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Video Game / The Cat Lady

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"All I want to do is die. But I have to live..."

"In my head it's like hell
And I don't think I've got the will
In my head it's all pain
God please wash me with your rain"

The Cat Lady is a side-scrolling 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.It eventually became the first game in the Devil Came Through Here thematic trilogy, alongside the 2016 Downfall remake and 2019's Lorelai.

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.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: The Afterworld is explicitly stated to be a gateway of sorts, not the afterlife proper.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The first Sacrifice of Blood necessary to leave the Queen of Maggots' realm and return to the world of the living. Fortunately, it's only temporary.
  • And I Must Scream: One of the possible fates of the last Parasite - if you are able to convince Mitzi not to shoot him, the two of you leave him in the apartment. He is completely paralyzed except for his left eye, and he has just killed his father, his only caretaker. Unless someone comes to check the room, he is doomed to die from either thirst or starvation, both very painful ways to go.
  • Animal Motifs: Cats; to a lesser extent, crows and deer.
  • Anti-Hero: Even the Queen of Maggots mentions that Susan is really a good person underneath her cynicism, making her a Type III.
  • Arc Words: "Don't feed the trolls". This plays a vital part in convincing Mitzi to spare The Eye of Adam who is taunting her in killing him, as killing him would also result in Mitzi's death.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Mitzi, as she examines the room she will rent from Susan while attempting to carry on a conversation.
  • Baldness Means Sickness: Mitzi, who wears a black wig to hide the fact that she's suffering from cancer. 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.
  • Battleaxe Nurse:
  • 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.
  • Blessed with Suck: Susan's view of the "gift" the Queen of Maggots gives her, at least at first.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The final line of the game Press Any Key To Live, unlike most games doesn't exit to the main menu but rather closes the game entirely, sending you back to real life.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: If you get the crow's riddle right, Susan's reward is flowers that turn to ash.
  • Came Back Strong: Susan. Not forever, though - the Queen of Maggots states that Susan is only immortal while the Parasites are around.
  • Cats Are Mean: Averted; Susan's cats actually save her life several times during the course of the story.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Deadly Gas made by mixing bleach and pesticide first pops up when Susan uses it to kill the Second Parasite and reappears at the very end of the game when the Eye Of Adam uses a fish tank's worth to fill his flat with gas.
  • Chekhov's Career: Susan's former career as a nurse is established in dialogue, and she eventually utilizes knowledge from her profession when pointing out the Eye of Adam's eye controller to Mitzi.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Listen carefully to what Liz tells you when talking about herself. The more you answer correctly while she's on the roof threatening to kill herself, the more advantages you'll get later in the game.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Poor, poor Susan.
    The Queen of Maggots: You didn't deserve any of that. And yet, it happened.
  • Council Estate: A passing line of dialogue implies that the crumbling building where Susan lives is this.
  • Crapsack World: Serial killers everywhere, suicide bombings in London, and the only apparent "God" to speak of is the Queen of Maggots.
  • Creepy Doll: The Crow's "daughters", a pair of rather terrifying dolls with wedge-shaped heads. Quite possibly the creepiest things in the game.
    • Susan can grab a doll's head from one of the First Parasite's pictures and use it to build a mace to kill him.
  • Cruel Mercy: Most of the Parasites end up dead at the end of the game, but you can make an exception for Eye of Adam. If you talk Mitzi out of killing him, he gets to spend the rest of his life in a care home, denied the death he craves and the computer he needs to interact with the rest of the world.
  • 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 as Game Mechanic: The protagonist is a resurrective immortal who returns to life in perfect health whenever she dies. One particular puzzle sees her blinded by the villains and requires her to find a gun and commit suicide to restore her vision.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: 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.
  • 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 Problem: 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. It is subtly implied that he is what's become of Susan's stalker, but this is never elaborated on or confirmed.
  • Discovering Your Own Dead Body: Susan does this several times, finding her own body three times in three different positions when she is in the land of the dead.
  • Driven to Suicide: Susan and many other characters, such as: Liz the nurse (at least, that's how it appears), Mitzi's boyfriend and other victims of the Eye of Adam, and Susan's husband.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Surprisingly for a dark story that deals with depression and suicide, it is entirely possible for Susan to save her friend Mitzi from succumbing to her cancer if she survives the final chapter, and turn the Bittersweet Ending into a Surprisingly Happy Ending. However, the game makes you really have to earn the happy end where Mitzi is alive.
  • Eaten Alive: The fourth Parasite, courtesy of Susan's cats.
  • Empty Fridge, Empty Life: Susan's fridge contains nothing except a microwaveable burger and a bottle of sour milk.
  • 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. Although, Adam may have ordered his father to wear the gas mask, but he decided to give it to Susan and Mitzi, which resulted in his own death.
