Review – Catherine: Full Body
Catherine is a puzzle platforming game that was originally released in 2011. It gained a large following and received a lot of praise for its puzzle designs, weird story, mature themes, and the fact it was designed by the same people who went on to design Persona 5. Trying to capitalize on their success and reach a larger audience, Atlus and Studio Zero have now given us Catherine: Full Body, a remake/enhanced version of the 2011 title. I was eager to see what all the hype was about and excited to play this upgraded version. After finally playing it, I’m left still wondering what all the hype was about.
In Catherine: Full Body, you play as Vincent, a thirty-something old man who is being pressured into getting married by his longtime girlfriend, Katherine. Things between them have gotten a bit stale, but he doesn’t necessarily want to break up. In a rut and unsure of what to do, he drinks himself into a stupor at the local bar, the Stray Sheep, night after night.
Then one evening he literally runs into another girl named Rin, who has amnesia and is running from an unknown assailant. He brings her to the Stray Sheep where she can get help from his friend Erica and stay safe from whatever was chasing her. Later, he meets a blonde bombshell named Catherine at the bar and wakes up next her the following morning. Needless to say, he goes into a full panic at the thought of cheating on his girlfriend, but is unexplicably drawn to this new mystery woman.
I know this all sounds like a pretty standard soap opera, but this is where Catherine: Full Body takes an strange turn. That night, Vincent is plagued by a nightmare where he is a sheep and surrounded by other sheep who are all as confused as he is. He is informed that he has been cursed and will need to climb a tower in order to escape. However, if he dies while climbing the tower, then he will die in real life. This is how the game explains the introduction of the puzzle platforming elements to the game.
The main type of gameplay in Catherine: Full Body is a series of block puzzle/platforming sections. Vincent must push or pull various blocks throughout the level in order to ascend the tower and escape the nightmare haunting him. The first few levels are very simplistic and frankly, boring. Thankfully, once you get further into the levels more types of blocks and enemies are added, which make the whole experience much more challenging and interesting.
I did notice a weird design choice by the developers though. Each night Vincent will have another nightmare and he will have to pickup where he left off scaling the tower. Each nightmare is broken up into a few different sections, usually with some new block type or enemy thrown in. This is all well and good, however, the tutorials on what to expect from these new obstacles and how to overcome them usually aren’t shown until after their introductory section has passed. This makes encountering some of the new elements frustrating, with the tutorials seeming unnecessary. Who wants to be told how to do something after they’ve already had to figure things out for themselves?
Unfortunately, this is where the fun part of Catherine: Full Body ends. When you’re not helping Vincent climb the impossibly high tower on his path to freedom, you’ll be stuck watching ridiculously long portions of anime cutscenes. And I do mean “watching”. There are morality questions you will have to answer that will affect the outcome of your playthrough, but these are only found within a confession booth located in between levels of the nightmare tower.
Unlike many walking sims or even most visual novel-based games, the dialogue between characters goes on without any involvement from the player. There are no dialogue choices you can make within these long sections. You will have to sit idly by and watch Vincent and his buddies drone on and on about how terrible they are. I’m not exaggerating this, either. The majority of this game is helplessly watching a bunch of losers complain about how pathetic they are. Good times.
Granted, occasionally the story starts to ramp up a little bit into something mildly intriguing, but then anything of interest gets lost in mundane mix. The “twists”, for the most part, are glaringly obvious, although honestly, I think the strangest part of Catherine: Full Body is the way they shoe-horned the puzzle/platforming sections into the game. Nothing about jumping from block puzzle gaming mechanics to long drawn-out anime cutscenes feels organic. It’s like the studio couldn’t decide if it wanted to make an weak anime movie or a basic block puzzle game, so they just threw them together and hoped it worked. For me, at least, it didn’t.
Now, fans of Catherine will be excited to learn that there is a lot more to Catherine: Full Body than just a graphical face lift. For starters, there is a whole new character added to the story, Rin. That’s the girl with amnesia that I spoke of earlier. Because of her inclusion, there are now thirteen different possible endings instead of the original eight. This game also features an online multiplayer mode, new characters to talk to, more levels in the Rapunzel game in the bar, more songs available in the Stray Sheep’s jukebox, as well as more cutscenes to watch (groan).
Anyone who was a fan of Catherine will definitely want to pick up Catherine: Full Body. Atlus and Studio Zero didn’t just update the graphics from the original, but they took the time to create a whole new main love interest, several different endings, and a lot more levels and overall content. That is if you’re a fan. For me, the plot was very contrived and predictable, with the block puzzle/platforming sections seemingly bizarrely shoved in there. I enjoyed most of the tower platforming sections, but that wasn’t enough to make up for the insanely long anime cutscenes, with almost no interaction from the player whatsoever. I’m sorry to say that I really don’t understand the hype.
The visuals switch from hand drawn anime parts to well done computer animated portions. The switch between the two is sometimes questionable though.
The nightmare tower parts are the most fun with their block puzzle/platforming sections. The difficulty ramps up nicely with fun new challenges in each level. The rest of the game is all cutscenes with almost no involvement from the player.
The soundtrack fits the tone of the game well and the voice acting full of strong performances. Some of the music gets repetitive after a while.
Catherine: Full Body feels like it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a game or a movie. The story is predictable and the fun puzzle/platforming sections can’t excuse the long drawn out dialogue heavy main game.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Catherine: Full Body is available now on PS4 and PS Vita.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Catherine: Full Body was provided by the publisher.