Catherine was an incredibly unique title back in 2011. Social systems inspired by Atlus’ Persona series were taken out of those slightly horny settings and transplanted into Catherine‘s super horny settings. But the attention paid to its horniness also came standard with a realistic portrayal of relationships, infidelity, love, and more; a rarity in the medium. But eight years is a long time and CATHERINE: FULL BODY finds itself in the middle of a changed landscape. A handful of welcome improvements streamline some of its rough edges but, like any fond former relationship, it still has many of the same issues and qualities.
The core puzzle mechanic is where it has seen some of its enhancements, although those improvements are not quite as sweeping as a remake might entail. Players still move blocks in and out to make a climbable path up a vertical wall without boxing themselves in. Pushing and pulling blocks while trying to figure out the most efficient possible path is still engaging because of how unique it is all these years later.
Climbing is fairly open too as there is usually more than one way to scramble to the top and that freedom is quite liberating for a genre that’s usually obsessed with finding the one true answer. This openness can be explored more in the game’s extra modes too, which are now expanded and unlocked from the get-go — a nice, time-saving nod to those who just want to jump online in one of the most bizarre competitive games in years.
Catherine: Full Body Review | Drop it like it’s hot
Blocks have unique properties and that changes how they behave and how you have to approach them. The healthy selection of block types from the original make a return as well as new big multi-blocks that look more like Tetris pieces than something out of Catherine. A bigger pool of additional blocks would have been nice since that is the sole new type Full Body introduces. Regardless of the missed potential, they mix well into the levels and require a slightly different approach, given how bulky they are. In case that is too much, you can choose the Classic setting where the puzzles are basically the same as the original release and that choice is appreciated.
Although the game might be too much for some players anyway. Catherine was notoriously hard when it originally came out in Japan and Full Body retains that difficulty. Most puzzles games are zen experiences yet Catherine is more akin to a puzzler that not only asks you to solve a Rubik’s Cube, but to do so while playing Russian roulette. Making decisions while the bottom stack of blocks crumbles beneath you adds a layer of tension that is refreshing as it tests both your reflexes and critical thinking skills while under pressure.
But much like the blocks, the difficulty can stack up rather sharply. The aforementioned amount of rope the game gives you can end up choking you as vital blocks get dumped into oblivion or blow them up. Undos can thankfully save you in the short term, but there are times where the level is impossible to beat after certain blocks disappear. The game doesn’t tell you either, which can feel like a huge waste of time as you scramble to fix an unfixable mistake.
The game does have a generous array of difficulty modes that will suit a wider variety of people. Safety mode is new and the most generous of them as there is no timer or fail state. Players can even have levels play themselves (which is also on Easy) or skip them entirely. Normal and Hard modes are still there for more hardcore block-climbing sheep and ensure that almost everyone will have a setting for them, even if some of its core issues still exist in some fashion. Just make sure to save at the bar since that is the only place you can tune the difficulty.
Catherine: Full Body Review | Cracking open some cold ones with the boys
That bar makes up the other half of the game and is where your social skills are allowed to blossom. Vincent can walk around, talk to patrons, pound down a worrying amount of alcohol, change the song on the jukebox, play an arcade game that is cleverly modeled after the block-dropping mechanics, and look at lewd pictures in the bathroom. While technically optional, fluttering your social butterfly wings is how the game fleshes out its multi-dimensional characters and is why most people will find something worthwhile to do in the bar sections.
Many of the patrons are despicable jackasses or have glaring personality flaws. But by talking to them, you can help them through their situations or at least figure out how they acquired such debilitating traits. By giving these hurt people a chance to speak, it allows them to have meaningful arcs while also tackling subjects like toxic masculinity, abuse, guilt, and more. Other games might not have the patience or ability to develop characters like this and give them room for redemption.
Of course, you can choose to not interact with any of that and that choice is a fundamental part of Catherine as a whole, especially its story. Catherine stars Vincent, a meandering adult whose Type A girlfriend named Katherine is pressuring him to commit and settle down, a prospect that terrifies him. After already feeling the pressure, Vincent repeatedly keeps waking up next to a younger, hypersexualized blonde woman named Catherine, which puts him between in the middle of a ill-fated love triangle. Meanwhile, Vincent starts having the same block-dropping nightmares that have been killing troubled men if they fail to climb the towers in their twisted dreams.
Vincent’s rampant character flaws make him an engaging protagonist to watch but an awful one to root for. He’s a trainwreck with heart-patterned boxer shorts on and his infidelity is unforgivable at the beginning. Choosing to embrace chaos lets him give into his evil side and going for order gives him a redemption arc, although the severity changes through each of the game’s multiple finales. While the game tries not to paint it as a black and white system, the blatant meter that pops up does and would be more natural if it was hidden or at least not as prevalent. Filling an on-screen bar is always going to get players to go for certain endings rather than playing naturally.
Full Body turns this love triangle into a love quadrilateral by adding Rin, yet another love interest. Rin isn’t elegantly spliced into the main story as she acts more as another side character you can talk to in the bar that also helps you during nightmare puzzles. Choosing between two women is at the very nature of the plot and giving her an equally deep path that would intersect with those existing threads would require more work than this edition could feasibly allow. But if you can find her nearly hidden romance path, she adds a few more endings that give the game even more replay value.
Catherine: Full Body Review | A tired type of panic
(Slight spoilers ahead)
Her story, however, is a little troubling in some areas. As the trailers suggested, some of her secrets come as quite a shock to Vincent, causing him to act rashly. Accepting people for who they are is how we grow as humans and showing remorse is how we achieve that. Like the visitors at the bar, Catherine is not afraid to have its characters behave foolishly because those low points give them room to mature. Vincent’s maturation on this topic depends on the path you take and the true Rin ending is the most extreme — and touching — form of this approval.
However, not everyone gets a chance to grow and it sticks out. Acceptance is not reflected in the whole cast and a few characters get away with their regressive views without being called out. Reflecting a certain tired trope is bad enough but made even worse given the game’s still-present rocky treatment of Erica and how they shame her romantic partner. All of these new and old narrow viewpoints are desperately out of touch in 2019 and show that Catherine: Full Body has not fully adapted to the times.
(Slight spoilers over)
Although its visuals haven’t fully adapted to 2019 standards either, it is still a looker. The cel-shaded style full of bright colors has weathered the ensuing eight years quite well, even if it won’t be confused for a native PS4 game. Catherine’s jazzy soundtrack holds up too and benefits from Rin’s new piano-heavy compositions. Tracks repeat quite often but it’s a welcome treat and not an annoyance.
Full Body’s occasional well-intentioned but problematic narrative additions don’t suffocate its core, choice-laden plot as it is still strong enough to persist despite how outdated the new branches can be. Aside from being open to more people, its block puzzles didn’t see as much of an upgrade but they remain as tense, thrilling, and sometimes frustrating as they were in 2011. Like any good relationship, Catherine: Full Body is worth sticking with for its positive qualities. There will be hardships and sometimes you’ll cringe at what’s going on, but there are few other titles that display adult themes with as much nuance in addition to being a tough, but satisfying puzzle game.
GameRevolution reviewed Catherine: Full Body on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.