One of our absolute favourite games from the last console generation, Atlus' Catherine is a sublimely stylish mix of visual novel, dating simulation and fiendish block tower puzzler that tells a captivatingly warped story whilst constantly challenging its players with its clever and rewarding platform puzzle elements. Originally released back in 2011, it arrives here on Switch in this upgraded Catherine: Full Body edition which beefs up the base game with a brand new character woven into the story, five new endings, new cutscenes, lighting and texture upgrades, a remix mode, online versus and a safety mode that allows players to sit back and enjoy the story side of things. It is, in short, the ultimate version of a surreal cult classic, and it's one that looks and plays absolutely beautifully on Switch.
In Catherine: Full Body you assume the role of Vincent Brooks, a terminally stressed out, sweating mess of a systems engineer who, aged 32, has so far managed to avoid any real adult responsibility, spending his days working and his nights drinking with his knuckleheaded pals at the Stray Sheep bar. However time, it seems, is running out for dear Vincent and his bachelor ways as his long-term girlfriend, Katherine, announces she's pregnant and ready to take the next big step in their relationship.
Whilst struggling with the notion of fully committing himself to marriage with Katherine and, in turn, the perceived loss of freedom that this represents, Vincent meets the mysterious, free-spirited Catherine (yes, with a 'C'). Catherine seems to embody just about everything he is about to give up; she's spontaneous, breaks the rules and is the polar opposite of his rather serious bride-to-be. Vincent gives in to temptation, they have a steamy one night stand and embark upon an ill-advised affair.
As this illicit relationship develops, however, Vincent begins to experience hideous nightmares in which he's forced to climb terrifying death towers composed of huge blocks which he must move around in order to fashion an escape route as horrors from his subconscious attempt to drag him to his doom. Set over the course of nine days, the game's narrative sees Vincent begin to lose his grip on reality as the stresses of lying to his pregnant girlfriend, dealing with the increasingly unhinged demands of Catherine and the constant threat of death every time he falls asleep slowly erode his ability to cope.
On top of all of this, Full Body adds in a new character, Qatherine – or Rin – an amnesiac pianist who moves in next door to Vincent and starts to play at the Stray Sheep, slowly becoming entangled in our protagonist's complicated web of relationship woes. Rin is a strong addition to the central storyline, even becoming a potential love interest for Vincent if very specific expectations are met, and, by and large, Atlus has done a fantastic job of seamlessly integrating this new story arc into the already existing material.
There are somewhere in the region of twenty new cutscenes added to the original story in this souped-up edition, and overall, they've been patched in without ruining the flow of the delicately-poised plot. Needless to say, between his seriously messed up relationship status, the newly added Rin and constantly looming threat of death via enormous nightmare puzzle demons, Vincent absolutely goes off at the deep end and it's the game's excellent portrayal of his fantastically sweaty struggle to stay sane, via some excellent writing and voice-acting (particularly on the part of Troy Baker and Laura Bailey) where Catherine: Full Body really takes flight.
With Persona's Katsura Hashino at the helm, this was always going to be a slick and super-stylish game and the story gains so much from just how well-realised its world and characters are. The Stray Sheep bar – where Vincent, Rin, Erica and the rest of the gang hang out – is an outstandingly atmospheric little hub where you can drink your lights out, chat to patrons, put some music on the jukebox or hone your skills on Super Rapunzel, the game's excellent old-school arcade take on its very own puzzle elements.
The banter between Vincent and his clique of buddies is never less than highly entertaining, and it mulls over the game's underlying themes in interesting ways; chatting to both your friends and random patrons in this cosy little snug can affect conversations and plot points later in the game, so it's always worth taking your time to chug a few rum and cokes, stick a tune or two on the jukebox and get to know the people around you.
If we have to pick holes, there are a handful of small issues with some narrative strands leading to rather unsatisfying endings and a couple of scenes that set themselves up to be explosive, trapping Vincent in a tough situation, before fizzling out and letting him off the hook. Overall though, it's all just supremely enjoyable stuff; the game is often hilariously funny, always completely engaging and comes with the ability to twist and turn effortlessly between knockabout fun and dark, adult material.
