Back in 2011, Sega threw a quirky curveball at everyone called Catherine. Now, eight years later, Sega’s back at it with Catherine: Full Body. This new title tells an upgraded version of the original’s story. While not necessarily a full-on sequel, it has enough new elements to consider it a half-step above its predecessor. Furthermore, the developers went beyond simply tacking on the new content. Instead, the narrative gets a complete restructure, with many new branching narrative choices. The gameplay itself also received a few tweaks, arguably for the better. Essentially, if you were a fan of Catherine, Full Body should be on your radar.
For those new to Catherine, let’s establish the baseline. The game tells the story of Vincent Brooks, a man who has been in a five-year-long relationship with Katherine McBride. She’s been talking about marriage and laying the foundation for their future (subtle, I know). But then one night, he mistakenly sleeps with a girl named Catherine. After that fateful night, he suffers from nightmares involving sheep and towers made of blocks. He continuously has to climb to the top of these towers, which continuously crumble from below. If he falls, he’ll die in his sleep. Oh, and all the while, he has to decide between the freedom of being single or the order of married life.
If you got this far, you’re either spooked or locked in for this wild ride. Full Body takes everything Catherine did and throws a new wrench into the mix: Rin. This third woman represents a whole host of new possibilities for Vincent. Her inclusion alone nearly doubles the number of endings for the narrative. While her role isn’t quite clear yet, her presence raises many intriguing questions. She seems to be the only character actively aware of the nightmares Vincent has, and she can appear to him both in real life and in the nightmares. The confusion continues when you consider that previously, Vincent saw other people as sheep in the nightmares. Yet, Rin retains her human appearance.
Clearly, Rin shakes up the narrative from the moment she joins the cast. While speaking with Sega communications manager Jonathon Stebel, I was told her narrative branch would be trickier to figure out compared to the other two women. After all, Katherine and Catherine represent two polar opposite ideals: order and chaos, respectively. Making moves toward one or the other require fairly obvious actions. With Rin, though, the path might not be as clear, adding some intrigue to the overall narrative.
Beyond the addition of a new major character, existing ones will receive fleshed-out backgrounds. In the demo I played, I saw a short cutscene that detailed Katherine’s and Vincent’s lives in high school. These scenes serve to explain their lives before they started dating. Previously, their relationship was simply a given. In Full Body, we’ll get more context as to how they ended up together. It’s worth noting, too, that the original voice cast returned to record lines for the new content in Full Body.
Aside from the story, Catherine features engaging puzzle sections with a unique set of rules. Vincent has to climb a tower of randomly assorted blocks, and he can freely push and pull these blocks. He can only climb one at a time, so making pseudo-staircases is the primary way to make progress. The trick to the puzzle comes in the “edge” mechanic. Typically, if a block has nothing under it, it falls to the abyss below. However, if its edge touches the edge of another block, it magically stays afloat.
Full Body retains the same gameplay but with a few tweaks. For one, there’s a new catch-up mechanic that saves players in a bind. When near the bottom of the tower, Rin might show up to play the piano, slowing down time while giving you a chance to get ahead. Furthermore, every level received a remix that changes their layout. Now, some blocks are grouped together, forming Tetris-like shapes. This change doesn’t make a level easier or harder; instead, it forces you to think differently. Of course, you can also play classic versions of these levels.
Catherine: Full Body packs an almost ludicrous amount of new content into an already intriguing puzzle game. To call this a remake or a remaster would pale in comparison to what it is. Instead, it’d be more accurate to describe it as one step below a full-blown sequel. Old Catherine fans will find a lot to unpack, especially in the newly tweaked narrative. Meanwhile, newcomers to the game will simply be blown away by its beloved weirdness.
Catherine: Full Body releases exclusively on the PlayStation 4 in the West on Sept. 3. It’s already out in Japan (on the Vita, too).
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