It’s always pleasing to see a video game that thinks outside the box. Even if it isn’t a masterpiece, the time you had with it would usually stick with you for the rest of your life. That was the feeling I had when I played 2011’s Catherine for Xbox 360. While not perfect, it was impressed how it pulled me into its world. This year’s enhanced version, Catherine Full Body, brings the Stray Sheep bar and crew back with some new faces and features, with an emphasis on a “fuller package”.
Note: We received this game for free from SEGA of America for review purposes.
“Love is a very interesting thing. It can be simple, yet complex at different and similar times. There are many definitions of it, but the feeling is still the same.”
Right from the beginning, you are thrown into a world full of crazy drama, filled with romanticism and a sprinkle of horror. As you progress through a TV show in-game, hosted by the lovely red-haired Trisha (sporting two fros this time), she begins with the story of the Golden Theater’s Special broadcast. You play as Vincent, the 32-year old hapless guy who has seen better days. He reminisces about the simpler days while hanging out with his friends and rethinking about his waning 5-year relationship with his girlfriend Katherine. One night, Vincent gets drunk at the bar and meets Catherine, who is basically the girl of his dreams and has a secret affair.
Meanwhile, Vincent starts having nightmares of climbing block towers as a sheep in hopes to not die, with new stories of lonely men dying in their sleep being more prevalent in the local news. From the original game, it is still the same story with about 20 new cutscenes and 5 new endings added in for a “fuller story” to add in new plot points and characters. One of those characters is the amnesia suffering Rin, who runs into Vincent after being chased by an unknown figure. Without getting into spoilers, the new additions to the story makes the world of Catherine even more charming and it even deals with difficult adult topics in a mature and neutral way. There is a great amount of detail not only in the intertwining and branching storylines but also in the voice acting. Everyone reprises their roles for the new lines and delivers smooth and gripping narratives throughout the game.
As you make moral choices and decide who you wish to end up with, certain parts of the story and cutscenes will change depending on the current situation. There is a constant reminder on how your own choices affect not only what happens in-game but in life as well. However, the small issues still appear from the original, with Vincent’s self-decisions sometimes not making sense and sometimes falling into the category of idiocy instead of pity. You sometimes do not feel bad for the positions he puts himself in, since your input doesn’t affect his set decisions, only how the story goes. Nevertheless, the new cutscenes does make him more of an understanding person and adds more to not only Vincent’s character, but to almost everyone else in the game. It leaves newcomers with a more-coherent mature plot and has enough in the story and endings for returning fans to enjoy. It is a corny love story that may seem a bit nonsensical but has a cast of interesting characters and an engaging story with a romantic heart of gold. I couldn’t help but be infatuated by its charm.
ENVIRONMENTS AND GRAPHICS
I believe that the story goes hand and hand with the environments in the game and compliment each other to make the best part of the whole game. While there is a small amount of locations, they are utilized well with loads of detail and double meanings. (Vincent’s apartment and the café all have easter eggs within each other). The Stray Sheep bar stands out as the prime hangout spot for Vincent and his friends with some repeat customers throughout the story. It feels like a cheesy, albeit real place that has a relaxing but classy vibe. The colors and shading are used very well and plays into how dramatic, bombastic, somber and melancholy things can become in the game. The locations are only used when the story needs them to create tension and conflict to be tackled later on. The Nightmare stages are also a great place to create the feeling of helplessness and utilizes the double entendre to connect the story to it. An upgrade to the game’s graphics makes everything look smooth and cleans up any issues that the old game had, like low lighting and low-res textures. The only issue I have is with the personal game engine and how the character models look up close. While it looks pretty good, there is a sense of uncanniness to some characters, especially Vincent when he gets nervous or scared – which is a lot. It looks unreal and somewhat cartoonish and takes away from the “grounded reality” story a bit. It is a shame, since character movements are very fluid and I love to see them do mundane things, since it looks so natural. Overall though, it isn’t enough to take away how beautifully the developers created with what they had and even improve on almost everything that was wrong with the issues before it.
