largely due to the inclusion of Vincent’s new potential love interest and her involvement in that plot. She plays a vital role in that story as she’s able to correct Vincent’s thoughts regarding Rin through her own experience, which can only be seen as a positive.
Unfortunately, if there were a few moments in the original games that made you say “yikes”, it’s likely that Full Body will elicit the same reaction. It feels like a positive step forward on the whole, and it’s certainly a far cry from the rumours that circulated back when Full Body launched in Japan, but it’s still not going to please everyone.
The added modes for Catherine: Full Body include a safety difficulty, which allows you to skip puzzles entirely should you so wish, and a remixed gameplay option, which adds new block shapes to the mix. Instead of purely 1×1 blocks, you’ll see blocks that look more like Tetris pieces, which completely changes how you go about climbing the levels.
There are also multiplayer and co-op modes where two players attempt to climb the tower, which can be done both online and on the same screen, along with the Babel mode: a challenging experience where you attempt to climb a randomised series of towers. For a game with as many choices and endings as Catherine, these additional modes add to the overall value of the experience. The safety difficulty in particular is great for anyone looking to experience every ending without resorting to YouTube.
Even though it’s been over 8 years, there’s still nothing else like Catherine available. There aren’t any games that can combine obscure block puzzling and a story that asks what’s truly valuable in life. It’s a weird cocktail, and one that makes Catherine truly unique. With a wealth of new content available, Catherine: Full Body is a worthwhile remaster of a cult hit.
A code was provided by SEGA of America for review purposes.
With a new love interest, a new ending, hours of new content and a gameplay system that’s unlike anything out there, Catherine: Full Body is a brilliant remaster of a cult hit.