Catherine: Full Body (PS4) Review
Rushed Video Review:
Full Written Review:
Catherine: Full Body is a remaster of a PS3/Xbox360 game released in February 2011 in the same week as Valentine's day. Full Body is a remaster of the original, with improved visuals, music, and gameplay features such as new levels, endings, and mechanics. While not exactly a game of the year when it was released, the game did become more of a cult classic and I’m glad it got this remaster as I would not have had the opportunity to play it otherwise. One of my favorite games is Persona 5, and I was willing to give this game a shot despite the mixed reviews knowing that ATLUS games were the publisher and this definitely has the same style as Persona. After spending about 37 hours with the game, I encourage anyone who still hasn’t played this game to give it a shot. It’s truly a one of a kind game, and it reminds me of a cross between persona and QBert if that makes any sense.
While I prefer to jump into game without any spoilers, reviews, or trailers, a quick synopsis of the game is that you play as the character of Vincent a 32 year old man who has been dating Katherine, his girlfriend of 5 years. The game picks up when a mysterious string of deaths start being reported on the news, while at the same time two additional women show up in Vincent's life that have him questioning his commitment to his girlfriend.
I played the game on the hardest difficulty and this is where the game really shines. You can beat the game in half the time, or even a third of the time if you are rushing, on lower difficulties but I recommend starting on hard. You will die a lot, but it forces you to think, remember, and try different strategies while climbing. I died hundreds of times, and there were times where I was playing the same stage for more than an hour, saying just one more time as I hit the retry button. At times I felt insane making the same mistake over and over, knowing that I had to do something different to get different results. At its core, Catherine is a puzzle game, and puzzle games are only fun if it strikes a good balance between being challenging and fair. Catherine’s hard mode succeeds in both these aspects, well at least most of the time.
While I encourage everyone to play the game on hard, there are what seems like difficulty spikes in the early to middle stages, which made it feel the later levels were easier by comparison. But after watching some of my gameplay back, there were strategies and techniques introduced later on that eventually become second nature and imperative for your success. So I think the complexity and introduction of techniques during the stages could have been implemented better for a more user-friendly experience, specifically for starting in hard mode.
The basic gameplay involves climbing a tower of blocks, teaching you to push, pull, and cling to edges created by blocks in order to climb to the very top. Sounds simple but you will always be racing against the clock, as the tower will start falling from the bottom preventing you from retracing your steps if too much time has passed. Sometimes you will push or pull a block to realize that it causes the path in front of you to fall if there is nothing to support it. Almost like a Saw movie seeing the key going down the drain and knowing your fate is sealed. However, there is a mechanic that lets you undo your previous block movement, and collecting pillows during the level allows more uses of undoing, which you can be used all at once to undo multiple moves as you progress further into the stage. You are encouraged to use the undo feature liberally as you gain more just by moving any block.
The reason why I mentioned it was fair most of the time is that sometimes the controls or camera will cause you do die if you are not careful. Taping the directional pad will allow you to change the direction you are facing while standing on a block, useful when there are blocks on each side of you. Holding the directional pad a split second longer will cause you to move in the direction you are holding down. So sometimes you will step on a spike block when you didn’t intend to or be a split second too slow trying to move once you realize you are standing on these dangerous blocks. Unlike moving blocks, once you die, or fall, there is no time to use the undo feature and you will be forced to start over from the beginning or a checkpoint, if you have gotten far enough.
The second issue that is more noticeable is the camera. The game has the mechanic of allowing you to hold onto ledges of blocks that you must utilize to be successful. This mechanic works great and adds another layer of complexity and forces you experiment to get to seeming inaccessible areas. However, the issue is when you must travel behind the structure you are climbing. When pressured for time, you have to manage the camera flipping around to keep your character in view, knowing that the direction you want to move is now opposite to what you were using before, and making sure not to press the circle button that lets go of the ledge you are hanging onto, resulting in you falling to your death.
There is also an element of randomness that may feel like you got lucky or unlucky. While most stages play out predictably, with the same blocks in the same areas so that this isn’t a rogue-like game that changes everything every time you start a stage. However, there are random blocks in later levels that change into something different each time, with some blocks like the bomb or crumbling block definitely making it more difficult. On occasion there are enemies in the game that will block your path or bosses that may use different attacks at different times in each playthrough. This keeps you on your feet and you feel pressured to adapt, but since most of the game is about memorization on what setup works best, I found the randomness sometimes feeling more unfair than a welcome challenge.
