Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I purchased and played a video game called The Cat Lady. It didn’t even come in a bundle. This may come as a bit of a surprise to any who don’t know the game, as I am famously known as “the guy who doesn’t like cats” and that often puts me at odds with cat people (to be fair, they’re pretty weird).
For the record, it’s not so much that I don’t like cats as a species. Mostly it’s that I can’t stand their lack of respect for my personal space. If I want you in my lap, I’ll let you know. That goes the same for any animal (though human ladies are always welcome).
Anyway. A video game. The Cat Lady. The description on the Steam store sold me pretty well, although in retrospect, I think that I was expecting a completely different game. Let’s have a look, yeah?
The Cat Lady follows Susan Ashworth, a lonely 40-year old on the verge of suicide. She has no family, no friends and no hope for a better future. One day she discovers that five strangers will come along and change everything…
What I thought would happen is that you’d watch Susan be depressed for a bit and then five people would happen along and teach her about how to live and love again. Or something like that. But the game is billed as a psychological horror game, so I knew something was off about my interpretation. And lo, it certainly was!
The first thing wrong with this description is that Susan is not on the verge of suicide. The game opens with her actually committing suicide. And the five strangers that “come along and change everything” is somewhat misrepresenting the case. After taking her own life, Susan is given the opportunity to be revived and become immortal if she agrees to seek out and kill five psychopaths.
And, you know what? That’s where I’m going to stop telling the story. Because I feel like I’ve already given a little too much away. The thing about The Cat Lady, is that I really enjoyed the story. I found the main character, Susan, very relatable (despite the cat thing) and her adventures were thrilling and right up my alley. The people she meets, the situations she finds herself in, the overall tone of the game. It was all tailor-made to suit my interests. It’s very dark and mostly on-point. The whole “immortality” thing added a nice sprinkle of the supernatural without sending it completely off the rails.
The gameplay is exactly what one would expect from an adventure game. It’s a point-and-click style game, except you use the keyboard instead of a mouse. You know the type; wander around, pick up stuff, talk to people, use stuff you picked up on other stuff to solve puzzles. The nice thing is that almost every object interaction and puzzle made sense. I never had to glue a moustache to a raccoon to fake a passport photo or consult the manual for hints to an otherwise impossible puzzle. Which is good, because I don’t know if Steam games even have manuals. Also I only had to look for a puzzle solution online once, and I felt like a huge tool afterward because I was somehow unintentionally ignoring a very visible menu option.
Most games like this are voiced these days, and it makes sense, as when you’re telling a story, it’s nice to make it that much more immersive. The Cat Lady is no exception. While the voice acting is typically decent, there are a number of questionable performances. Mitzi, for example, sounds like she sat just a little bit too far from her microphone, as her voice is consistently at a lower volume than everyone else. One of Susan’s neighbours talks exceptionally fast. I don’t know if it was bad acting, or an acting choice. I seem to recall at least one character who would drift in and out of their accent. It ain’t perfect, but it’s not bad to the point where I’d bother to deduct points.
The only thing that I genuinely disliked about The Cat Lady is its graphics. It is ugly. Though it’s an indie game, so it’s ugly on purpose. But man, it’s just…. ugh. The game’s aesthetic is “chopped up photographs” and I see what they were trying to do with it, but I think that they really missed the mark. However, I don’t think that “pixel” graphics would have worked as well with the story, and the look they went with is probably one of the cheapest ways to achieve a semblance of realism. Also of note is that the game randomly slowed to a crawl during one foggy scene, but worked just fine in several others. Some other effects also made the game chug a bit. I think it’s safe to say that the visuals weren’t really enough to stress my PC, so it’s gotta be issues with the game itself.
At the end of the day, a couple minor performance issues and bad art direction isn’t enough to keep me from giving The Cat Lady the praise it deserves. I enjoyed almost every minute of it (the opening is a bit sluggish), and would heartily recommend it to anyone who likes a good story. It kept me entranced the whole way through, and definitely made me reflect a little bit on myself. Any video game that provokes introspection gets a pass in my book. I honestly wish that it didn’t have achievements, as I feel like they actually detract from the experience.
Oh, and I also failed to get the best ending. Womp-womp. Just another reason to play through it again sometime, I guess.