The Cat Lady is a side-scrolling, story-heavy horror adventure game developed and released in 2012 by Harvester Games, also known for their 2009 game Downfall.Susan Ashworth, known in her neighborhood as the crazy Cat Lady, is a lonely 40-year-old who successfully commits suicide. However, upon death she finds herself in the Afterworld, where she is greeted by a strange old woman who calls herself the Queen of Maggots. The old woman grants Susan immortality and sends her back on one condition: Susan must kill five deranged and ruthless "Parasites" who will attempt to hurt Susan -- and others, if they are not stopped. Through the course of the game, Susan must confront herself and her own demons as she fights these Parasites for survival.The game has been critically lauded, particularly for its story, visual style, and voice talent, especially with regards to how these elements combine to form a compelling depiction of depression. It was also a popular subject of Let's Play runs during its Steam Greenlight campaign. The campaign was successful, and the game is now available for download from Steam.You can also purchase it from a variety of providers through its website.Not to be confused with the Crazy Cat Lady trope.Due to the game's very high Story to Gameplay Ratio, expect frequent spoiler tags below.
Tropes present in this game:
Acid Trip Dimension: The alternative dimension version of the hospital, to where Susan is transported after getting a dose of medicine, makes this trope's name quite literal. The Afterworld, where Susan goes after her death, also qualifies.
Adult Fear: Susan's baby Zoe had a rare allergy to pollen. Susan, not knowing, left a bouquet of flowers in her room and left the window open, then got into a row with her husband and did not notice as a storm began outside and Zoe began to suffocate.
Bald Woman: Mitzi, who wears a black wig to hide her condition. She removes her wig to earn Susan's trust, who suspects her of being a Parasite after witnessing the Queen of Maggots materialising behind her.
Bechdel Test: Passes with flying colors. Susan and Mitzi have a close friendship, and they talk about a wide variety of subjects. The cast has many members of both genders.
Bedlam House: The mental care hospital where Susan goes to after her first suicide is not entirely the same as a mental ward, but otherwise it fits the trope perfectly. The main problem is that Doctor X keeps killing the staff, leaving it chronically understaffed.
Averted by the ward guards, who, although being firm in not letting Susan leave the ward without permission, and forcibly restraining her as she is injected with a sedative, always interact with her in a respectful manner, even if she's rude to them.
Berserk Button: Susan HATES flowers because her infant daughter was killed by pollen from a bouquet.
Beware the Nice Ones: Mitzi, as she pulls out a gun to confront the Eye of Adam and threatens to shoot him dead.
Bittersweet Ending: What you get depending on the choices you make throughout the course of the game. Although Susan successfully defeats all the Parasites and manages to find the strength to face living again, Mitzi either succumbs to her cancer or is killed in the explosion when she shoots the Eye of Adam. While most endings are this, however, there is a secret Golden Ending where Susan gets over her depression and Mitzi survives.
In an interview, the creator said that he considers the ending where Mitzi spares the Eye of Adam and later succumbs to cancer to be canon.
Cynicism Catalyst: Due to the Queen of Maggots' intervention in Susan's suicide, Susan becomes even more cynical than she was after her Despair Event Horizon, as now she knows that even death holds no solace for her. Exactly how cynical she becomes depends on the influence of the player.
Deadly Gas: Pops up a few times in the form of the deadly hydrogen sulfide. Mitzi's boyfriend uses it to kill himself, Susan uses it to kill the second Parasite, and the Eye of Adam uses it to attempt to kill Susan and Mitzi, claiming his own father's life in the process.
Death Is Cheap: Given that Susan becomes immortal in the first chapter. Despite this, the whole thing still manages to be pants-soilingly terrifying.
Susan deliberately kills herself at least once — possibly more, depending on how you interpret the dream sequences.
Despair Event Horizon: Susan crossed it prior to the events of the game, as evidenced by the opening sequence in which she successfully commits suicide. The player eventually gets to play through Susan's memories of the event, the death of her child during a heated argument with her husband.
Diabolus Ex Nihilo/Outside-Context Villain: Only two of the Parasites, Doctor X and the Eye of Adam, are introduced to players in some way and given any build-up. The other three just sort of pop out unexpectedly, which is admittedly part of their scary factor. The most egregious example of this, however, is the fourth Parasite. Not only does he lack a name or personality, he doesn't even speak like a proper human being.
Eaten Alive: The fourth Parasite, courtesy of Susan's cats.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The second and the third Parasites seem to genuinely care about each other, albeit in a horribly dysfunctional way. Completely averted with the last Parasite, who kills his own elderly father who has always been taking care of him.
Fan Disservice: At one point in the game you stumble upon a real life recreation of "Venus of Urbino" made with a woman's long-decaying corpse.
Fauxshadowing: Much of Joe Davis' subplot builds up to him likely being the Parasite, but he is not. At least in this game.
Foreshadowing: Liz's story about the woman in the emergency ward who set her oxygen tanks on fire trying to light a cigarette, if you hear it, is a hint to what will happen if Mitzi shoots the Eye of Adam.
Guide Dang It: Unless the player has inhuman intuition, it is impossible to prevent Susan's breakdown in Chapter 3 without already knowing what to do, either from a walkthrough, a previous playthrough, or Save Scumming, and consequently it is impossible to get the Golden Ending on a raw first pass.
Humanoid Abomination: The Queen of Maggots and likely the Third Parasite, the pest control guy's wife.
Heroic BSOD: The premise of Chapter 3 is attempting to prevent Susan from having one.
