Catherine: Full Body is a remix of sorts of Catherine, a 2011 puzzle game by Atlus that had strong visual novel elements. Full Body makes some additions to the original’s narrative and gameplay. We’ll discuss the narrative changes more in-depth next week. For now, Full Body’s addition of a new character and some slight changes to the game’s puzzle sections don’t drastically alter the heart of the game, but they do provide more of what people liked about the original.
In the original Catherine, 32-year-old Vincent Brooks faces a life crisis when his longtime girlfriend Katherine McBride brings up the subject of marriage. Vincent then meets Catherine, a suspiciously named blonde bombshell. One morning, he wakes up with Catherine with no idea what happened the previous night. During this time, reports of men dying sudden, gruesome deaths surface, with the apparent running thread being infidelity. The men also reported having strange nightmares before their deaths. Vincent also beings to have nightmares about climbing gigantic towers of blocks—which form the crux of the game’s puzzle element—where it appears a death will cause his death in the real world. Catherine: Full Body brings all of this back with the addition of new puzzles, new scenes for Katherine and Catherine, and an entirely new character: Qatherine. (Sigh.)
Qatherine, an amnesiac who more palatably goes by Rin in the game, turns Vincent’s love triangle into a love square after he rescues her from a stalker in the night. Unlike the pragmatic Katherine and the coquettish Catherine, Rin is bubbly and innocent, relentlessly positive as she tries to regain her memories. She’s seamlessly woven in, to the point where she could have been in the original. That’s partly skill and deliberation on the part of the developers—the new Rin cutscenes and dialogue fit naturally with the existing story of Katherine and Catherine and show a new side of Vincent. It’s also a testament to how convoluted and trope-driven the original story was. Despite its attempts to grapple with questions of gender head-on, some of Catherine’s more sexist and gender essentialist ideas are still given far too much breathing room in Full Body, and the way Vincent is positioned as a white knight for Rin feels gross. Qatherine’s presence genuinely changes the tack and tone of the game, making its pacing feel even more hectic and capturing the deep anxiety and constant juggling that happens when someone cheats on a partner. But while Rin adds a new dimension to the game, it’s still a parade of pulpy gender tropes. New endings try to make the game’s female characters more full people, but Full Body never really escapes Catherine’s flat understanding of gender, love, and lust.
Mechanically, Full Body adds an optional Remix mode to the nightmare puzzle sections. Remix connects some of the nightmares’ blocks in Tetris-like shapes instead of just the normal single blocks. The connected blocks don’t add that much in the way of innovation in the main game, nor does the addition of a mechanic where the sound of Rin’s piano slows falling blocks for you, but the change reminded me how good Catherine’s base puzzling is. There are also a couple challenging new levels to tackle in the main game. The Rapunzel minigame, accessible via an arcade cabinet at the bar that Vincent frequents, returns with new twists as well. Rapunzel gives you limited moves to reach a rope made of the titular character’s hair and progress to the next level. It was a nice change of pace from the more frantic main game in the original Catherine, and it’s even more fun with the Remix gameplay turned on—the new blocks figure very directly into your strategies. Full Body’s mechanical changes will provide a little extra fun for diehard fans of Catherine’s puzzle aspect.
Catherine is a game that insists upon itself, full of campily purring narration, wink-and-nudges, and playful narrative pauses atop the fourth wall. It is very steeped in its own aesthetics and is constantly poking fun at itself. Despite its flaws, Catherine was a solid game, and Full Body is similarly solid. New puzzles and choices to reckon with build on the original’s foundation in ways that aren’t particularly new, and Full Body’s adherence to the original means it carries with it lots of the same narrative problems as its source.