Developer: Harvester Games
Release Date: 02/12/2012
Publisher: Screen 7
Platforms: Microsoft, Linux
There's a lot to be said about an engrossing point and click game.
The genre prides itself on stunning imagery, slow burn storytelling and often times truly thought-provoking writing and dialogue. All of these elements combine to create these stunning visual novels bereft of the hooty-tooty-point-and-shooty gameplay in favour of deep storytelling. Of course, like everything there are some good - some bad, but here's an interesting look at a simple game asking some important questions about depression, death and the afterlife.
The Cat Lady is a horror point and click adventure game about a woman who is given another chance at life after her tragic suicide.
You play Susan Ashworth, a 40-year-old loner with chronic depression living quietly in her apartment with the many stray cats that wander in at the sound of Susan's piano playing. Without an emotional outlet or anyone to reach out to - Susan takes her own life and is transported to a strange limbo-type world where she meets with the Queen of Maggots who gives Susan the power of immortality and the option of either returning to the living world to kill 5 psychotic serial killers known as the “parasites” or being sent to a place worse than hell for eternity.
What begins is a grim journey hunting down and simply killing the killers before they kill you, often times using improvised weapons and the environment to do the dirty work ranging from makeshift gas chambers to bolting a fucking saw blade onto a chair leg and beating someone over the head. The Cat Lady is not short on brutal gore and often times you'll be surprised and delighted just how twisted this game can be. This outlines the overall tone of The Cat Lady, using graphic imagery and a limited colour palette to give the game a true sense of dread.
What's noteworthy is the characters. Susan Ashworth has given up hope at the beginning of the game and the path ahead of her feels like a pointless endeavour. It's only as The Cat Lady goes on does she find meaning in her own life through other characters, by the end of the game she's a shell of her former self and this reflects some strong decisions in the final act. There are multiple endings that punctuate the entire journey, each serving as a thought-provoking ending to a lengthy journey. This - alongside some gruesome set pieces - is the strong point of The Cat Lady, a well-told story with engaging characters are what pulled me in and kept me playing.
You navigate each level by finding items to combine and solve puzzles, these are a little too easy for my tastes and after a time, become formulaic and can be as simple as using item A to open door B or saying blah blah to Professor McStabby Stab. These served as minor stoppages in the plot for me - not annoyances, don't get me wrong - I just found the story really engaging and wanted to push through certain moments to find out more about Susan and the supporting characters.
What can also be a little lacklustre is the presentation, animations look janky and stuttered, often times giving the feeling you're controlling a cardboard cutout instead of a living person. Voice acting for side characters can be laughable at times with some sounding like they've been pulled off the street and given a script. But really, this is to be expected for an Indie title made in Adventure Game Studio by a small developer, so there is no fantasy that you're playing a AAA game. But things like these are excusable among the many things The Cat Lady gets right.
Really, I could go into details and flesh out every nook and cranny, but really, it's more worth it to go and play the game, the story shouldn't take longer than 8 hours. And if you've played other genre classics like Monkey Island, Broken Sword or The Longest Journey then the gameplay of The Cat Lady will be much of the same, only with a dark twisted spin.
If you're a fan of adventure point-and-click games with great story, engaging characters and a modest range of gory set pieces then The Cat Lady is a wild journey filled with “What the fuck" moments. You can pick it up on Steam for a steal, and you should.
'I can't remember how I found out about The Cat Lady, but developers Harvester Games created a previous game Downfall that has been recently remade. Definitely worth a look.' - Nick