The Cat Lady review
The Good:

Amazing story that maturely delves into raw human emotion; inspired artistic vision; fantastic voice acting; real scares; integrated gameplay that fits naturally in this very unnatural world.

The Bad:

The more-is-more gore factor may push some gamers away; minor overuse of music on occasion; some tidying up of exhausted dialogue trees needed.

Our Verdict:

The Cat Lady uses the framework of a horror story to set up a truly mature and moving portrait of a woman attempting to claw her way out of pain and sadness.

These environments are stuffed full of horrific tableaus: An image of Susan crucified in a room with no back walls opening into a blue sky; a huge disembodied heart beating and spurting blood; a single gigantic eye jerking around; two huge bloody dolls with wedge-shaped white heads following your every move. There is also quite a bit of nudity in the game, which only further highlights the vulnerability of life’s victims. But it’s here that the developer tries a little too hard to horrify the player. One character’s madness is already well-established, and when you think you’ve moved on, an image of the man torturing a naked victim is an unnecessary punctuation point.

But amidst the horror, there is also great beauty, though not the traditional beauty of gorgeously rendered artwork. The design here is almost crude, with quivering line-drawings for much of the character models. This is the allure of a crumbling wooden house, sitting lonely on a windswept plain. A rushing river holds the promise of death, but it is also captivating, rushing darkly beneath a golden sunset. Scenes of wind whispering through a field of waving wheat and the serenity of an empty blue sky break through the morbidity like spears of sunlight through dark clouds; reminders of the beauty that can still be found in sadness.

The animations also convey quite a few scares. The sudden appearance of a menacing shadow; the moment when a woman facing away from you suddenly turns; a ceiling lamp swinging in a half-lit room that no one had been in before; these images made my heart jump into my throat. There are also some truly clever uses of animation. In one scene, Susan is discussing the previous night’s experience with her doctor. An image of the scene appears above both their heads. Push your movement arrow and the characters in the scene-within-the-scene begin to move – fantastic!

Even if you were to close your eyes, the script echoes the game’s dichotomous beauty and brutality. “You will become my hunter. A dark angel through a dark river of blood,” says the old woman. This is not a game that shies away from life’s unpleasantness. Like a David Mamet screenplay, characters unleash their rage, hopelessness, and madness (“your scream is like a poem without words”) in profanity-laden dialogue. But there is a point to this. These are characters fighting for their lives, both physically and mentally. Despite the surreal nature of the game, the realism of the dialogue is spot on. The developer absolutely nails emotional trauma, whether it’s a character discussing her partner’s reaction to a cancer diagnosis or the painful ways in which we dig at and hurt each other when we argue with the ones we love.

As you talk with others, there are many points where you can choose a certain line of action. Early choices don’t lead you down an entirely different track that I could see, but you are responsible for what the game reveals about Susan’s past, and this may influence other decisions you make as the game progresses. You can also choose whether to be helpful, apologetic, insulting, or sarcastic, which may determine how that character will treat you later. It isn’t always easy to determine the consequences of your choices, which is a point one of the characters makes (and not unlike the choices we make in real life). One annoyance with these conversations, however, comes after you’ve completed a dialogue tree. Many times the exhausted choices will disappear, but sometimes they don’t, suggesting you could gain more info by clicking them again. But no, you have to restart the same topic and sit through it all again. And while you can click through the dialogue, some of the exchanges can be quite long.

Sound is of the utmost importance in a horror game, and it doesn’t disappoint here. In one scene, an empty ambulance blocks Susan’s way. As you walk away, you hear a clanging sound. It can’t be coming from the ambulance, can it? As you move back toward it, the clanging gets louder, more insistent. My nerves were jangling by the time I attempted to open what I thought was an empty vehicle. One of the more effective uses of sound occurs in the dark. Once as I navigated Susan through near total darkness, I could hear a rhythmic squelching. My stomach turned in increasing horror that only increased when I finally viewed the huge slug-like thing bucking on a table that was making the noise. After a character jumps from a building, you hear a bone-shattering crash, the barking of a dog, and the wailing of a car alarm; a sad and lonely chorus for the end of a life. And I don’t know how many sounds there are of blood splattering, but I’m sure I heard every single variation in this game.

The soundtrack is moody and at times angry, with original songs written for the game. There are moments where the tension is ratcheted just a bit higher with musical distortion, drums, and bass. These are supremely effective in setting the scenes, with lines from songs echoing what is going on in the scene (“Don’t worry love, it’s only the end of the world”). However, there are times when silence would have served better than background music, particularly the quiet moments between characters where the dialogue should shine alone.

