In recent weeks I’ve gotten my hands on some excellent games including the paranormal shooter Control and the Nintendo Switch remake of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Yet, I’m struggling to make the time for each of these critically acclaimed games.
The reason is I’m still neck-deep in Catherine: Full Body, a Japanese puzzle-narrative experience that launched in early September and is the remake of a near-decade old PS3 game.
Catherine: Full Body explores the story of Vincent Brooks, a 32-year-old who wants nothing more than to hang at the bar with his mates and go steady with long-term partner Katherine McBride. Vincent isn’t afraid of commitment; he just can’t see a reason why things need to change. Sound like someone you know?
After a night of too many drinks, Vincent finds himself waking up next to a provocative blonde named Catherine – this one’s spelt with a ‘C.’ As Vincent deals with the fallout surrounding his infidelity, nightmares begin plaguing the male population. Men who die in their dreams are also dying in real life.
It’s a very Japanese-style narrative, in its tone and art style. Being influenced by anime and manga, Catherine: Full Body should appeal to fans of either, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
Although the story is surprisingly relatable as it plays on male anxieties. I’m talking themes of marriage, parenthood, commitment, income, friends, alcoholism and being able to provide for a family. Then, it puts a unique horror spin on each, making Vincent survive living nightmares of his greatest fears.
Catherine Full Body is probably best summed up as a horror game, but it’s not traditional horror like Resident Evil or the recently released Man of Medan. Catherine is more intellectual. It can create an underlying sense of dread that stays with you long after you’ve finished playing.
Maybe it won’t affect a 20-something who wants little more than to travel and have a good time. But 30-somethings, ready for the next step? If you can get past the overtly sexual tone and dated portrayal of female characters, you will find a unique and relatable story worth experiencing at least once. Or multiple times. There are apparently 13 different endings to experience.
Catherine: Full Body is quite short. You can breeze through the story in around 5 hours or so, but the reason I can’t stop playing is I’m addicted to the puzzles. Outside of the interactive cut scenes, Vincent’s living nightmares take the form of block puzzles. They are a little like Tetris or Lumines, but instead of neatly stacking blocks, you need to slide and push them and climb to the top before a series of nightmare creatures squish you to a bloody pulp.
There are plenty of modes and levels to keep you playing for hours once the story is finished, including plenty of new ones catering for fans who played the original Catherine on PS3. The bite-sized levels can be challenging and are perfect for playing in short bursts, which is why I wish Catherine: Full Body was released on Nintendo Switch. For now, it remains a PlayStation 4 exclusive.
My biggest complaint is that Catherine: Full Body is expensive. It’s a near-decade old game with some new content and a fresh lick of paint, and it retails for $99.95. The ‘Full Body’ of the title is just a more creative way of saying ‘remake’ or ‘remaster.’
If you can stomach the price tag and sexual tone, Catherine: Full Body puts a unique spin on the classic block puzzle genre. The story plays on male anxieties and life struggles like no game since maybe The Sims. But Vincent is one character that can’t avoid his responsibilities by hiding in a pool without ladders.
Underneath the choose-your-own-adventure narrative, Catherine: Full Body is about acceptance, about growing up and defining the type of man you (and Vincent) want to be – all important themes and precisely why every man should play it.
Catherine: Full Body is available now on PlayStation 4.
A digital copy of the game was provided to the writer by the publisher.