Catherine: Full Body is the remake of 2011’s romantic simulation puzzle mashup, Catherine. You play as Vincent, who is introduced as being “earnest and kind”, even though the plot revolves around him cheating on his girlfriend of five years.
There are two types of gameplay in Catherine: Full Body. When Vincent is awake, you control his actions in his local bar. You talk to his friends, the waitresses and other regulars. You respond to his messages and calls. You engage with his girlfriend Katherine, the mysterious Catherine who insists on Vincent’s company whenever he is alone, and the pianist Rin.
The choices you make tip a scale with an angel at one end and a devil at the other. Where Vincent lands at each plot point determines how the story progresses, with eleven possible endings.
At home, Vincent is plagued by nightmares. You help him escape by finding a path to climb up a mountain of blocks, some with unique characteristics. Some cannot be climbed, others are made of ice, some explode or crumble when you step on them.
The puzzle-solving gameplay is fun and genuinely challenging. There are three difficulty settings, as well as a ‘Babel’ mode where you skip the narrative. You also have the option of ‘Classic’ or ‘Remix’ mode and competitive play both locally and online. This gives you a lot of opportunity to challenge yourself, attempt the harder puzzles and beat your own high scores and your friends’ after you’ve exhausted the story.
As a puzzle game, Catherine: Full Body is interesting and unique. It’s simple to get into, but challenges you to think more creatively as it gets more difficult.
There are also some fantastic stylistic choices. Dominated by religious iconography, there are booming church bells and terrifying demons on your tail. This ties into the supernatural elements of the plot, as well as offering some context for marriage being at the core of Vincent’s personal growth.
The puzzle elements beautifully mesh with the narrative. They reflect the issues Vincent is struggling with in his life and relationships. Between each level, you meet others confronting their own problems, which you’ll recognise from the problems your friends and acquaintances talk about in the bar. Boss levels see physical manifestations of your fears hound you up the tower.
Be prepared to watch a lot of cutscenes in story mode. These are well made and they balance reasonably with the puzzles. You can complete the story in a day and you’ll spend at least half the time watching clips.
The changes from the original game include what the creators describe as a focus on “diversity”, following aspects of the first release being considered transphobic. Catherine: Full Body is an improvement on the previous controversy, but there is still room for improvement.
The vast majority of the dialogue is discussion between four straight cisgender men in their 20s about their relationships with women. There are some lines that feel casually misogynistic or homophobic.
You have to buy into the premise that marriage is the ultimate goal of a relationship to empathise with the course of the story. The game also relies on gender stereotypes rather than giving its characters unique personal aspirations.
If you frame the story within the game’s Catholic imagery, its heteronormativity makes sense. But if you pay too much attention to general attitudes towards both men and women, none of the characters come off particularly well.
It’s easy to leave the game wondering why no one thought to have a frank conversation about what they want from their partner instead of going through all this agony.