Catherine Full Body starts a mature conversation on topics such as relationships, infidelity, and commitment. The result is a fascinating and cinematic narrative-driven game with addictive puzzles.
Behind its shamelessly racy facade, Catherine: Full Body is an unnerving narrative-driven game that brings up some interesting subjects. Its creators describe it as a game about “the terrors of commitment”.
Full Body mixes story and dialogue like what that you might find in Telltale’s games or the Persona series, with unique climbing puzzles. Everything is neatly wrapped up in a sexy package with a sprinkle of horror.
It Will End in Tears
Catherine: Full Body’s story begins when Vincent Brooks, a 32-year-old programmer, starts having some pretty horrific nightmares. In these nightmares, he has to climb a tower made of blocks and talk with sheep.
Vincent’s personal life isn’t easy, either. Things aren’t going smoothly with his longtime partner Katherine, and worse, he gets involved with a mysterious girl, also called Catherine but with a C. Naturally, things start getting complicated. The game throws you into a web of lies and surprises as Vincent struggles to take back control over his life. This situation seems impossible to untangle without hurting one, if not both, of his love interests, making it both painful and exciting to watch.
Catherine: Full Body changes in tone constantly. At times it can be hilarious to see Vincent freak out during his encounters with Katherine and Catherine. At others, it’s terrifying to witness his mental and physical health deteriorate. It can even get pretty scary and depressing. At the center of all of these emotions are themes of love, relationships, and freedom, and it’s fascinating to see the messages that the developers chose to present here.
As an enhanced remaster, Catherine: Full Body adds another character to the game called, you guessed it, Qatherine (with a Q this time), or Rin for short. Rin moves next door to Vincent’s apartment and starts working as a pianist at the local pub. Rin brings a lot of positive energy into this otherwise grim game; her character has interesting and surprising quirks that make for a fantastic addition to the game.
The story-gameplay loop is comprised of a weekly schedule, much like the Persona games. Each day begins with a nightmare and ends with some free time that you can spend at the pub with your friends. In between, the game presents key story scenes that feature no player interaction. It is Vincent’s moral compass that determines all the big story moments, and it’s up to you to point it in the direction that feels right.
In Vincent’s nightmares, you will need to ascend towers made out of blocks. Catherine: Full Body has a system of rules for which blocks you can pull or push, which ones have traps, and what every block does. The puzzles are straightforward, but give you many different ways to tackle them, making the climb a pure joy. The puzzles in the game are so addictive that I still find myself thinking about how to solve different scenarios in my head.
The game adds a variation of these puzzles with a new mode called Remix. Even if you played the original game nine years ago, you could still have a refreshing experience with this new mode. In Remix, you will find a new type of Tetris-like blocks, composed of several blocks stuck together.
Puzzles get more challenging when you need to escape from a terrifying boss that chases you at the end of each night. The bosses are each creepy in their own way, and every one of them can disrupt your climb in different manners, making those levels the ultimate challenge of every night.
Sheep to the Slaughter
Being a narrative-driven game, Catherine: Full Body has you making decisions that affect the story. Throughout the game, you take many small choices that will sway Vincent’s moral compass. That compass will decide how the story progresses in key moments. There are 13 different endings to achieve, five of which are exclusive to the enhanced remaster. So you have at least 12 reasons to replay the game once you’re done.
Throughout the story, you exchange messages and speak on the phone with Katherine, Catherine, and Rin, talk with your friends at the pub, and generally make many small choices that measure your morality. Corresponding with the K/C/Q-atherines is probably the most rewarding way to affect it. The game lets you compose your messages line-by-line, out of different options, and using different words will have a different impact on your inner compass.
While corresponding with Katherine, Catherine, and Rin, you will often receive image attachments. These can be memories from your relationship with Katherine, cute photos that Rin wants to share with you, or naughty photos sent by Catherine. If you decide to take a peek at these naughty photos (which are non-explicit, if you were wondering) while there are people around, Vincent will get flustered and quickly close his phone, which is a nice touch.
You will make most of these choices at The Stray Sheep pub. While at the pub, you can chat with your gang: Jonny, Toby, Orlando, and Erica, speak with the pub owner “Boss,” and mingle with other patrons that are drinking to forget. Time will slowly pass every time you chat with someone, and if you don’t plan your evenings right, some of the visitors will leave before you get a chance to speak with them.
You will be making choices that affect your moral compass in the nightmares, too. At the end of each puzzle, you will reach a waiting point where you can speak with the other sheep. To progress to the next level, you will enter a confessional booth and answer a personal question, which profoundly impacts the story going forward.
Catherine: Full Body doesn’t remain entirely unbiased, which is a shame. While Vincent’s behavior always matches the current state of his moral compass, the compass itself is color-coded in a biased way. The decisions that will bring you closer to Katherine are on the blue side of the meter and marked with an angel, while the decisions that will bring you closer to Catherine are on the red side of the meter with a demon at its end. It makes the game feel a little too judgy at times.
The Fairest of Them All
Catherine: Full Body is a remaster of the original Catherine that came out back in 2011. While it generally looks nice, the remaster still feels less detailed than most modern games. The fantastic anime cutscenes and especially the dialogue screenplay more than make up for that, however. The camera work is akin to that of a well-directed film and moves from one angle to the next to convey a scene’s mood.
The direction is complemented by the excellent character animations, especially Vincent’s facial expressions, which show his slow downward spiral into insanity.
Catherine: Full Body’s soundtrack is excellent. Most of the game’s soundtrack was composed by Shoji Meguru, the composer that worked on most of the Persona franchise’s soundtracks, including the beautiful Persona 5 Royal. Most notable are the puzzle levels’ background music, which are different orchestrations of famous classical pieces by Bach, Mozart, Dvorak, Chopin, and many others.
Every moment in Catherine: Full Body is fully voiced in Japanese and English, even dialogues with characters in the pub. But the game has a creative way of using the voice acting to affect us. Before you meet Catherine, your dream girl, for the first time, the game asks you to pick the Ideal Voice that would make you “instantly fall for someone.” This voice, of course, ends up being Catherine’s voice. This is a unique way of making the dream girl more than just perfect for Vincent, but also for the player controlling him.
Catherine: Full Body takes complicated subjects like love and relationships, and starts a conversation about them within its fascinating story. It makes bold choices and goes places that most games wouldn’t dare go. Even though it gives a bit of a biased perspective, all of the choices you make in the game will let you take the story where you want it to go.
Its cinematic and grasping story, and twisted puzzles, will have you thirsty for another round, even after you’re done. With 13 possible endings, you will have a lot to discover.
Developer: Studio Zero
Release Date: Sep. 3, 2019
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