Have You Played… The Cat Lady?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I haven’t played The Cat Lady [official site]. Or at least, I haven’t played it to completion. If I had to answer my own question, ‘have you played The Cat Lady?’, I’d have to say no, because what little of it I saw, I now believe I misread or was in the wrong mood to appreciate. Time to give it a second chance.

The Cat Lady is a point and click adventure, except it isn’t. It has the puzzles and inventory system and dialogue that you might associate with a traditional adventure game, but there is no pointing and clicking. The whole thing is keyboard controlled, with the character walking either left or right within each scene and the ‘up’ cursor or ‘w’ used to interact with hotspots in the environment.

It’s also a horror game. And it’s not the ghouls and ghosts kind; it begins with a suicide and things get stranger and sadder from there on in.

When it came to Steam not so long ago, I was very excited. I’d heard good things from friends who know my tastes well and the art style is eye-catching in all the right ways. Half an hour in, I felt like I was leafing through a scrapbook of ideas cribbed from other horror games and novels though, rather than something that had its own reason to be. Then Downfall, the developer’s follow-up (with few narrative links) came along and I played it a few months after release and adored its story, which is equal parts The Shining, Silent Hill 2 and something quite fresh. It’s funny as well as creepy, which is what sold me on it eventually.

Now I’m thinking it’s time to revisit The Cat Lady.

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  1. Kefren says:

    Actually, Downfall came first; then The Cat Lady; then a revamped version of Downfall. I think.

    • Kefren says:

      I played the original Downfall and enjoyed it more than The Cat Lady, but maybe it was the newness of it. The Cat Lady is an excellent continuation if you enjoy that style and mood though.

  2. sicanshu says:

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts if and when you do give this one another shot. Normally I give horror (even psychological horror) games a wide berth, but someone recommended this to me based on my love of the Blackwell games (which are almost, but not entirely, unlike this game), and damn if it didn’t get its claws into me. I’ll grant you that the first half hour lacks cohesion, but once the ball really gets rolling, whew. I think what sticks with me most is that, for a game so intent on plumbing the abject depths of human misery and depravity, The Cat Lady is also shot through with a small but undeniable undercurrent of hope, and even humor.

  3. kalirion says:

    Played it, loved it. Have Downfall on my wishlist, but I’m not sure, based on what I saw of the Downfall’s protagonist in one Cat Lady scene.

  4. DrPolito says:

    I played it on recommendation of a friend, who composes music for indie games, and he said, the sound design ans music is subtle and worth checking out. If it weren’t for him, I honestly wouldn’t have played it far. The beginning drags on and on.
    But then every chapter introduces something new and I just kept playing, because I was surprised again and again. No big surprises, but the style and the story kept me in the dark, about what would be possible in this game, storywise and gameplaywise as well.
    And I like the subtleties: Like because of the art style, Susan looks like an old, f***ed up woman in the beginning, and stronger and more confident later on. I really liked that.

    And on a side note: My girlfriend, who never played games before, was suddenly playing it one day, because she liked the art style and the simple controls. And the story later on. Then she played Downfall and the nThe Walking Dead, and now she plays stuff like Dishonored. So I’m very thankful to the people who made this game ;)

  5. twaitsfan says:

    This was an amazing game – I’m surprised that RPS hasn’t had more about it.

  6. Vorig says:

    Possibly the slowest game I’ve ever played (still playing it!), but it does have excellent writing. If that’s your bag, you’ve found your game.

  7. Sin Vega says:

    It has big problems but it got its hooks into me and I was an emotional wreck by the end. More dark games about friendship please.

  8. Sigwolf says:

    Love this game. Such an amazing emotional experience. Played most of it at night on vacation in a mountain cabin after my wife went to sleep. That helped amp up the isolation vibe, and fostered the creepy atmosphere. The voice-acting from the lead is absolutely awesome.

    • RicoXIII says:

      Oh, now i´m jealous now of your setting while playing this ^.^
      I played at night because i kinda knew what i would get myself into, but damn that was a great rollercoaster of anxiety, tears and even some laughing!

  9. ToomuchFluffy says:

    Well, I haven’t played a lot of games with good stories, but The Cat Lady is one of the few. Strong atmosphere and good writing. I can’t emphasize enough how competently Michalski handled these kind of difficult topics.

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