Catherine Full Body is one of the most bizarre video games I’ve ever played. That’s why I love it. It’s a setting so odd it just doesn’t seem like it would work, yet somehow it does. The entire game revolves around an unlikable (at first) main character going through a midlife crisis of sorts. The central theme is the choice between settling down or choosing the freedom of an untethered life without responsibility. Like a soap opera, the main character has relationship problems with three different women. All aboard the love square! The player’s choices determine what choice he makes and which lovely lady he successfully or unsuccessfully romances. It’s a video game though, so a love square isn’t enough. Clearly. Add in a terrifying supernatural nightmare world and you have yourself an anime. Game. I meant game.
Catherine Full Body (PS4) ★★★★★★★★☆☆
I highly recommend it for those who like weird/unique stories and are open to nontraditional gameplay.
Catherine Full Body is a very unique and fun game. Characters have stylish designs and unique personalities. The story starts out weird and only gets weirder. I wanted to keep playing to find out what the heck is going on here. Not to mention that with a love square being the driving force of the plot of a video game is just unheard of. Other games may have some type of romance options while not having it be the core of the plot. Even games that do have romance as the main focus start at the very beginning of entering a relationship. Catherine Full Body is unique in that the main character Vincent Brooks starts the game being in a stable long-term relationship and then the conflicts begin when he is faced with decisions regarding what he really wants from life and a romantic partner. Then you have the gameplay of a supernatural nightmare world where survival is climb or die. It’s puzzle-based with a clear sense of progression as you climb higher to escape your doom. The difficulty level also increases naturally. As the game goes on it introduces new obstacles and gimmicks, the tower gets bigger, the blocks seem to fall a little faster, and then the boss levels happen to add a whole new tense chase.
That said it is definitely not for everyone. Despite not being explicit, the game has very sensual and sexual themes. Usually done well but sometimes a bit over the top. It’s rated M for a reason. Catherine Full Body is also very Japanese, with completely weird and wacky shenanigans. So it is very unapologetically an anime game. Which is not everyone’s cup of tea. There isn’t any combat in this game. All the gameplay that isn’t wandering around and talking to people is trying to climb a crumbling tower by pushing blocks. It is a puzzle centered rush to the top before the time runs out. While there is an easy setting these stages can get frustrating and requires a degree of strategy.
You would like this game if
- Are driven to find out why things happen and what happens next.
- Enjoy learning about characters’ backstories and motivations.
- Either enjoy playing time sensitive spatial puzzles or at least don’t mind playing them.
- Like watching anime.
- Aren’t offended by sexual/sensual themes.
- Want replayability. 13 endings to get.
It starts with this surreal opening, a stylized animation begins of seemingly random movie-like events. As the camera pans out the player realizes that this sequence had been on tv and the logo Golden Playhouse appears. Then a woman with epic hair and a sultry voice introduces herself as “The Midnight Venus Trisha”. She proceeds to set the scene appearing as a host introducing a drama. Creating a unique feel of being simultaneously an audience member watching the main character while still having choices to control the flow of the story.
Our main man Vincent is hanging out with the guys at their favorite bar The Stray Sheep and whining about his problems. Currently, he faces tough life decisions regarding his relationship with his long-time girlfriend Katherine. Katherine wants to settle down. She begins bringing up topics like marriage and starting a family. Vincent is an indecisive mess of a man wibbling between his love of Katherine and his fear of commitment. As he mulls over the thought of possibly ending his relationship with his more successful girlfriend, a young scantily-clad blonde woman joins him at the bar. Her name is Catherine. Aggressively flirty blondes and alcohol don’t seem to mix well because the next morning finds Vincent waking up with an undressed Catherine in his bed. If this love triangle wasn’t enough, we are quickly introduced to Rin, a kind and lovely aspiring musician. Vincent helped Rin escape from some unknown pursuer and set her up with a job at his favorite bar.
If trying to navigate this new love square that is his life now wasn’t bad enough Vincent also has terrifying nightmares every night. Rumor has it these nightmares plague unfaithful men. Now cursed, every night Vincent dreams of being surrounded by strange talking sheep and is forced to climb an endless tower. What do these strange dreams mean? Over several nights our overwhelmed protagonist sees news stories of men dying from unknown causes and begins to connect the dots. Now Vincent must not only figure out what he is doing with his life and finally try to communicate to Katherine, Catherine, and Rin but he must find the truth of these supernatural dreams.
While Vincent is awake cutscenes occur to advance the plot and the player spends time at the Stray Sheep. What you do in the bar affects the overall story. Your actions can trigger movement on a “mysterious meter” to lean towards order or chaos. This meter and the way you respond to certain events will determine what ending you get. There are multiple endings so if you don’t like what you wound up with you can always go back and make different choices.