  • Eye Scream: The pest control guy's wife blinds Susan with a bottle of extra-strength bleach.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice: Susan's bathing scene at the beginning of Chapter Five.
  • Fauxshadowing: Much of Joe Davis' subplot builds up to him likely being the Parasite, but he is not. At least in this game.
  • Flower Motifs: The flowers that are given to Susan by her old flame are lilies. Lilies are often used to signify death, and it is these flowers which kill Susan's baby.
  • 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 or Susan kill the Eye of Adam.
    • When Doctor X is first introduced, he tells Susan that his patients are his canvas. It's later revealed that he has been killing female patients and using their dead bodies to recreate fine art.
    • When Susan and Mitzi talk to the Old Man in Chapter 6, he says that when he dies, he will die in his own home and in his own bed. Except for the bed part, this is just what happens in Chapter 7.
  • Golden Ending: The one where Mitzi lives. Though it's ridiculously hard to get and confirmed non-canon.
  • Gratuitous Animal Sidekick: Susan's cats in general, and Teacup in particular.
  • 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. Part of the problem is the game's limitations. For instance, there's no way to check the milk in the fridge for freshness before pouring it into Susan's coffee. If there were, players would be tipped off not to use it. The only way to know it's spoiled is to have Susan use it first. In a similar way, the player learned from the sequence before to look at all objects. looking at everything in Susan's apartment will cause her to break down easier since she gets confronted with bad memories, bills and the likes. The player needs to know in advance what objects are safe to look at.
  • Hand in the Hole: The "Sacrifice of Blood" needed to escape the Queen of Maggots' realm is one of these. It slices off Susan's arm when she activates it.
  • Heroic BSoD: The premise of Chapter 3 is attempting to prevent Susan from having one.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Fourth Parasite, whose demand that Susan play the piano is what summons the cats, who attack and eat him alive.
  • 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...
  • I Lied: The Queen of Maggots states that the price of leaving her realm is simple; blow out a candle in her house, and give a "small scratch" of blood to open the door back to Earth. The Queen neglects to mention that blowing a candle out causes someone to die, and the door's mechanism will cut Susan's arm off.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: Susan's main reason for objecting to Mitzi wanting to kill Eye Of Adam.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The second and third Parasites, the pest control guy and his wife.
  • Improvised Weapon: Susan creates two of these to kill Doctor X. You get the choice of which one to use.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Eric, after having a bad day in a flashback.
  • Interface Screw: When the Third Parasite destroys Susan's eyes with bleach, your entire screen turns black because Susan's cannot see — however, the usual item interaction prompts and the inventory screen still appear, because she can touch them.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Mitzi (20s) and Susan (40s).
  • 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. Justified since he's mad that Susan slacks off on her housework, and that she doesn't welcome him back home anymore; the romance is dying. He may also feel jealous because Zoe takes up quite a bit of Susan's time; most of their argument is about how much time Susan is spending with Zoe.
  • 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.
    • Susan DOES have polite, apologetic responses as well, but using them can make her later actions seem passive/aggressive. It's also worth noting that Bryan goes down to yell at her just after she summons the cats—he apparently doesn't give a damn if he also keeps the neighbors awake with his yelling. Susan can point this out to him, and his response is along the lines of "I don't care if I bother them".
    • Both he and the Dog Lady have another good reason to object to Susan feeding the cats, though it never comes up in-game. A group of stray cats that have not been Trap-Neuter-Returned can breed VERY quickly and become a neighborhood nuisance. Bryan's calling of pest control, however, is more to spite Susan, because nowhere in the game is it stated that anyone else is bothered by them, despite the fact that Susan has been feeding the cats for years. The Dog Lady's objection that "cats spread disease" is unfounded.
  • 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. Even the opening credits are presented as Jump Scares.
  • Karma Houdini: A possible option for the first parasite. If you answered all of Liz's questions correctly, you'll find the key to the exit in her pocket when you discover her corpse later on. Given the ambiguous Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane elements behind her post-mortem appearance to Susan, Liz as a Spirit Advisor may have intended for Susan to escape. However, not killing Doctor X will allow him to kill his latest victim, and he'll escape justice when that part of the building is destroyed, burying all evidence of his madness.
  • 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.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: The second parasite talks to Susan as if he's going to give her a gun so she can Mercy Kill herself after his wife blinds her with a bottle of bleach... then leaves it just out of her reach, because "Life's a real fucker sometimes."
  • 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. This variation only shows up if the father didn't commit suicide or leave home first.
    • Susan's own suicide attempt, while unsuccessful, can be seen as Like Father like Daughter if her dad committed suicide, Like Mother Like Daughter if her mom did, or Like Parents Like Child if both of them did. Susan takes after her parent (or parents) in her suicidal tendencies. Her attempt would have been successful if Mitzi and the Queen of Maggots hadn't intervened.