The voice acting is tremendous, which is crucial because there is so much of it during the game’s nearly nine-hour playing time. Susan was a bit off-putting to me at first; affectless and dry. But this only served as a baseline from which the actress managed to build in a subtle but ever-increasing sense of character development. The gravelly-voiced Mitzi presents a combination of world weariness and energy in the face of tragedy at the same time. A pesticide guy with a penchant for rape is beyond horrifying, his slow voice punctuated by heavy breathing.

After a heart-pounding beginning and gut-wrenching middle, the game becomes a whodunit and the action begins to slow down. But this isn’t a bad thing, as the baptism through blood and horror leaves Susan open to reaching out and connecting with her fellow human beings again. She finally begins to learn about the lives of her neighbors, those previously anonymous souls who only served to annoy or ignore her. When Susan and Mitzi finally come face to face with their nemesis, even that is presented with complexity and depth, challenging you to understand why this character would have done what s/he did. You’re given a choice at the end to determine this answer, and I don’t know if I made the right one or just the easy one; regardless, the ending meant something to both the characters and to me.

It wasn't the horrific scenes (say, of a bloody nurse hacking away at raw lumps of meat) that left their deepest impressions on me. It was the more subtle ones. A young woman, vibrant and full of life, is about to tell Susan why she can trust her. Before she can, a vision of a desiccated crone appears behind the young woman, bending forward to softly kiss her ear. And you know – as does Susan – that tragedy will ultimately befall this character. Don’t get me wrong; the gore serves its purpose. It wrecked me and left mre, made me raw and quivering just as Susan must have felt. It also heightens the sense of relief you feel when you get a short break from the insanity while Susan has a smoke and a cup of coffee listening to the rain pour outside her apartment, or when two characters play a game of guess-what-I’m-thinking. It feels good to do these normal things, to start to live your life again, however temporary you know they will be.

But despite all the trappings of death and madness, The Cat Lady (available from Screen7) is ultimately the story of one woman who wants to die but must go on living and another woman who wants to live even in the shadow of tragedy. Death in the midst of life, and life in the midst of death. There are so many more things I could write about what the game means, but the experience may touch you in a totally different way, and that is the beauty of it. At times it seems an embarrassment of riches, and a bit more focus, a bit less gore would have earned this game my highest possible praise. Given the game’s grisly subject matter and unflinching brutality, I can’t recommend it to everyone, but the emotional issues explored here are more raw and real than any I’ve ever encountered in a game. I defy you to play it and not be moved. But do play it. Delve into the darkness and see what it means for you.



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Game Info

The Cat Lady

Platform: PC

Genre: Horror

Developer: Harvester Games

More Game Info »

Releases
Territory Date Publisher
Download December 1 2012 Screen 7
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User Score

Average based on 27 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by chamade on Apr 28, 2014

Good story, intuitive gameplay

I finished this game recently and have to say that it was a very immersive experience. The main character is a woman who obviously battles... Read the review »

Posted by Spelfie on Sep 22, 2013

morbid, dark, and messes with your mind :)

Had a couple of times where I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do. The cut scenes and lengthy dialogs would have been better if I... Read the review »

Posted by axkreep on May 29, 2013

Amazing

The Cat Lady is an excellent game with a good story line and character plot. The only thing I was not fond of was the choice of Susan's... Read the review »

Posted by PadanFain on May 17, 2013

A messy but interesting thing

Well... A good game. Not excellent. The story drags too much in places and changes tone considerably every hour or so. So-much-so that it... Read the review »



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About the Author
Merlina McGovern
Staff Writer

Comments

MoonBird MoonBird
Dec 12, 2012

Those graphics are just plain bad.

Manuel Manuel
Dec 12, 2012

This year we had some really good indie games that got really high scores ( Resonance, Primordia, Cat Lady) and that makes me happy because of all the effort that the developers put into these games. I still havn´t played The cat lady because I waited to see the review here, and now I really want to play it because the last horror adventure game I played was Amnesia and that was quite some time ago. Also I noticed that lately lots of games are getting high scores and I hope that the reason for this is that the games are getting better and not that the reviewers are giving high scores too easily..

zane
Dec 12, 2012

hmm going to take a risk and get this game.

Drolin Drolin
Dec 12, 2012

Artistically amazing, after Lost Crown another visual eye-candy. Looking forward to try it (but need to finish Donna:AoB first).

Niclas Niclas
Dec 13, 2012

It seems like a really interesting game, but I think that I have to give it a miss because of the extremely gory theme. Not a big fan of that.