At the bar, you can talk to all the characters there. When I say all of the characters I do mean all. You can talk to your three homeboys, the bartender who only goes by “Boss”, Erica the sassy waitress, friendly cinnamon bun Rin, the two old ladies sitting in the booth behind yours, an off duty cop, and random strangers who are sitting at the bar minding their own business. During the evenings at Stray Sheep Vincent will periodically get texts from Catherine and Katherine. The player is free to read and replay or ignore the texts as they please. Since this is a bar you can order drinks. Finishing drinks affects the nightmare half of the game. With the most twisted logic, the more drinks Vincent has the drunker he is, the drunker he is the faster he moves in the nightmare realm. There is one last thing you can do. I personally never spent much time on this as I had more fun drinking and talking to people but to each their own. There is an arcade cabinet in the bar you can play. It is the same tower climbing gameplay as the nightmare section but instead of climbing for your life you just try to rescue Rapunzel from her tower.
Once Vincent leaves the bar he returns home to his crappy apartment, goes to sleep, and ends up in a nightmare world. Each night the player as Vincent must ascend the tower by moving around blocks so he can keep climbing. While climbing the tower continually falls away layer by layer. If you don’t move fast enough or get knocked off you fall to your death. The old cliche of “die in a dream and you die in real life” holds true for this game. Luckily each night has stages with checkpoints and a safe place where you can save the game along the way. These safe areas look church-like with pews and sheep loitering about the place. You can talk to these sheep or continue right to the confession booth. In the confession booth, a disembodied voice talks a bit and you answer his question. Answer how you want but know that the answers have an effect on the “mysterious meter” and eventually what ending you get. As you keep playing new mechanics get introduced and the levels become harder. There are even bosses that add new difficulty in not just climbing to the top to escape but also avoiding direct attacks. Boss levels are interesting as the bosses are usually representative of Vincent’s fears. Before starting the game you choose the difficulty settings of the nightmare levels and which mode, classic or remix, you want to play. Good news is that these choices can be changed at any point during the game and don’t affect the story.
Pet Peeves and Annoyances:
- The camera during the nightmare sections can be funky sometimes and makes it really hard to climb around behind blocks.
- Encountering sheep on various levels outside of the safe area. They get in the way and are just generally there to make the climbing puzzles harder. However they can also knock you off and kill you! Doesn’t happen much but it’s very frustrating. You can also push them off which is good. As long as you don’t mind some murder. I have done this one or two times and always felt kind of bad. In the end though when it comes down to me and that sheep both fighting our way up, I absolutely will save myself 100% of the time.
- Vincent. I have never hated playing a character more than this man! He is just an indecisive, sweaty, anxious mess! So many of his issues with Katherine, Catherine, and Rin could be solved if he just talked openly and honestly. BUT NOOOO! Of course he can’t do that. I know he is like this as a starting point to contrast what you make him. Still, Ugggh.
- The arcade cabinet mini game is just reusing the gameplay from the nightmare section in a less stylized way with lower stakes. I only played it once to see what it was. It felt really unnecessary.
- You can’t talk to everyone and do everything available in one night at the bar. Almost every action causes some amount of time to pass. The other patrons at the bar come and go making it impossible to talk to all of them. It’s kind of a good and bad thing. It’s good in that it’s more realistic but also sad because I can’t talk to everyone.
Little things I came to love in Catherine Full Body
- When you order a drink the male narrator with his deep, soothing voice gives you trivia about your drink of choice. Honestly one of the more addicting parts of the game.
- Cutscenes. The cutscenes are really good in this game. It’s basically like watching an anime in snippets. Animation quality is also pretty top notch.
- Every single time you move a block a narrator says, “Edge”. Starts off mildly irritating but soon it becomes this background reassurance that I didn’t screw things up. I don’t know how to describe it. It just became this comforting constant little background noise.
- Trisha is a beautiful mysterious queen. Her hair…. is just so fabulous! I love her hair so much.
- 13 different endings! I got the Katherine Good Ending. Which was fine by me, I wanted to play through and see what one my choices got without trying for a specific ending. In the future I definitely want to go back and play again to see the rest of the endings.
- All the vibes of the Stray Sheep. Someone needs to make this a real bar ASAP
- Vincent actually has character growth. Player’s choices shape his personality as you work towards the end.
- Whenever you answer a confessional booth question a pie chart is displayed after with percentages of how other players answered it. For some reason it’s fun to see how other people answered questions.
- There is a game mode where you can play as Joker from Persona 5! This makes me exceedingly happy as Persona 5 is one of my favorite games of all time.
*The picture with this post does not belong to me it belongs to Atlus (not sure I needed to put this here but just in case)