Hope Spot: Susan meets Mitzi who had saved Susan's life by calling the ambulance in Chapter 4 and wants to be her lodger and friend. All seems well until the Queen of Maggots materialises behind Mitzi, thus giving the player the strong implication that Mitzi is actually another parasite who wants to torment Susan, and Susan almost starts another breakdown when she realises that she has been tricked again, after the Doctor X incident. Subverted, however, when it turns out that Mitzi is not a parasite, and genuinely does want to be her lodger and friend. The Queen of Maggots actually appeared behind Mitzi for another reason...
It's Personal: Mitzi's motive for lodging with Susan and finding the Eye of Adam.
Jerkass: Susan's husband Eric comes across as this when we meet him in a flashback to when he was still alive.
Jerkass Has a Point: Bryan, Susan's neighbor, doesn't take well to her playing the piano and letting the cats in late at night and threatens to call pest control. He's actually right: people who have work, family and other duties need rest and a good night's sleep. Susan, however, treats him like crap.
Jump Scare: Here's a good drinking game: take a drink each time you encounter one of these. You'll get alcohol poisoning by the beginning of Chapter 3.
The opening credits are presented as Jump Scares.
Knights and Knaves: This is one of the puzzles that shows up. When you meet the Crow, he'll give you the option of two doors to go through. They're guarded by his "daughters", one who always tells the truth and the other who always lies. The puzzle is played absolutely straight, and because there's a Dialogue Tree it isn't hard to find the correct answer, but the presentation is so effective that you'll probably want to deliberately fail the puzzle.
Like Father, Like Son: During a session with Doctor X, when Susan must recollect her past, you have an option to say that Susan's mother committed suicide. And in both cases, the suicide was preceded by a fight with their husbands.
Meaningful Name: Susan's second name, Ashworth, describes her own feeling of self-worth (or rather, lack thereof) very fittingly.
The Eye of Adam is heavy with potential symbolic interpretations and Big Brother Is Watching connotations, but applies in a more literal sense when it becomes clear that Adam is crippled and can only communicate — or do anything at all — by moving his eye.
Messianic Archetype: Susan comes back from the dead and becomes immortal for the sake of fighting the Parasites. And, in case it all was too subtle for you, in the very first chapter of the game, we see her crucified.
Near Death Clairvoyance: After being revived from her initial death, Susan gains some form of this, occasionally having visions related to death and the Afterworld.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The fourth Parasite ties Mitzi up and tries to hang her while forcing Susan to play piano. She plays the piano, it summons the cats, who proceed to knock the Parasite down and devour him.
The Eye of Adam's refusal/inability to turn off the poison gas when Mitzi and Susan obtain the gas mask ends up killing his father and damning him to a Fate Worse than Death if Mitzi doesn't shoot him.
Obviously Evil: The first Parasite, Doctor X. You might be mistaken about just how evil s/he is, though.
Orphan's Ordeal: Mitzi. Inverted with Susan and her husband - it's the death of their baby daughter that sends them both over the edge.
Pet The Cat: Susan's happy, welcoming reaction to the cats when she summons them in Chapter 3. Given that Susan's vocal inflection is usually dry and affectless, it's almost stunning to hear her so enthusiastic.
Plot Triggering Death: The Queen of Maggot's plan to exterminate the Parasites is only set into motion once Susan takes her own life.
Police Are Useless: If you try to call the police during the segment when one of the parasites kidnaps Susan, the police officer on the other end of the phone will hold a long and tedious conversation with Susan before discovering she was recently discharged from the psychiatric ward of the hospital and concluding she's just a crazy person who needs a doctor more than actual police assistance.
The Power of Friendship: All it takes to make Mitzi abandon the thought of shooting the Eye of Adam is four words from Susan: "I care about you".
Thanatos Gambit: If Mitzi shoots the Eye of Adam, he manages to pull it off.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: If the player has the Flat 5 key and have Mitzi pick the lock in Joe Davis' flat, Mitzi will complain that she is unable to pick the lock and suggest to look for the key. Susan will reply that the key will be impossible to find lying around...then calls herself an idiot as she realises that she already has the key to the flat.
Threshold Guardian: The Queen of Maggots guards the threshold between life and death. Susan, who wishes to die, has no choice but to accept her quest in some form, as the Queen of Maggots will not let her pass forward into death, and so Susan's only option is to return to the world of the living.
Took a Level in Badass: Susan gets one at the end of Chapter 4, when she kills the second Parasite with a batch of poisonous gas, then relentlessly hunts down and blows away the third Parasite with a shotgun, wearing a creepy gas mask the entire time. A far cry from the depressed, suicidal, despairing woman we meet at the beginning of the story.
Took a Level in Kindness: Susan develops from a cold, bitter and lonely woman into a warmer, more approachable and selfless individual throughout the game.
Troll: Mitzi is introduced into the story during an attempt to track down 'Eye of Adam', a troll who goaded her boyfriend into killing himself.
Unexplained Accent: There's really not much reason for the Queen of Maggots to have a not-quite-French, not-quite-German accent.
Wham Line: Susan sees the Queen of Maggots behind Mitzi, and after confusing Mitzi for a parasite at first, Susan realises that Mitzi is actually in danger and is going to die, and tries to warn her.
Mitzi: I know.
What Happened to the Mouse?: So what happened to Susan's admirer that calls her in the flashback with her husband? Susan never mentions having any more contact with him.
Write What You Know: In case Downfall didn't make this clear, Remigiusz Michalski, the maker of both games, is really well familiar with the world of mental disorders. He's also a nurse (kinda like Susan), he said he had known a person who had suffered from severe depression. There are moments in this game when Susan stands on a bridge and recites very depressing poems in prose - Michalski said that these are the poems that one of his acquaintances (female) has written.