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Thirsty dating sims for lonely souls that play on misogynistic ideals with anime-girls clad in skimpy clothing are as cheap as they are plenty, which makes Catherine: Full Body all the more refreshing, given its step away from the formulaic, same-y gameplay that plagues this fairly oversaturated genre, opting instead to delve into puzzle-based platforming centric around blocky towers with a charming anime aesthetic that makes you feel like you’re playing through an actual show rather than a poor rendition.

Gameplay

You spend your nights at the bar with your mates, indulging in the digital world of your mobile phone, before being thrust into the cutscenes that spin an interactive anime tale akin to how Telltale puts you in the hot-seat of an interactive film. However, the main body is in the platforming which has you climbing a tower made of blocks with some immobile and some that you can interact with. The movable ones let you build staircases and other means to rise up until you reach the tippity top which lends itself to the aforementioned puzzle elements.

This sounds simple enough and, for the most part, it is, but if you’re not careful, you’ll be caught out and sent to an early grave as the blocks below you plummet into the endless void unless you take the easy road and play on a low difficulty – nobody’s judging. How this ties into the anime narrative and the bar portions of Catherine is through the protagonist – voiced by none other than Troy Baker, lending a healthy dose of credibility to this title – who dreams up these scenarios.

Lucid dreaming can be a true nightmare just like the somewhat janky animations and jarring fps problems. Catherine has both, as your character snaps to blocks with no transition along with some odd stuttering here and there, but aside from these little nitpicks, Catherine sports fluid and intuitive platforming fun with a personality-rich tutorial that borders more on the humorous and entertaining than the patronizing and tedious. Points all around, and that extends to the easy-to-navigate bar segments which let you indulge in conversations with your cohorts or dive deep into some arcade fun.

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Surprisingly, the leap to the Switch has worked out in a smooth fashion, as you can spin that nifty analog stick on your joycons with little problem, which is refreshing given how many janky ports have required resorting to the d-pad for some less than precise movement. You’ll be just dandy spinning your circular gizmo around to interact with the blocky world of Catherine.

Story

By all accounts, Catherine is a story-driven experience, with an emphasis on narrative, diverging paths, karma, and all the nifty things in between, with the gameplay serving to complement the interactive element, rather than coming first. So, if that’s not your speed, then Catherine won’t tickle you, but if you’re a fan of interactive film or television expressed through the medium of gaming and you have a soft spot for Crunchyroll, then this will be right up your ally.

There’s a neat little bar that indicates where your morals stand which is influenced by the patrons you converse with at the bar. There’s an outright misogynist, a police officer who lost his wife, and plenty of other colorful characters ripe for meeting that will all change your demeanor. The big problem, however, is that, like nearly every other dating sim out there, Catherine is catered entirely to the hetero male crowd. It’s exclusionary in a world where anything barring this format is a true rarity, so it feels a little on the safe side which is uninspired and disappointing, even if we are in the shoes of Troy Baker in an anime rom-com.

Graphics / Art Direction

The cut-scenes are drop-dead gorgeous, feeling like they’ve been stripped right from a streaming service and planted smack bang on your Switch, right from an actual anime, which is glorious, especially considering that the rendering didn’t go through the chopping block to any noticeable degree in the port over to the Switch, whether you’re slipping it on the big screen, the medium monitor or your titchy handheld.

Whilst vibrant, stunning by all accounts, HD and crisp, there’s a grungy feeling lingering in the back, which lends itself nicely to the gloomier aspects of the story. The bar feels almost ghastly at times, with dreary overtones, and the dream sequences are ripe with bleaker elements, but overall, everything has a peachy, upbeat aesthetic that’s a treat to the eyes.

Music / Sound Design

Responsive and punchy sound effects with a complimentary score that borders on perfection toppled with phenomenal voice acting and stunning ambiance, Catherine walks the walk and talks the talk. It excels in all departments without so much as an awkward and jarring cringe-ridden dialogue rehearsal slipping through the cracks – a truly refreshing added bonus.

Final Score: 80%

Rapidly developing complexity in a slick platforming experience that calls back to the days of the genres delve into the realm of 3D along with a step back from the uninspired mounting heap of dating sim clones, Catherine exceeds all expectations with plenty of challenge and replay-value from its expansive, diverging story. Throw in the multiplayer and challenge modes and there’s something for everybody to try out, even if the borderline softcore porn can be a little on the awkward side, but hey, that’s a staple of this game’s genre.

Thank you for checking out our Catherine: Full Body Switch review, thank you to Five Star Games for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:

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Posted by James Troughton

James is a writer from England who also works for TheGamer and CBR