Point and Click games have been a part of gaming since the introduction of the point-and-click interface and are pretty good ways to get people into video gaming. For most part, they are simple to pick up, are thoroughly oversaturated when it comes to free games and often have enough puzzles to keep your attention for quite some time; at times even being slightly addictive.
Occasionally, Point and Click games come with witty dialogue (Here’s to you, Secret of Monkey Island) or an exciting plot to hold your interest until the end (The Last Door or Sherlock Holmes series are good examples of this) and once you’re done, you’re left searching for the next one to start.
Not this one.
The Cat Lady, unlike the name suggests, is not a game about humans owning eighteen cats at once, each with their own individual personalities or something, or about a cat-human happily running through town with nothing but yarn-launching rifles and granny pants…Although, I should probably write those down for future use.
The game itself is about death, violence, gore and much more depressing things. It’s about serial killers, suicidal tendencies and the dark topics that pop culture rarely talks about, never expands on. But underneath all that horror is a painful tragedy that invokes all types of emotions.
Death, to most of us, is the end of life. At least, that was what Susan Ashworth thought when she committed suicide. Instead, she finds herself meeting The Queen of Maggots, who tasks Susan with sending five “parasites” to her domain. Armed with the irony of immortality, she goes on with her life, meeting Mitzi, a cancer patient who becomes her new roommate, and the five “parasites” she must kill.
As expected, the gameplay is simple to understand. Left and right arrow keys are to navigate while the Up key interacts with objects and the Down key pulls up your inventory. The puzzles can get a little tough at times, but are doable with a bit of observation and wandering. However, I do feel that the puzzles are more for the atmosphere they create rather than the challenge itself, serving little purpose in the grand scheme of the game.
Sound effects can be slightly cheesy (it’s pretty much jumpscares all around), but the music itself is beautiful and doesn’t feel out of place to the world created. The graphics of The Cat Lady feels like an old Polaroid photo, with everything feels surreal and dim. Strangely enough, Susan herself, while similarly obscured, feels more real than her surroundings. Perhaps we, as the player, are just seeing Susan’s world through her eyes, rather than our own. Maybe everything is just gloomy from Susan’s own thoughts.
Plot and story
The Cat Lady’s story has a rather strange formula: You get an insight on how Susan lives her daily life, her interactions with Mitzi, and then suddenly, you’re attempting to kill one of your targets. The pacing can be slightly off, but I was mostly too immersed into the story for it to really matter.
The Cat Lady portrays the Susan’s recovery very intimately and tenderly, with the emotions that she goes through depicted in clarity. In the beginning, Susan is snarky to a shrink as he conducts his analysis, showing a typical rebellious nature of recovering patients. Watching Mitzi and Susan bond over simple small talk, scaring a neighbour and the game’s final chapters was a heart-breaking, yet fulfilling experience. Our protagonist felt more human and show the player that people with depression live normally, but with a slightly pessimistic and different view on the world.
Here’s the clincher: there are multiple endings for you to get, with one true ending which I won’t spoil. But rest assured that if you’re interested in them, you can always attempt to finish with every ending. The Cat Lady can easily take up five hours at once, but attaining the true ending takes some thinking (or googling a walkthrough, if you’re lazy).
Aside from the controversial topics – which it handled pretty well all things considered (still definitely not for kids though), and the challenge of the puzzles, which the more experienced can easily breeze through, the only beef I have to pick with the game is the voice acting. The VA can be absolutely terrible at times, but more often than not it does a decent job.
With a strong story and atmosphere, I definitely enjoyed the hours I put into The Cat Lady. With less emphasis on horror and more on the psychological aspect of the human psyche, it served up a cocktail of emotions: ranging from fear, panic and shock to blissful happiness, that leaves players wanting more. Priced at S$10.50, it’s definitely worth considering buying as an alternative to a good book.
In a nutshell
Available on: Windows and Linux; I’m sorry, Mac users, but you ain’t getting any love this time
Genre: Point and Click Psychological Horror
Who it appeals to: People who appreciate darker aforementioned themes and/or a good narrative and definitely not for people who cannot take gore, suicide and death. (At least, I can’t recommended it with a good conscious if you’re deeply affected by those topics)
DANamic.ORG Rating: 4.5/5