To say much more about the story side of things would be to risk ruining some of the fun for newcomers, but what we will say is this really is one of the very best visual novel aspects to a game we've played. What starts out as a pretty stressful but ultimately fairly realistic and relatable situation for Vincent spirals entirely out of control, and by the time you've completed your first playthrough – there are at least thirteen different endings here – you'll really feel as though you've been on one hell of a ride through an absolute fever dream.
Of course, as tight as the narrative elements of Catherine: Full Body are, they'd all be for nought if its puzzle aspects weren't up to scratch – and in this respect the game, once again, nails it. The block-busting action here is top-notch stuff, deeply rewarding and addictive puzzling that manages to strike a perfect balance between being supremely addictive and moreish whilst constantly stressing you out or terrifying you with some abomination plucked from deep within Vincent's frazzled subconscious.
As you climb through levels you'll also meet other men – now transformed into talking sheep – at a rest area of sorts between towers who are also climbing for their lives, and they share techniques with you on various ways in which you can manipulate blocks in order to get back to reality. You'll learn all about pyramids, sliders, pullbacks, tornados, cut-outs and more, and this enhanced edition allows you to pause at any time and look over all of these techniques, an option that was sadly missing in the original game and is a massive help when you inevitably get stuck at some point or other.
As well as this, Catherine: Full Body also now allows you to undo your last move on a puzzle if you mess up; you begin with three 'undos' but can pick up more in the form of pillows as you traverse towers, and this simple tweak really helps the flow of the game, keeping you in the zone and vastly reducing the number of times you'll be faced with a frustrating game over screen.
The block puzzles may sound pretty simple on paper, and they do start out in a fairly chilled manner, but they soon begin to crank up the tension as different types of blocks – cracked ones, springy ones, ice, bomb and black hole ones to name a few – are added to the mix, and by the time you reach the game's climax, you'll be edging your way up seemingly impossible routes while avoiding all of these and fending off attacks from ghastly monstrosities.
Of course, you can now also feel free to switch the game to the new safety mode if you don't feel up to the stresses of the puzzle aspect of things here, letting the AI take over with the option to jump back in whenever you feel like it on a climb, or simply skip these elements of the game entirely and stick to the story. It's a brilliant addition and the narrative here is more than strong enough that, even without the challenge of the puzzles, you'll still likely find yourself engrossed in Vincent's tale.
This new edition also doubles the number of puzzle stages available in the game and comes with a new Remix mode which sees things get even more challenging as it adds coloured clusters of blocks which move as one large piece, seriously disrupting the flow of how you go about solving these fiendish courses. As well as Remix, there's also the new online versus option which sees you work with, or pit your wits against, other players in Colosseum or Babel game modes.
In Colosseum, you'll race to solve puzzles against another player in ranked or casual matches, whereas Babel sees you work either together or against another player in order to climb sets of randomly-arranged towers. Colosseum has actually been really well-received on other platforms where this version of the game was released last year, with its head to head set-up providing fertile ground for intense competitive action.
In short, Catherine: Full Body is the definitive, feature-packed version of a cult classic and it's also one that runs fantastically well on Nintendo's hybrid console. In both handheld and docked modes, we encountered zero bugs or framerate issues and the game itself looks stunning, from its stylish cutscenes to the moody interior of the Stray Sheep and those revamped puzzle tower areas with their reworked lighting and texture elements. We did have some slight niggles with oversensitive controls – a criticism which could be pointed at all other versions of the game – and you may find yourself struggling on occasion to pull yourself up from an edge or find Vincent inadvertently pushing or pulling on the wrong block, but beyond this small issue, this is pretty much a perfect port of one of our favourite games.
Catherine: Full Body is a fantastic revamp of a bonafide cult classic. With an excellent new character and several new endings slickly inserted into an already highly entertaining narrative – not to mention a slew of fun new modes – this is the definitive version of an outstanding game. If you've never played Catherine before then you're in for an absolute treat, and if you have, we'd say there's enough new content here to make it worth diving in all over again.