When the original Catherine game was released on PS3 back in 2011, it struck a chord with many gamers. Its mix of interactive novel with puzzle game elements, combined with a very adult story, was an experience unlike anything I have ever seen. When an announcement was made about a full-on remake on PS4 (named Catherine: Full Body), I was floored and very happy to experience this once again. Does the game still hold up ? In short, yes. But something hasn’t changed: it is not for everyone.
The difficulties of young adults romance
You play as a young man called Vincent. He is a programmer, and works in a big tech company. He loves hanging out with his friends, drinking in a local pub called The Stray Sheep, and has been going out with a girl called Katherine for years. Things seem smooth sailing… but everything is about to change.
The relationship between Katherine and Vincent is starting to be stale, and she wants to bring things further. She starts to worry about the future, following the questions she was asked by her mom about it. The biggest thing though: she announces to her lover that she is really late regarding her periods.
To add to the mix, in Vincent’s neighborhood, people are starting to die mysteriously, during their sleep, after days of having terrible nightmares. The only thing that seems common between all of the deceased: they cheated with their lover. Following a crazy night of drinking, Vincent cheated on Katherine with another girl, called Catherine. Things started to heat up for him. Finally, when he started to get close with another girl named Rin (whom we discover later on that her real name is Qatherine), the poor man started to question his sanity.
Dealing with those situations is done like an interactive model. There are a lot of dialogues, during which you will have to make decisions in some moments, allowing you to resolve the issues the way you want. There is a meter (going from blue to red), indicating where you are headed to. You don’t have any precise indication what leads to where until the end. (The meaning is explained in the story prologue, which makes more sense of the experience you were having.) Depending on what you choose, there actually are 13 different endings on this version of the game.
Mature themes aplenty
The game is not afraid to dig into mature themes. The entire story is based on adult relationship, the scares of growing up and commitment, sex and cheating on your lover. There is also presence of some gore and blood in the nightmare sequences (more on that later). It is a game absolutely made for a mature audience. With its themes, it made me uneasy at some point. I am a family man, having 5 kids, and the way the relationship themes are dealt with really affected me. It made my experience really worth it.
Surviving the nightmares
The bulk of the gameplay time I have spent was trying to survive the nightmares. In Vincent’s world, there is an event happening that people are dying in their sleep. You discover that they are caused by nightmares, and our protagonist is affected by them. To continue living, you must then survive those dreams, during which you are in your boxer shirts, with sheep horns, you meet sheep and you must climb to the top.
The principle is easy to grasp but difficult to master: you are at the bottom of a tower and you must reach the top. To do so, you must jump (one square at a time) from a block to another. To create a path, you must push and pull blocks. You must go fast though, because as time passes by, the lower rows of block start falling, one at a time. There are no more rules to follow, so it is pretty straightforward. An example of this can be seen in the trailer below.
The only thing is that there are a lot of different obstacles in your way. You have sheep in your way that want to do the same thing as you, preventing you from going higher, even pushing you. All along your playthrough, there are different kinds of block to deal with, which will complicate things even further. You will encounter fragile (breakable) blocks, ice blocks, heavy (slower to move) blocks, time bomb blocks, … clearly, it becomes hectic pretty fast. It is difficult, but to me, it never became too much. The feeling you have when you just succeed is something I have rarely felt in a puzzle game.
The initial objective is to be able to survive 7 nights. (It changes along the way, but I’m not going to spoil here why it happens.) Each night has a couple of stages to go through. Between each stage, there is a hub-like area where you can talk to NPC (advancing the stories) and save your progress. There are characters that also want to discuss with you about techniques to help climbing. It is a really useful feature that can make you see things differently, which is useful to fight against all the obstacles that will be encountered.
Extra gameplay options
With the interactive novel and nightmare gameplay content, there is quite a lot in this package. Still, the developers gave us even more ways to spend time in this world, but they are completely optional.
First, there is an additional game inside the story mode called Super Rapunzel. During the interactive novel segments, when you are inside The Stray Sheep, there is an arcade game with this name inside of it. Basically, it is another puzzle game, based on the same mechanics as the nightmare sections, but with a Rapunzel theme, and a 16-bit aesthetic. There is an additional difficulty in this mode: you cannot make the blocks collapse too much. If you do so, the exit can become unreachable, which makes you fail automatically. There are no other players or characters in the levels though. Dozens of levels are present, which can make you play a lot of hours. When you are during your first playthrough, you only have access to 3 lives per night. Afterwards, the arcade is available in a free play mode, where you can play as much as you want.
Additionally, there is a game mode completely outside of the story content called Babel. It is again based on the nightmare puzzles. You have to reach the top of towers that have more than 100 rows of blocks! Each attempt creates a randomly generated tower. You can choose to play alone or in cooperation with another player.
Finally, there is a Colosseum option. It is a 2-player competitive mode, in which you have to win a 3-out-of-5. You choose any of the existing level and you have to finish it first, or last the longest. This mode has a big following, from both the original version of Catherine and this one, having a vibrant competitive scene.
A remake with so much additional content
In this day and age, we have seen many kinds of remakes. Some are pure remake, where everything is built anew. Others are just upscaled port (exact same game with just a little coat of paint). The rest is upscaled port, but with tons of additional content. This is where Catherine: Full Body is located. The game is just packed with content, and there is even more in this iteration. Rebalanced difficulty levels, an additional difficulty level, a possibility of having the puzzles played by themselves (for those that are just interested in the interactive novel aspect of the game), even more stages in Rapunzel (there is a good reason why the arcade has been renamed from Rapunzel to Super Rapunzel), etc. There is now even a choice in the way the nightmare puzzles are played : Classic (one block at a time, like the previous game) or Remix (where pulling/pushing a block can now move multiple at the same time). The entire storyline with Rin is also new. The list is pretty extensive. If you are interested, you can have a look in this wiki.
Unlike anything else
Catherine: Full Body is definitely quite an experience. This mix of puzzle games with interactive novel segments is something that is quite unique this generation. The amount of content, its unique style, and the way it talks about young adult themes are as much important as each other, making a package that you will remember for a long time. It took me about 25 hours to finish one playthrough on the normal difficulty on classic mode. With its many endings, it is a very replayable and enjoyable experience.