Almost a decade ago, I recall going on my lunch break at work, staring at my phone screen in confusion. I had just finished watching a trailer for a game called Catherine. Even after watching it a few times, I had no real clue what it was about, but its eccentricity had me intrigued. Little did I know then that Catherine would become one of my all-time favorite games. I was equally excited for its definitive edition, Catherine: Full Body, but after playing the original so many times, I was concerned that it would lose some of its charm with its new content. Thankfully, the game is almost out on Switch, and I’m happy to say that these additions have helped the game age like a fine wine.
A wild ride from start to finish
There’s no doubt that Catherine offers one of the most unique stories I’ve ever experienced in a game. Framed as a television special, you follow 32-year-old computer programmer Vincent Brooks as he navigates a romantic minefield. Vincent’s girlfriend Katherine is pressuring him to get married, yet he’s happy with how things are. After a night of drinking with his friends, Vincent wakes up the next morning to find he’s not alone in his bed. Enter Catherine. Described as exactly Vincent’s type, Catherine represents everything Katherine doesn’t.
Catherine: Full Body also introduces a third love interest, Qatherine (known in-game as Rin), an amnesiac piano player who winds up as Vincent’s next-door neighbor. Throughout the course of Catherine, you’ll see these relationships blossom or wilt away, resulting in one of 13 possible endings depending on how you interact with the plot.
However, around the beginning of Vincent’s infidelity, he begins to have nightmares about becoming a sheep and climbing towers made of blocks with other sheep. Although he doesn’t remember these nightmares upon waking, if he dies in the dream — he’ll die in real life.
Catherine‘s full story then is a blend of romantic horror that I’ve yet to experience anywhere else. It explores mature topics such as love and relationships, while simultaneously keeping players on their toes, as they never truly know what’s around the next corner. With as much emphasis as Catherine places on these topics though, its portrayal of transgender people is rather complicated. I can’t say too much without spoiling some surprising plot points, but these issues have been well documented in both the original release and Full Body.
Outside of this more problematic take, both the relationship and mystery aspects of Catherine are great on their own. But when they’re combined, they really become something greater than the sum of its parts.
The old kid on the block
Catherine: Full Body‘s campaign is likewise divided into two segments. The main segment comes via Vincent’s nightmares. Each night, you’ll have to guide Vincent to the top of an isometric crumbling tower. To do this, Vincent will have to push and pull blocks to create a path upward. On nights with multiple towers, you’ll find a brief reprieve between them, at which point you can save, optionally buy items, talk to other sheep, and learn incredibly helpful tips for navigating the towers.
Each of these reprieves ends with a dichotomous question regarding love and relationships. Your answers will shape how Vincent’s story ends, but answer honestly. On the last stage of a night, you’ll face a horrifying boss. These stages play out exactly as before, with the addition of the boss being able to launch attacks that can quickly alter the tower against you.
One of the best parts of the nightmare portions of Catherine is how well it scales. Early on, the towers remain largely simple. By the end though, the game throws everything possible at you. The rate at which new elements are added feels very uniform, making every night feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. This system makes sure you have a good understanding of existing elements before adding new ones, allowing you to take your time and master each. By the time you reach the end, you’ll have to put all your experience to good use.
Catherine: Full Body offers four difficulties to choose from, which you can alter at any time to best suit your abilities. One of these modes, Safety, even allows you to skip puzzles entirely, letting you just experience the story if you want. In addition, Full Body adds a Remix option that significantly alters its puzzles. Remix mode introduces blocks that are connected together, such that you must move the entire set instead of a single block.
If you’re new to Catherine, I recommend playing the original first; however, experienced players might get more out of Remix mode. It definitely threw me for a few loops, but it adds a whole new dimension to climbing. As with difficulty, you can toggle this setting at will throughout, so you should feel comfortable choosing what you want.
In the real world, gameplay is limited to wandering around the local bar. During these portions, you’ll mostly find yourself conversing with the other patrons, gaining more insight into their own stories. The dialogue choices you make here will impact how the story develops, so you’ll want to try to talk to everyone you can. The big downside is that there’s a hidden time mechanic in play, and patrons will come and go at specific times during the night.
Outside of this, you can occasionally answer texts from the various women in your life, which contributes to the overall ending you’ll receive. As such, the bar sections are just as important as the nightmares, though they aren’t quite as fun. However, there is an optional arcade game you can play that plays out similarly to the nightmare towers, except it leans much harder into puzzle-solving.
Outside of the campaign, Catherine: Full Body offers two extra modes. The first is the Colosseum, in which you can compete against another player in a best-of-three race to the top of a tower. As this mode features areas from the main game, you’ll have to complete the main game once to unlock it.
The other mode is called Babel. Each of Babel’s four stages present you with a randomly generated tower for you to climb, with each becoming successively longer and more difficult. This mode can be incredibly brutal, but if you succeed, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with even more insight into the game’s plot. While this is a great reward, I wish something so central to the plot weren’t locked behind a mode I’ll probably never complete. Luckily, you can team up with a partner to tackle this behemoth, but you’re still going to be in for quite the fight.
A performance fit for prime time
I have almost nothing bad to say about Catherine: Full Body‘s performance on the Switch. I experienced no noticeable problems running the game, both in handheld and docked modes. Cut scenes were beautifully animated and ran smoothly throughout. The soundtrack in particular is one of my favorite aspects of the package, as the remixed classical music provided extra tension without being overbearing. The gameplay never floundered once, even during the later sections when things got a bit more hectic. I will say that controlling Vincent while climbing could occasionally be a little tricky, but this is more a problem with camera changes than anything. With a little practice, this becomes a non-issue.
Worthy of an encore
Having played the original Catherine countless times, my biggest worry was that all the additions to Catherine: Full Body would take away from a game I love so much. Fortunately, the game has mostly aged well thanks to these new offerings. Not only do they add to an already great experience, but they made the game feel fresh. Rin’s introduction to the storyline added a whole new dimension to the already twisted love triangle, while Remix mode did the same for the puzzles. It is a little disappointing, however, that Catherine: Full Body didn’t quite solve the issues its takes on transgender people created in the original. That said, if you haven’t played Catherine before, now’s a great chance to jump on the train. If you have, Catherine: Full Body is certainly worthy of the encore.
A review code was provided by the publisher.