You never thought that a romantic dating game would have a complex puzzle system integrated into the game. It has unique block-climbing levels that throw different variables and obstacles to stop the player during the Nightmares (heavy blocks, spike traps, etc.). Pushing and pulling the blocks to create a staircase to reach the top and making use of the terrane is key to success. You will have other sheep to try and impede your progress as well as making sure your next move won’t be your last. Luckily there is an undo button and the puzzles get more forgiving on easier difficulties too. There is even a “Safety” difficulty which helps and assist in completing puzzle that are too difficult for some (there is even a reply assist to watch your past climb to learn any tricks). There is a fine balance and tons of options to help anyone feel right at home when playing the game. The puzzles also offer Remix Mode, which throws conjoined blocks in the mix instead of individual ones. It is a fresh feeling from the original mode and even adds an extra layer of difficulty that is missing from the first game. One issue I only ran into a handful of times is the camera. It is fixed toward a front-top angle and you can use the right stick to look around. The problem is on later levels when you need to see the back of the puzzle, with only shimmying around the blocks if it is possible at the time to see it. Still, puzzles are brand new and always offer a refreshing challenge every tower you come across. Bosses appear at the end of each night and offer a good race to the top and never feel unfair.
When you aren’t climbing, you are conversing or contemplating your love life. Vincent is placed either in the dream chapel or the bar, talking to one of many sheep or people depending where you are at. At the chapel, you can save and buy items in between the stages during the Nightmares and talk to the sheep who are struggling to survive like you. Some of them can have morality choices that can affect your overall story progression. At the Stray Sheep, each time you do an action, in-game time is accounted so you can’t do everything in one night. You will need to set what prioritizes you wish to do for the game to play out how you would like (from drinking to increase speed in the Nightmares, talking to people to listen to their stories, or receiving calls and texts from your significant others). You can’t do everything, but the game gives you a fair amount of time and things to do without being too overwhelming.
CONTROLS AND SOUND
During the Nightmare stages, you control Vincent with the stick or pad. Preferably, the pad offers a more precise timing of steps as you need to be quick with your movements if you are caught in a pinch. Using square lets you uses items if you have any (like 3×3 blocks or a 2 block-jump drink) and pressing L1 lets you undo a set number of times, depending on blocks pulled. Everything else feel accurate and I had no issues with dialogue choices and UI selections. The music is also a plus as memorable tracks from the original game are reintroduced along with some other songs and remixes, even ones from the Persona series that you can set to in the bar for music. There is also a big emphasis on piano that has beautiful scores to add to a more somber mood. However, there is a song that Rin plays when met and during the Nightmares, Rin can help save you by slowing down the falling of the blocks. While very helpful, the song blasts over the regular stage music and often become a bit annoying when at a certain point going up and down blocks. Nevertheless, the music still matches the setting that the game is trying to accomplish during playthrough and is a cool soundtrack to have if you are into any kind of classical or orchestra music.
OTHER SETTINGS AND FEATURES
Aside from the main story, Babel is back which lets you climb an infinite tower for points and time. You can go at it alone or pair up in local co-op, as well as check rankings. Colosseum is a new 2-player VS mode only that pits friends against each other in best 2-out-of-3 tower climb. Online Arena has ranked, casual, and friend matches for exciting action with rankings for it also (co-op is also available for this mode). And speaking of online: players can see where others have died and what choices are favored if they have network functionality on. In the options menu, you can change the voice language, difficulty and style of puzzles, and use a variety of help features including visible edge-grabbing lines, auto retry assist, puzzle tutorials, and more. Unfortunately, there is no way to toggle in-game audio, as the music sometimes becomes too loud and muddles out the rest of the sounds and characters.
I first bought this game on a whim right on the week of its release when it first came out in 2011 and it did not disappoint. I have been excited to try out the full game since getting my hands on it at E3. They even had an awesome after party, that even convinced one of my friends to become interested in the game when he tried out the demo there. Everything from the original game is here in Full Body and more. The additional cutscenes and story add for a more riveting experience while Remix mode and online adds a fresh new take on the puzzles. The locations are always a joy to look at and the graphics are a nice step up from previously. Sadly, sometimes the camera can be a bit wonky and the audio mixing is off with the music set too high above all else. However, don’t let that detract you from trying this game out, especially if you have never played this before. Catherine Full Body is still a one-of-a-kind game that not many are like today. It just wants to tell an emotional rollercoaster of a story with some challenging puzzles thrown into the mix for fun. I just can’t help but get lost in the world every time I start the game; its charm and gameplay are like no other. And while it is not perfect, I can guarantee that it will leave you some memories of this wacky adventure. This is the definitive version of the game, and essentially the “full body” version. Get a “full bottle” and pair it with your PlayStation 4 today.
- New features and storylines added for a more fleshed out and exciting plot and setting while keeping its charm
- Balances out difficulty with a good amount of options
- Remix mode and online functionality keeps it fresh and adds replay value
- Music is wonderful and fits the game’s theme perfectly
- Camera can sometimes be a hindrance
- Audio mixing is off with the music, too loud sometimes
- Some uncanny/cartoonish facial animations