By Dean Moses
Game: Catherine: Full Body
Platform: Nintendo Switch and PS4
Rating: M for Mature
Nowadays video games, like our previous review of The Last of Us 2, take us on incredible, sweeping journeys. Writers and directors exhibit their unique vision and, as emotional and thought-provoking as they are, we often take a backseat to the narrative, simply watching them unfold akin to a movie. There are, however, a select few titles that allow us to take the story in our own direction and change the outcome. With the release of Catherine: Full Body we are promised the ability to experience 13 different endings based on our choices with a tale that is both firmly grounded in reality while also having Salvador Dali levels of surreal.
C, K or R
Vincent Brooks has been having bad dreams, night terrors so awful they cause this 32-year-old man to wet the bed. But dreams aren’t his only problem. Vincent’s longtime girlfriend Catherine has been putting on marriage pressure, dropping not-so-subtle hints for him to tie the knot. However, Brooks isn’t sure he is ready for such a commitment. This trepidation is only reinforced when he meets Kathrine, a young lady with a name all too similar to his would-be wife. Through this chance meeting we must help the protagonist make incredibly mature decisions throughout this turning point in his life. With the addition of Catherine: Full Body (an expanded edition of the previously released Catherine) a third character named Rin has been added into the mix, making things that much more complex. Not only that, it is said that if you die in a dream, you may just die in real life—perhaps there are reasons to wet the bed after all.
Gameplay here consists of two elements: dreamscapes and the waking state. Within Vincent’s dreams the world transforms into gigantic towers he must climb in order to wake up. It is easier said than done, though. The towers themselves are made up of blocks Vincent must push and pull so he can climb, make one wrong move and he will fall to his demise. Like the towers, the learning curve can be a bit steep, even on easier difficulties, but once grasped constructing staircases out of blocks becomes fast, frantic, and most of all fun. There are even boss fights and other characters to interact with while scaling the dream mountain, but I will let you discover them for yourself.
The other aspect of play takes place in a bar, Vincent’s go-to hangout spot. This is where you will make many important decisions that will alter the course of the story. Conversations in-person, over the phone, or even through text message will have greatly affect all aspects of the game, shown primarily via a meter that fluctuates when decisions are made. Some choices are really quite hard to make. Whilst aiding Vincent with his life, you may even discover something about yourself.
Catherine: Full Body employs an anime aesthetic. Many cinematics are fully animated in this style whereas gameplay uses a similar tone in 3D. All the classic anime tropes are here, such as the gigantic bright eyes and flushed red face when a character is embarrassed. Despite its cartoonish flair, make no mistake that this is a game for adults. The subject matter is a genius concoction of horror and human interaction that plays on many of our romantic insecurities, all tied up in a splendidly artistic animation.
Even if you find the plot appealing in Catherine: Full Body, if puzzle games aren’t your bag you won’t find yourself seeing much of it. The blend of puzzle elements and choice-driven narrative make this a rather niche genre. Still, it is these rare elements that make this game so incredibly special and enjoyable to experience.