A couple other minor issues I had with the game. There is one stage where you have to lead a character controlled by the AI that was the most frustrating since it would not always do what you planned and if they die it is also game over for you. Other than that one specific stage, all others were challenging, fun, and diverse. If you connect online before starting the game, you will also see other player's name during your single player game. Once at the beginning of each stage with the names above other sheep and also showing how far others got. Reminds me of Demon Souls, where you will see little ghostly indicators where someone has dies, but in this game there is no way to leave messages or interact with them in any way. There is a multiplayer feature where you can compete with players online in ranked matches, but hasn't worked for me yet. Either the match making process takes way too long, there is no one to be matched with, or there are issues on my end.
There are also the inclusion of items that, while optional, will help you get past areas that may seem impossible at first. Some items such as the one that allows you to jump up two blocks, or creates new blocks around you, can make some levels a breeze, but even with items you will still be challenged on the hard setting. Throughout each stage there are coins scattered about that help you achieve a higher score by the end of the stage when you are scored. The coins you collect can also be used to purchase items that can be used on the following stage. However, past a certain point in the game you will no longer be able to purchase these items, so it's better not to rely on them early on. I wish there was something else you could spend money on, since you will accumulate much that ends up not being used, and eliminates the incentive to collect them during the stages.
Catherine: Full Body also has a new option of Remix mode, that incorporates larger and L-shaped blocks that weren’t in the original game. You can’t push a larger block if you are standing on part of it, and you have to be aware of other blocks around it that makes it more difficult to move than just the standard single blocks. So there is a lot of new content even for those who have already played the original and looking to a reason to return. There is also the inclusion of 2 additional endings, not in the original game. With a total of 10 stages, with multiple sub-levels, the game always introduces new mechanics with different types of blocks that always have you approach stages differently. For example, the ice block causes you to slide over them, a bomb block that detonates a short time after stepping on it, and my most troublesome block the crumbling block that breaks after stepping on it a couple times. There were so many times that I would play a level dozens of times wondering what I’m doing wrong, or get stuck on a part I got past so easily before without thinking.
There is more to Catherine than just a puzzle game. Outside of these levels where you are climbing these towers of blocks, which are basically nightmares of Vincent’s dreams, the daytime is spent interacting with the three main love interests in the game and other characters in the real world. It feels a bit like a dating sim, as you will be sending text messages and receiving pictures from these 3 love interests. It’s like the relationships in Persona 5, and its option of pursuing one of the multiple love interests. There is also an element of limited time where you must choose who to interact with to strengthen specific relationships, not only with the love interests, but also other characters within the game. These additional characters all have something weighing on their minds and neglecting to talk to them will cause them succumb to these mysterious deaths, which are later reflected on the news.
While progressing through the main story you will be given a series of questions that affect your relationship with the three love interests and your morality meter which swings to the right (blue) of left (red). There are a total of 13 different endings. While 13 endings seem like a lot, it basically boils down to the which girl you, if any, you end up choosing during the story, with a few variations on each depending on your answers to the main questions and your morality meter. There are websites and videos outlining how to achieve each specific ending. While it was pretty straight forward to get the “good” ending with the girl I chose, after watching the other endings, I liked how all the endings were satisfying and didn’t really lead to a “bad” ending if you answered questions based on how you truly felt.
I wouldn’t go into this game expecting a serious or realistic story. And while the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s core gameplay is fun and the story wraps up in a satisfying way with some genuinely funny and heartfelt moments. There’s a lot more under its surface for a game where you play as a guy who climbs a tower of falling blocks in his underwear while competing with sheep, while nightmares of his girlfriend are trying to kill him.
If you’re trying to unlock all the ending yourself, even with the assistance of online guides, the game could take you 100+ hours to complete. Since the endings mostly depend on specific answers to certain questions throughout the game, and also your morality meter, multiple playthroughs would be required. Overall this works well for the game, as it makes you feel each question is important and impacts the course of the story.
That being said, there are times during the story that don’t give you any options and you just have to watch the story play out. Even if you already have a specific character in mind you want to be with, you’ll have to juggle all three love interests until the end of the story. Even as you are making morally decisive choices, Vincent comes off as weak, indecisive, and not a likable character. It's like watching a bad romantic comedy where a simple conversation can solve everyone's misunderstandings and problems but drawn out way longer than necessary.
While there are still some issues with the re-master, I really enjoy games that do something different and take that risk, something you don’t see often today. There is no other game quite like Catherine, in its gameplay, art-style, and sense of humor. Aside from Persona fans, I can definitely recommend this to anyone who likes puzzle games, Japanese style visual novel games, and something with a lot of replayability.
I hope you guys enjoyed this review. Check out the condensed video review coming out soon, or my other reviews. Let me know if you are excited about Persona 5 Royal. I have yet to play Persona 4, so that is another ATLUS game I want to play soon as well. Thanks again for joining me, see you again soon.