The Cat Lady is an action-adventure video game reminiscent of vintage titles, with one very distinct exception: Old, 8-bit style games didn’t have dark themes like suicide and gore. What it lacks in modern graphic ingenuity, The Cat Lady more than makes up for in nostalgic charm edged with creepy fringe.
New to the Steam platform, players can purchase this PC game for $9.99 (or less, given its frequent appearance in Indie video game bundles), or purchase a disc copy from the official website store.
The following review is based on my initial game-play of The Cat Lady, and is limited to first impressions – no major plot spoilers here, beyond the opening storyline!
When is a game creepy, and when is it just depressing?
Within the first few minutes of the game, players are introduced to our heroine, Sarah. Unfortunately, Sarah is extremely depressed, and sees no value in staying alive; within the introduction, Sarah consumes a large amount of sedatives, and dies. Seriously – that’s the very beginning of this quest, Sarah saying goodbye to her beloved cats (who may or may not eat her once she’s dead).
Moving along, we see Sarah enter some sort of Afterlife. What appears at first to be a lovely, sunset-illuminated landscape quickly becomes eerie, and then downright macabre — from mangled wildlife to reoccurring duplicates of Sarah’s own lifeless body in increasingly disturbing locations. Needless to say, this quickly and efficiently sets the tone for this action video game, and it does so with impressive efficiency.
What’s with all these locked doors? This isn’t suspense – this is obnoxious!
There is a fine line between setting up realistic, puzzle-based obstacles in action-adventure PC games, and forcing the player to go through monotonous, redundant challenges. Within a few minutes of game-play, I dubbed this title “The Locked Door” instead of The Cat Lady, because the first challenges presented are almost exclusively a locked barrier between you and the next scene.
Especially in a vintage interface without mouse support and only minimal keyboard buttons at their disposal, the game designers are left with an even bigger challenge of creation the immersion that makes a video game truly scary. Locked doors, shadowed corridors, and ominous dialog is a great beginning, and thankfully The Cat Lady gradually has more variety in its “creepy elements.”
Side-scrolling graphics and a clunky interface, oh my!
One huge challenge for The Cat Lady is presenting a compelling and complex enough storyline to lure modern gamers into its vintage world. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed such a basic, side-scrolling title this much; the character models and music isn’t much more complex, although I found the voice acting to be top-notch given the obviously low budget for this title. Sarah is convincingly depressing and glum from the very beginning, and the old woman you meet in the woods is a delightful mix of treacherous granny and guttural demon-thing.
In Conclusion: Worth the $10 for certain.
The Cat Lady is a compelling, if macabre and slightly confusing, addition to any video game library. I waited months to pick this one up on Steam, and now that it’s supported on Valve’s addictive video game marketplace I highly recommend picking it up. It’s nostalgia with a twist – and that twist is a collection of elements we’d never have seen make it to publication and release twenty years ago on the Nintendo Entertainment System or the Sega Genesis. Instead, modern gamers can take a trek back into the roots of action gaming, while following a dark and creepy storyline full of death, deception, and doom.