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“Catherine: Full Body” Review (PS4) – A Complex and Thought-Provoking Puzzler

Photo Credit: Sega of America

Despite originally being released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2011, Catherine remains a surprisingly honest and thought-provoking look at relationships, fidelity, and coping with the ever increasing pressure of growing up. With additional puzzles and an entirely new character arc, Atlus and Sega of America have taken an already masterful game and created an even better package with Catherine: Full Body.

Photo Credit: Sega of America

Story:

Vincent is your run of the mill 32-year-old male whose life consists of nights out drinking with friends and an innate ability to never hold a steady job. His routine is derailed when his long-time girlfriend, Katherine, begins questioning him about his plans – or lack thereof – to settle down. Katherine is the exact opposite of Vincent: motivated, career-driven, and already years past wasting her evenings at bars. Instead of stepping up Vincent, deathly afraid of commitment, does what he knows best: drink. During one of his late night binges he meets the youthful and carefree Catherine – who exudes the exact opposite of Katherine’s reserved and serious personality – and begins having an affair, much to his friends and his own chagrin.

Vincent soon begins having nightmares in which he must escape death, each night throwing more hideous creatures and scenarios at him. Upon waking, he doesn’t remember anything – only that he didn’t get any rest. Rumors float around town of a curse targeting cheating men, in which they must solve puzzles to escape death and those who fail in their nightmares die in real life. This rumor begins to gain traction as more and more healthy men turn up dead each evening. Vincent attempts to brush off the rumors, but begins to slowly put together the link between his affair, his nightmares, and his failing relationship.

Photo Credit: Sega of America

Watching this torrid affair and Vincent’s ever weakening grip on sanity is the main draw to Catherine: Full Body. Told through incredible hand drawn cutscenes and filled to the brim with interesting dialogue and characters, Catherine: Full Body boasts one of the best videogame stories of the PS3/Xbox 360 era and holds up just as well today. A harsh and blunt look at relationships, Catherine features a morality system which changes your inner dialogue and will eventually determine which ending you will witness.

The story alone would be enough to keep players pushing on, but combined with the stellar – and surprisingly hard – puzzle gameplay that makes up Vincent’s nightmares, players will quickly understand why Catherine has endured as a cult classic.

Photo Credit: Sega of America

Gameplay:

Catherine’s chaotic story is told through two distinct gameplay styles; one puzzle based and the other dialogue based. The core game takes place over nine days with each day consisting of cutscenes, followed by time spent in a bar, before ultimately ending up in Vincent’s nightmare puzzles.

The time you spend in the bar determines how the story will play out and your ending. While in the bar you can speak with your friends, the waitress, the bartender, and various patrons to find out hints of the story and progress time. Your actions and who you speak with will determine how certain aspects of the game play out later in the week. While not boasting dialogue trees as complex as say The Witcher or Mass Effect, players are still given the ability to shape Vincent into whatever man they want – whether that be kindhearted or sleazy.

As time passes you’ll receive texts and calls from Katherine/Catherine and must decide how to respond to each in turn – or ignore them all together. Vincent is given a branching dialogue tree for text messages which allows the player to be as nice or condescending as they wish to either girl. How you react to Katherine’s heartfelt questions about your relationship and Catherine’s risqué pictures will determine various aspects of the ending.

Photo Credit: Sega of America

A retro-inspired arcade game called Rapunzel sits near the bathroom in the bar and serves as a toned down version of the nightmare’s puzzles, essentially doubling as a handy guide for practicing your skills without the imposing time limits and obstacles. It also helps that Rapunzel is extremely fun.

The nightmare section of the game consists of increasingly difficult puzzles. The goal is simple; race to the top of the stack – but Catherine continuously throws new challenges at you, making that climb go from a simple race to a treacherous obstacle course.

Vincent will push and pull blocks to create stairways while avoiding an ever-increasing variety of obstacles. The sheer variety of blocks is impressive: ice, bomb, spike, crumbling, immoveable, black hole, and monster blocks all stand in your way and make the frantic climb to your goal almost impossible. To make matters worse, each level features a floor which crumbles below as time progresses and many areas feature enemies and a boss which throw various horrible obstacles at you.

Catherine isn’t heartless though – players are given the ability to undo a few of their previous moves and a variety of special use items to help overcome particularly nasty areas.  These include drinks which allow you to jump two blocks high, a cube which surrounds you on all side with extra blocks, a bell that turns all blocks – spiked, ice, etc -into regular blocks, and a book which removes enemies. You can collect these items during the puzzles or purchase them from a vendor in-between areas.

Photo Credit: Sega of America

Speaking of your time spent between puzzles; after each completed area you will climb onto a landing pad of sorts, full of sheep. Yes, sheep. During the nightmare sequences all other humans are seen as sheep, and in turn they view Vincent as a sheep. You have the ability to speak to each character and either support them or harass them. Some sheep just want to talk, some want to be left alone, some want to trade techniques – each character is well worth taking the time to speak to. Pay attention, you never know who you’ll meet in sheep form that may be a bar patron.

Before heading into the next puzzle Vincent is always faced with a question, usually based on morals, which he must answer. There is no right or wrong answer, although some answers are judged and tilt Vincent’s thoughts toward either the good or bad side of a morality meter. After answering you’ll be given statistics of other players and their answer choice, broken down in various graphs. It is an interesting glimpse at how your fellow players view life and relationships.

Each nightmare defeated, each day survived, each beer drank, all leads you one step closer to figuring out what Vincent really wants out of life. It is a journey well worth taking and full of great acting and dialogue.

Photo Credit: Sega of America

What’s New:

For those who have played the original release, you may be wondering what Catherine: Full Body has to offer to entice you back. Full Body adds a new character, Rin, who plays into the entire storyline – almost always in unexpected ways. The graphics have been updated and look great, while new songs have been added to the jukebox in the bar. There are now over 500 stages split between the main game, Rapunzel, and the various challenge areas such as Babel. The original voice actors all returned and the new content doesn’t seem at all out of place when mixed with the original storyline.

While it’ll be up to each player to decide if these additions are worth the price of admission, I found myself enjoying this play through just as much, if not more, than my first; so take that as you will.

Final Thoughts:

Catherine: Full Body is a great update to an already amazing game. The addition of Rin switches the story up enough to keep even veteran Catherine players immersed while the additional storylines and levels will keep players busy for hours. The frantic and well paced storyline is full of immersive cutscenes and will give players anxiety to match Vincent’s as each day becomes more convoluted than the last.

Dealing with relationships, fidelity, and growing up in such a harsh and honest tone are rare in video games, and Catherine is unique in its no-holds-barred approach to storytelling. It is almost impossible for a player to walk away from Catherine without questioning their own beliefs and morals – and to me, that is an accomplishment in and of itself.

A review code for Catherine: Full Body was provided to Fan Fest News by Sega of America for the purpose of this review.

Catherine: Full Body is available now and is exclusive to the PlayStation 4 console. MSRP is $59.99.

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