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: The first parasite describes a woman's scream from being tortured as like 'poetry without words'.
  • Mad Artist: The first parasite is this. He kills his victims and rearranges their bodies with wire so that they'll resemble different pieces of famous art.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "It's just a formality."
    • "Just a... parasite."
    • "Thanks for nothing. Goodbye."
    • "Think of a vegetable while I'm gone."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Susan's second name, Ashworth, describes her own feeling of self-worth (or rather, lack thereof) very fittingly.
      • Ashworth is also the name of one of England's three high security psychiatric hospitals.
    • 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.
  • Multiple-Choice Past:
    • Invoked during Susan's initial discussions with Doctor X - the player is allowed to determine Susan's relationship with her father and mother.
    • Played straight in the climax of the game with Mitzi, who confesses to Susan that she has been lying to her about her mother and that she's really an orphan.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: The first Parasite's hobby. Yes, it is shown in great detail. No, it's not pretty.
  • 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.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The police call mentioned below is made tedious by the officer insisting on filling out a long questionnaire on the nature of Susan's call while completely ignoring the severity of her situation. When she tries to point out this is a life and death situation the officer seems upset she wants to skip the paperwork.
  • 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.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Susan Ashworth's primary goal throughout the game when she's not suicidally depressed is to kill five human monsters called Parasites.
  • Pet the Dog: 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".
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Before you get to kill the first Parasite, you have a choice of these to say. Among them is "What's up, Doc?".
  • Press X to Die: Inverted. At the ending, "PRESS ANY KEY TO LIVE."
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Susan getting killed by the First Parasite, Doctor Xavier Zelmann, enrages her. The utter betrayal shown after she opened herself up and discussed her vulnerabilities to the senior psychiatrist led her to seek the parasite's death more earnestly than any other parasite. She makes it clear that while it's Nothing Personal to the parasite, it's very much personal to her.
    Susan: You treacherous dirty bastard!!! I opened my heart to you... and you stabbed me to death in cold blood!!! You'll pay for this, I swear you will!
  • Scare Chord: All over the place. Even the opening credits pop out with a Scare Chord!
  • Shared Universe: As the cameo of Joe Davis and his... wife indicates, this game takes place in the same universe and continuity as Downfall (2009), the earlier game by the same developer.
    • Confirmed with the release of the Downfall remake, as Susan and Mitzi both appear at the end of the game, implying that the events of Downfall take place after the events of The Cat Lady.
    • And now there is yet a third game sharing the same universe, Lorelai.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "It's a TRAP!!!" and "What's up, Doc?"
    • Mitzi has a poster outright referencing Downfall (2009).
    • The home of the second and third Parasites is laid out like the first floor of the house in Maniac Mansion. When the grandfather clock is checked, Susan will remark ironically about secret passage inside it. Not to mention the third Parasite, an especially terrifying, Ax-Crazy Expy of Nurse Edna.
  • Skewed Priorities: Susan mentions during the failed call to the police that there's cat and human blood in the basement of the people who kidnapped her. The officer focuses on the cat blood and offers to transfer her to an animal cruelty specialist.
  • Stalker with a Crush/Abhorrent Admirer: Susan's nameless admirer in her flashback, as well as the second Parasite, the pest control guy.
  • Starts with a Suicide: The game opens with the main character committing suicide, successfully, only to be resurrected.
  • Surreal Horror: Not exclusively, but you can never tell when the world will suddenly just stop making sense.
  • Tempting Fate: Adam's father when he gives Susan and Mitzi the gas mask to protect them from the poisonous gas. He repeatedly tells Susan and Mitzi that Adam won't kill him, as he is all he has left in the world. This goes about as well as you'd expect.
  • Terms of Endangerment: The second Parasite continuously refers to Susan as 'sweetheart', 'pussycat' etc.
  • 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.
  • Title Drop: An optional one occurs after Susan saves a woman from the psychotic parasite Doctor X. When the woman asks for the name of her savior, Susan has the option of saying, "They call me 'The Cat Lady'."
  • 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.
    • There's also Eric, who mostly sounds like a continental European somewhat trying to do a London accent.
  • Wham Line: Susan sees the Queen of Maggots behind Mitzi, and after confusing Mitzi for a parasite at first, Susan realizes 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. It is suggested he may be the 4th Parasite, his obsession having driven him to inhuman madness.
  • What the Hell, Player?: In "Revenge" ending, Susan clearly mentions that because she is immortal, there was no reason to keep the gas mask for herself and sacrifice Mitzi's life in the process.
  • Zombie Gait:
    • The third Parasite, the pest control guy's wife. Seriously, a human being does not walk like that.
    • Susan also makes use of this trope when she gets a dose of medicine in the hospital and transports into some sort of alternative dimension version of the hospital. So, maybe the third Parasite isn't a Humanoid Abomination, s/he is just constantly high on something.

"One day I will get there, I know I will. Even if takes me not nine, but nine hundred lives."