Sefir Sefir
Dec 13, 2012

I bought it yesterday and thus far I am really impressed!! The sensation is really tense!! However, the controls are a little odd. The game shouts “Make me a pure Point ‘n click instead”.
Those graphics are just plain awsome and one of the main reasons I bought the game!! Beautiful and creepy at the same time!! They remind me of certain famous paintings…IMO their artistic choices in the game is really spot on!!

TrevorNZ
Dec 13, 2012

I quite liked the demo of The Cat Lady so I will probably buy it Smile

zane
Dec 13, 2012

iv played for a few hours now.. first things first.. the sluggish animations and drawn out dialogues are a pain and initially i wasnt sure how long i was going to play. That said, im now hopelessly addicted.. the story is completely engrossing and the puzzles are pretty good.

SamuelGordon SamuelGordon
Dec 13, 2012

I absolutely love the style, it reminds me of Donna : Avenger of Blood (god i love that game!). Over the top gore is also not my thing but it doesn’t bother me.

Edit: I just finished it, score is way off imo. The real scares are not scary at all, the tiresome life is worth it preaching, disappointing cat lady backstory, over the top “parasites” (shallow evil archtype), all the endings are pretty much the same (one sentence changes). Too easy puzzles, way too easy! Voice acting is awesome except the doctor and the husband, those irked me! Story is..huh, weird but it’s fun. Amazing music & style. I just wished they would stop with the overthetop serial killers, i expected more human enemies. Anyways..

This is a good game i’d probably give it 3,5/5

zane
Dec 17, 2012

I finished. And i liked it. However, i cant help but address some of the points in the good/bad section of the review. First of all.. fantastic voice acting? The main characters voice acting was good. Most other characters were either bad, or sounded like they were talking into a very cheap mic (namely mitzi). Some characters were painful to listen to (such as doctor x). Next, it absolutely must be said for cons of this game, that both animations and dialogues are full of awkward pauses. Again and again i found myself going “i get it, i get it, i get it, move on.” Also the “minor overuse” of music and sound effects is much more than minor, but luckily the music is good and provides a strong atmosphere. In fact its the atmosphere and artistic vision that make the game ultimately shine. Its a memorable experience to be sure.

Sefir Sefir
Dec 18, 2012

Finished it yestreday. Great game and atmosphere. The graphics were just an eye candy, the music was almost excellent and the scary moments were really good. While the storyline wasn’t bad, I expected better. The parasites were a dissapointment to me too, since I would have liked more psychological, unexpected evil from their side and less archetypical gore evil. In many aspects the game reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic books (that’s good). The controls were really weird too me at first, but I got used to it after a while. Generally, a very good and, most importantly, unique game that deserves lots of praise.

anonimen
Dec 30, 2012

Very arty. I would say punk.

A bit too wordy, but I guess this is intentional. Good writing though.

I don’t think that the gore is over the top. It is as much as it has to be and fits the story.

nrkist
Jan 7, 2013

I kinda disagree with most of the assessment of the game, though I don’t regret playing it.  I enjoyed the art and atmosphere very much.  Unfortunately, the controls were extremely clunky and the animations often frustratingly ponderous.  Lastly, while I liked the plot, the ‘dialogue’ was exasperating.  If a character isn’t clumsily beating you with an exposition stick couched as ‘dialogue’ between two characters, they are simply reiterating something they said earlier.  All 5 paragraphs of it…

There are seriously monotonous segments that turn up over and over again that ‘play’ like this: “I’m a failure<click>A complete failure<click>I have failed everyone that ever cared about me<click>I even failed myself<click>At every turn, dogged by failure<click>Clinging to me like some invisible shade…whispering it’s dark and bitter truth<sigh, massage temples, Click>  The only truth that matters…<CLIIIIICK>I have been, and always will be…<CLICKETY-CLICKETY-CLICKETY>A failure…<CLICK-CLICK-SMASH-SMASH-SMASH> ...I can’t remember a time I wasn’t a failure<SMASH (you begin contemplating whether or not the writer is trolling you at this point)>...”

Now imagine a monotone recitation of the above, at about half normal talking speed, that takes approx 3 minutes to get through.

evilronald evilronald
Jan 28, 2013

I thought the graphics and style of them was actually pretty good, it has a great atmosphere too. Though i agree with other posts here that the animation isn’t the best. Still, a good game though overall i thought.

