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Tested on PC
The Cat Lady by developer Harvester Gamesand designed by Remigiusz Michalski, was released on December 1st, 2012 by publisher Screen 7, is a psychological horror adventure game. The protagonist, Susan Ashworth, is a middle-aged woman who has committed suicide due to loneliness and grief. She awakens in a Dantean Limbo-like world where she meets a mysterious woman nicknamed “The Queen of Maggots”. She brings Susan back to life to hunt down five psychopaths– referred to by the Queen of Maggots as “The Parasites”. She grants Susan immortality to assist with this. Once Susan agrees to perform this task, she awakens in hospital, whence her violent journey begins.
Chapter 1: Fine Art
Her first victim, while an initially seemingly ‘normal’ ember of hospital staff, is eventually discovered to be murdering women in the hospital basement and arranging their bodies behind picture frames so as to appear as spitting-images of classic paintings – such as the Mona Lisa or The Girl with the Pearl Earring – complete with makeup.
To summarize the rest of the story, Susan eventually gets back to her apartment, whereupon a neighbor complains about both the cats present there and the piano which attracted them there.
He proceeds to threaten Susan with a call to Pest Control. Susan hears a knock at the door later. Upon answering, Susan meets Mitzi, the woman who saved Susan’s life, and whose backstory continues the subplot of the game for its remainder. Susan is later kidnapped by the Pest Control man, and held by him and his wife– both of whom, we find out, are cannibals. They are also the second and third Parasites of the game respectively. After killing both of them and escaping, she once again returns to her flat where she begins to talk to Mitzi more about Mitzi’s past, and the reason she wanted to come specifically to Susan’s building.
After learning of Mitzi’s plight and “The Eye of Adam”, Susan agrees to help track him down within the building. After either searching most of the apartments or discovering concretely that the residents of a few of them are not The Eye of Adam, Susan discovers The Eye of Adam and it is left to the player to decide his fate. While the main protagonists are Susan and later Mitzi, the antagonists are: the five “Parasites”- the character we will nickname “Artistic Parasite” for anti-spoiler reasons, the Pest Control man and his wife, Susan’s “Admirer”, and “The Eye of Adam”.
It’s difficult to pinpoint any specific moments of this one that pop out to me, but if pressed we’d choose the part in the theater, as well as the bit with the skull walls in Chapter 5, as they both add to the general eeriness of the atmosphere.
Chapter 2: Melancholic Atmosphere, Minimalist Controls, Brilliant Voice Acting, and Beautiful Art Design
With the first two chapters (out of seven) of the plot covered, we can start talking about the general atmosphere of the game, along with the music, artwork, and other important aspects of the game. The artstyle is hand-drawn, full of charm, and the commonly monochromatic colouring scheme helps develop and support the generally melancholic, existential atmosphere of the game. However, there are scenes either done in full colour, or with only one or two objects coloured in. Sometimes though, the addition of a little colour helps add to the creepiness of a specific scene. While the scenario at nearly any given point during the game, along with the dialogue and excellent voice acting builds the atmosphere’s foundation, the artwork and music help to reinforce it and flesh it out quite a bit. The cinematics were done very well and helped build upon the atmosphere that the game was trying to convey. They utilized the art style in a way that helped the player feel more enthralled with what was going on, and most times, to engage with the player’s emotions.
The music has been contributed by Warmer, 5iah, Tears of Mars, Michal Michalski, with other tracks composed by Richard Henley and Pal Hjornevik. It is very helpful for the game in that it, again, adds to the atmospheric depth; not only that, but it adds a further degree of uniqueness and character to the game. Also, the voice acting in The Cat Lady is certainly an example of great voice acting for a game; the characters emotions were portrayed elegantly, and the scripting had all the characters using unique “character voices”. That said, the voice acting was a little too distorted at times.
The controls of the game are quite simply and easy to use; they consist merely of the arrow keys and the enter key. The left and right arrow keys control movement, while the up arrow allows the player to interact with objects in the world, and conversely, the down arrow key goes into the character’s inventory. The enter key allows the player to select dialogue options. The simple controls are particularly nice in the context of this game, as the story is all the more enthralling because of it; the player isn’t distracted by millions of controls at the expense of immersion. The gameplay of The Cat Lady is smooth and intuitive; it involves moving left or right, interacting with objects, and selecting dialogue options.
Chapter 3: The Verdict
Overall, The Cat Lady is more of an interactive story than a game; it is quite fun if you are interested in the story, and can get somewhat hypnotic if it can entice you to keep going to see where it goes. Length can be anywhere between 6-8 hours. The game does also have a decent replayability factor since the player can make decisions – some of which affect the ending of the game. [Obviously] not for the sensitive or faint-of-heart, but highly recommended if you’re into psychological horror stories.