Imagine waking up one morning and discovering to your horror that you have accidentally committed an act of infidelity. Think about the kind of confusion and fear that might be racing through your head at the time. In 2011, Atlus’ Persona studio explored this predicament with Catherine, with a peculiar mix of social simulation and Sokoban-influenced action puzzles. Eight years later, Catherine: Full Body is a remaster that shows how well the game’s signature premise and exploration of adult themes still hold up, even if the new additions to the plot don’t blend seamlessly together. This is our Catherine: Full Body Review.
Catherine: Full Body Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch
- Developer: Atlus, Studio Zero
- Publisher: Atlus, Atlus USA, Sega
- Genres: Platform game
- Release Date: February 14, 2019
Catherine: Full Body Review: Gameplay
Vincent is a 32-year-old man in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend, Catherine, and at a standstill in his life where he is not exactly sure what he wants. His friends’ core group is in different circumstances, but they have similar dilemmas; being in your thirties is difficult. Vincent has recently been plagued by frequent nightmares of a crumbling tower scrambling, making him sleep in a constant haze. One morning, after a big night of drinking, he wakes up next to someone who is not his girlfriend, and what follows is a hectic week-long crusade to try to tackle the repercussions and decide what he wants earlier with his life do Catherine can find out what’s going on.
His core group of friends is central to Vincent’s coping process. Every night after work, they all gather in their local bar, The Stray Sheep, to hang out. In these regular social scenarios, Vincent can confide in his friends, talk through his mood, sound his next course of action, and hopefully find a solution. Conversations between characters are usually predetermined, but the responsibility of spending Vincent’s limited time with them lies with you. An important part that you can influence is your mobile phone. Vincent is regularly contacted all night (by Catherine and his new affair, Catherine), and how you choose to respond to their text messages and calls if at all, will affect Vincent’s ethical compass – shown as a meter with opaque binaries.
It’s nice to have that haven because when Vincent goes to bed every night, the nightmares start, and it gets stressful. What causes the nightmares is initially a mysterious stranger, but it is clear from the start that they serve somewhat as an obvious metaphor for Vincent’s internal struggles. You must lead Vincent to a steep, crumbling tower built entirely from cubes and other cubes. Sometimes, you are haunted by a monstrous personification of one of Vincent’s objects of fear. The tower is seldom more than three cubes deep, and while the construction can sometimes be a natural staircase for Vincent to climb, you often have to make your way up by pushing and pulling the cubes around in strict grid-based arrangements.
This task quickly escalates into difficulty as the massive tower views become higher and harder to navigate. There will be fewer pieces to work with, while blocks with unique features will appear, such as immobile or splintering, after entering twice. These scenarios prevent you from making a regular staircase, and they force you to think of more unorthodox ways to organize and move the tower. Vincent can hang from the edges of blocks, and blocks will support each other as long as a horizontal edge joins; both rules are fundamental to many of the techniques required to make your way up.
While Katherine is sensible and Catherine unrestrained, Rin acts as a sheepish yet genuine personality for Vincent to crawl into. She has been introduced from the beginning and is woven into the existing story beats of the game, both in new cutscenes and in the social segments of the Stray Sheep. But perhaps unsurprisingly, Rin’s integration isn’t entirely seamless.
On a superficial level, story moments with Rin will often be played according to the cinematics that was part of the original game, and with that came some pacing issues. These new scenes have a robust and classy direction, with more new edits and creative shot compositions than existing ones. Still, unfortunately, they make the rhythm of cycling between social simulation, nightmare puzzles, and pieces of cinematics a little out of balance. More importantly, however, Rin’s integration completely dismantles the game’s enigmatic mystery.
If you’ve played the original version of Katherine to one of many different endings, then you have at least some idea of how Vincent’s real-world problems and his nightmarish trials are related. However, it wasn’t easy to get a real sense of how things could fit together until the penultimate chapter of the original game. Conversely, as soon as Rin appears on the screen in Full Body, it is immediately apparent that something is not right, and this sense of quirk is always present when Rin is involved in a scene.
Even though her bow in itself is a tantalizing new mystery and feels additive to someone who already knows all about Catherine’s original story, it’s a shame. As soon as Full Body starts, Rin acts as a big, flashy distraction from the most grounded and plausible story that Catherine enjoys for most of the run time during the real-world sequences. Chasing Rin through the new branching path in the story generally feels a bit inelegant, too.
Choosing actively to pursue Catherine or Katherine as Vincent’s ultimate target always feels like trying to hit a moving target. Trying to push Vincent in a specific direction on the game’s ethical meter was difficult because it was challenging to decipher which choices represented what – not only in Vincent’s text messages but also during the confrontational’ confession questions’ you asked again between nightmare levels. Pursuing Rin feels a lot more egregious – a series of questions are pre-marked as opportunities to “break” the meter and take a whole new path.
Once you enter that new path, things go to some fascinating places. But the broad sense of the original story industry is that it feels, well, too broad. Rin’s enthusiastic seriousness rubs a little too much towards the new content. While the proposed scenarios are exciting to see, it lacks a more grounded subtlety that invites a similar level of contemplation to Katherine and Catherine’s existing branches. What’s even more outraged is that the conclusion of Rin’s story branch feels like it undermines the otherwise positive themes that the new chapters so intensely convey, and seems to suggest that the kind of love that Rin and Vincent may be able to share is fantastic.
Catherine: Full Body Review: Conclusion
Rin’s presence still brings an intriguing new edge to Vincent’s crisis, and Full Body again tells a fascinating, personal story. The nightmarish block puzzles are still weirdly intense and satisfying to overcome, and the Stray Sheep is always a great bar to spend your nights. Full Body does a great job of refining and refreshing the Persona studio’s fascinating foray into adult social life. Catherine continues to stand out as a game that feels both incredibly bizarre and authentically intimate.
Catherine: Full Body is a remaster that shows how well the game's signature premise and exploration of adult themes still hold up, even if the new additions to the plot don't blend seamlessly together.