Interplay Interplay
Feb 6, 2013

This is a brilliant game.  It’s definitely one of the most unique adventure games (or games period) that I’ve played in the last few years.  I would put this in a group with Resonance as one of the very few games that are shaking up the status quo of our genre.  I’m a little surprised this game hasn’t been getting more of a response, especially from the core audience of this site.  I’m guessing many may have been turned off by the subject matter, or will think this is just a run-of-the-mill “scary” adventure game.  I must admit the game is pitch dark.  It’s not one of those games I could play for several hours at a time, because it’s kind of a downer.  But I think it is definitely something I’ll pick up again in years to come.  And I think it could be a very influential game if it finds a bigger audience (maybe it’ll get some Aggie love to remind people it exists).  As an aside, I think the voice actor playing Mitzi was great - I could listen to her character all day long.

marvio
Feb 12, 2013

WOW! This has been the first, the VERY FIRST, adventure game that “did it” for me, and I’ve been playing games in general, for a very long time. This, for those of you who remember some of my arguments on this site, is what I was talking about when I said things like” I want a game that will engage me as much as a book, in which the story challenges you.”
.
Sefir,
Quite frankly you just didn’t get it my friend, what you want is fantasy, deep psychological deconstruction of the mind, but guess what? That’s not life,  and that’s exactly why the story in this game is deeply disturbing, it’s just real, too real. To tell you the truth, had they gone down that path, I would have probably written this off as ramblings of a teenager, I just have no patience for that, been there, done that, a long time ago. Life just happen to you, you know what I mean?
.
To address some of the complaints in other posts…
The animation:
I thought they fit the art direction and game mood perfectly, they were never supposed to be perfectly smooth animations, it reminds me a lot of cut out animations, ala Terrence Glliam, obviously with a completly different mood, the very pace and dragging feel of it adds to the tension of the game, you can almost feel the pain of the main character by the way she walks, and that’s just brilliant, it’s almost a case study in character animation, really.
.
Dialogs:
Yeah, there were a lot of them which were just painful to go trough, off the top of my head, the fight between main character and her husband, and the final meet with the old lady. Very strange how the author could craft such an impressive over arching story but leave so much to be desired in the dialogs.
.
Technical aspects:
NRkist, I believe that’s what you were referring to? The acting is actually pretty good, but the technical part of the voice over was just a mess, with POP’s throughout, and the young girl’s voice obviously recorded iin a different place, with a different mic (and cheap mic, by the sound of the EQ profile) and then compressed to hell. There’s is no reason in the world for this, the equipment to record professional level voice overs can be had for less than 100 bucks, add to that some really basic recording techniques, which anyone could learn over “Youtube”, and there you go. So yeah, the technical part of the voice over really is inexcusable.

Having said that… I don’t care that the dialogs sometimes were painful, or even that the audio was terrible (as far as the voices), this is, hands down, the best adventure game I have ever played, I have always said I play adventure games for the story, first, I guess I’m not in the majority in that regard? I always though if I want puzzles I can buy a puzzle game, but I digress. And as far as stories go, you can’t ask for a more mature, well written and thoughtful story about depression, lost of loved ones and what it does to your life

Gonzosports Gonzosports
Feb 25, 2013

This is a terrific review, Merlina - thank you. It’s an awesome game. The best I’ve played in years. I’m recommending this to anyone who is interested in interactive fiction. Immersive. Adult. Unforgettable.

rjk rjk
Feb 25, 2013

I haven’t played any adventure in quite a time (school was just killing me). Decided to check few recent decent releases I’ve missed and chose “The Cat Lady”, “Resonance” and “Gemini Rue”. Will come back here in some time after actually playing the game.

rjk rjk
Oct 23, 2013

It could be a little better technically, as the gameplay ocassionally feels limited. Other than than it’s stunning. Maybe the most amitious story I’ve ever seen in a PC game (“Faust: Seven Games of Soul” comes to my mind…). It also has few moments of true beauty that you rarely see in a video game. Has my full recommendation.

ChaosHydrA ChaosHydrA
Oct 29, 2013

Just finished this my god this game… this game is simply beautiful i havent seen anything like it or played a adventure game this great and captivating since The Longest Journey/Discworld Noir. The Cat Lady simply has the whole package, well written dialogue, humour, obscurity and a dark theme.

The puzzles might not be the hardest ones in a adventure game but they felt very enjoyable due to the pacing and captivating style and never made the player choke in frustration over a puzzle the perfect balance of delivering a well paced game with just enough puzzle difficulty to get a fullfillment.

There is some dialogue that can be heavy at parts but overall it grows on you, and while it felt somewhat bizarre with a couple of the characters accents ie french/german sounding one of the characters it was overall well delivered i never felt annoyed by any of the voices from Chapter 2 and onwards.

The music and artstyle in this game is simply on a league of its own, its disturbing as hell in a really good way and the music jumps back and forth in style and sets a fantastic mood for the player to enjoy. 10/10

Irongiant909
Dec 8, 2013

I see that this wonderful game is now available on good old Steam. Smile



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