Catherine – Full Body
Developed By : Studio Zero
Published By : SEGA
Category : Action, Puzzle, Narrative
Release Date : July 7, 2020
It’s been nearly a decade since the original version of Catherine was released, playable on every platform except a Nintendo one. Last year, the Full Body edition was announced, then only available on the PS4 and Vita, but Nintendo fans got some good news this past March during the Nintendo Direct, with a promise that the Switch would be getting it’s own release of Full Body. Here it is July now, and that promise has come to full fruition.
Catherine tells the story of Vincent, and his relationship with his girlfriend Katherine. She has been dropping some hard and heavy hints about wanting to get married which Vincent does not reciprocate. While at his favored drinking hole one night, his friends leave early and he finds himself approached by and talking to a girl named Catherine. The next thing he knows, he wakes up in the morning next to her, and what starts off as a one time accidental thing quickly becomes something more. At the same time, Vincent’s sleep becomes plagued with nightmares. There are a ton of sheep around, a massive tower of ever changing blocks to climb, and the apparent threat that if he falls in this dream, he’ll die in the real world.
Gameplay is broken up into two distinct sections : daytime and Vincent being awake, or nighttime and Vincent being asleep. During the awake sections, things will be much more relaxed and take on a bit of a visual novel feel. Here you’ll explore Vincent’s watering hole, the Stray Sheep, talk to people, and you can even read and respond to the texts he gets on his phone. Responses are generated for you in two or more options and you decide which you’d like to use.
In his dreams, you’ll fight to keep Vincent alive. Each dream plummets him into a world filled with falling blocks that must be climbed, and a ton of people that only look like sheep. Each night you’ll be forced to climb through to the next level of the tower of nightmares, with each level being made up of two or three sections. Blocks tower up before you, and it’s up to you to find a way up.
You can only climb vertically one block at a time, but fear not! If you run into a high stack, you can also pull blocks to make your own staircase and climbing areas. There are different kinds of blocks, some that can’t be moved at all, some are heavy and move slowly, and others are weak and will break shortly after you step on them. Eventually you’ll even be dealing with trap blocks that will kill you instantly if you stay on them too long.
The climbing sections will also feature some powerups. You can collect pillows which will grant you an extra chance to undo a move without suffering any consequences. These undos are limited so if you use them all up, you’ll be facing some pretty bad news. There are others which effect the blocks, like changing all blocks in a certain radius to the “normal” block which you can move freely.
In the Full Body version of the game, Vincent’s torn love life between Katherine and Catherine is added to with an entirely new character, Rin. While out one night, he stumbles across (into) Rin as she is running from someone or something stalking her. He finds out she has amnesia, but the only thing she remembers is that she has a strong urge to play the piano, so he lands her a gig playing at the Stray Sheep. Throughout the game, she becomes a person you can interact with, and during the nightmare sections you can hear her playing her piano which allows Vincent to calm down and slow down any blocks that might be falling below him.
Outside of the gameplay, the rest of Catherine plays out like an anime movie or TV show. Some sections are given the “hand-drawn” appearance like you’re actually watching a movie or show while others are generated in the 3D game graphics. But the story experience is the only one you have at your hands.
If you’re feeling confident about your block climbing skills, you can take that confidence online and face other players in climb-offs. There’s a Rapunzel game in the bar that you can play which is a retro-style mini version of the nightmare sequences. You can even find a pair of glasses somewhere in the bar that will give Vincent permanent nighttime vision until he takes them off, meaning he always sees everyone in their underwear.
In the end this is a really fun game. I feel like it’s the perfect mixture of puzzle, platforming, and visual novel/narrative. The climbing sections can be pretty intense, but you’re usually treated to one of the scenes afterwards so it’s a great way to cooldown. After each section you get asked one question related to relationships, and while these questions serve to direct the narrative to one of it’s many endings, it’s a subtle way the game approaches talking about relationships and some of the difficulties we might face in them. So if you really pay attention to it, you can earn yourself more than just a great gaming experience. Don’t wait to pick this game up as soon as it releases, it’s a lot of fun.