A whole eight years after its original release on PlayStation 3, Catherine remains a unique experience. A mix of visual novel-style storytelling and often hellish puzzle solving, it's a game that's aged surprisingly well. Catherine: Full Body enhances the visuals, expands the story, adds to the already sublime soundtrack, and brings a suite of new difficulty options and gameplay modes to the table. In short, it's the definitive release of Catherine.
Taking place over the course of a week or so, you fill the shoes of Vincent Brooks, an indecisive 32 year old man who can't seem to come to terms with his responsibilities as an adult. Catherine's grounded (and potentially relatable) themes are its greatest strength. It's these mundane yet intriguing insights into Vincent's life that steal the show, and the hook is seeing how his relationships with friends, acquaintances, and lovers evolve over the course of the narrative.
As mentioned, Catherine is broken up into two distinct styles of gameplay. During the evening, Vincent hangs out at his local bar, chatting to his pals at your discretion, with the dialogue choices you make having an effect on the outcome of the story. Then, when Vincent goes home and hits the sack, it's nightmare city, as the protagonist (or indeed, antagonist, depending on your actions), pushes and pulls blocks in order to climb the towers of a fiendish dreamscape. It's every bit as crazy as it sounds, and by the time the credits roll, Catherine fully embraces this madness.
Catherine is very much a game of extremes. The laid back atmosphere of the bar, where you're free to take your time and chat the night away, is at odds with the intense tower climbing that follows. Similarly, Vincent's love interests, Katherine and Catherine, couldn't be more different. The former is Vincent's long-term girlfriend, but talk of further commitment has him questioning what he wants in life. Meanwhile, Catherine with a C is a flirtatious and outward person who feeds Vincent's latent desires. It's a thoroughly intriguing dynamic.
Indeed, Catherine (that's the game, not the girl), has a lot to say about relationships. Despite its anime sensibilities, its take on romance is much more mature than you might think, and the title's fantastic cutscene direction really helps sell the kind of mental gymnastics that Vincent is putting himself through.
But there's now much more to Catherine thanks to Full Body. An all-new character, Rin, is placed into the story with care, and despite initially coming across as a cliched amnesiac, she adds a welcome extra dimension to Vincent's existence. That said, Rin's impact on your tale can differ greatly depending on the choices that you make throughout. Her involvement can quite easily come to an unsatisfying conclusion, which is a bit of a shame considering she's the headline act of this remaster.
Likewise, some of Catherine's multiple endings are decidedly weaker than others. We won't spoil anything here, but the plot can definitely lose its way as it nears its finale. This is a game that wants to be replayed, but it still takes a good fifteen or so hours to complete, and seeing the narrative take a bit of a nosedive after investing a chunk of your time can certainly take the edge off things.
Speaking of taking the edge off, Full Body comes fully equipped with a new 'safety' difficulty option, alongside easy, normal, hard, and very hard, which you can freely swap between whenever you're at the bar. If you've tried Catherine before and you were put off by its devilishly difficult puzzles, safety could be the answer. It removes most threats from the puzzles along with their timer, while also giving you the option of skipping a puzzle section entirely. This means that anyone can see Catherine's story through to the end without having to worry about the stress of Vincent dying in his sleep.
And it really can be stressful. Vincent's nightmares are, well, nightmarish at times, with the game offering up some seriously tricky block-based conundrums. The system itself, along with its need for precise control, takes some time to get used to, and there's quite a steep learning curve at play here. At their core, the puzzles are about pushing and pulling blocks to make pathways that Vincent can climb. Sounds simple on paper, but in practice, various modifiers all but ensure a struggle.
There's a lot of depth to Catherine's puzzles, though, and the difficulty does make for a satisfying sense of accomplishment. This is perhaps best showcased in the game's optional modes, which put your skills to the test with a range of extra brain-busting levels. There are even competitive offline and online modes, ensuring a wealth of content for those who wish to ascend the torturous towers.
As its name suggests, there's quite a lot to Catherine: Full Body, but launching at full retail price, this is still an expensive remaster -- especially when you consider the age of the original. We're not saying it isn't worth a full $60, but if you've played Catherine to death before, or if you're new to the game and you're not entirely sold, we'd probably recommend waiting for a price drop.
Of course, we can't sign this review off without mentioning Catherine's fantastic presentation and superb music. It may be a remaster of a PS3 title, but the game's art direction remains a joy to behold. The character designs are top notch, and the use of colour is enviable. Alongside the Persona series, Catherine proves that Atlus' sense of style is pretty much unmatched.
Catherine: Full Body is the best way to experience an incredibly unique game. It oozes style eight years after its original release, and although its storytelling does stumble from time to time, this glimpse into the desperate life of Vincent Brooks is still more than worthy of your attention.