Games: Sega's cult puzzler Catherine: Full Body gets a bells-and-whistles encore for the Switch
Catherine: Full Body (Switch)
GIVEN it's my sister's name, the wife was quite perturbed to find files on my desktop called 'Catherine: Full Body'. She needn't have worried, as it was just Sega's cult puzzler – which first hooked thumb bandits in 2011 – getting a small-screen, bells-and-whistles encore for the Switch.
Just like Tetris' vice-like grip on the consciousness, Catherine's block-bullying gameplay loop became an instant classic. But while puzzlers tend to be bare-bones affairs in the visuals and plot departments, Catherine wraps its noodle-scratching in all manner of manga-inspired window dressing for perhaps the only game in the romance-horror-puzzle genre.
Forget zombie Nazis or alien scum, the one thing that really puts the frighteners on male gamers of a certain vintage is commitment. And though I've put a ring on it (thank god for diamonique), Catherine taps into the ageing male's fear of settling down.
An hallucinatory thriller that combines titillation and terror as Vincent Brooks scales a booby-trapped tower, Catherine is framed by a Twilight Zone-style TV show where our thirtysomething programmer navigates a romantic minefield.
While his waking hours play out like a deranged life-sim, as Vincent shoots the breeze with the hapless patrons of the Stray Sheep, it's his nightmares that provide the real meat of Catherine. On hitting the sack, players enter a bizarre realm of nightmare Jenga, with building blocks stacked into infinitely extending towers, which Vincent must climb lest the ground collapse beneath him.
Yanking the crumbling masonry to form staircases is the order of this block party, as players try to outrun gigantic horrors from the depths of Vincent's psyche. As you progress, enemies unleash special attacks such as reversing your controls or making blocks heavier while other climbers – portrayed as bipedal sheep – jostle for shelf space.
Full Body introduces a third love interest, and how you deal with this twisted love triangle results in one of 13 possible endings. The stuff of nightmares, Catherine's rock-hard learning curve alienated all but the most seasoned gamers, but Full Body mercifully includes four difficulties – including a safety mode for the truly lily-livered which lets you skip all the puzzles and enjoy the story, while a new Remix option alters the puzzles for veterans.
Running with nary on a hitch on the Switch – with beautifully animated cut-scenes and action that's smoother than a velvet baby's backside – Catherine: Full Body is the ultimate version of one of the decade's weirdest puzzlers. Though with its scantily clad ladies and come-hither artwork, you'll probably want to be careful who you play it next to on the bus.