One of the best adventure games I’ve ever played kinda quits being an adventure game an hour or so in And blossoms into a bizarre hybrid a narrative game that spends half its time telling the story of a beautiful friendship between Susan, a depressed loner whose only prior company were the stray cats she summoned with sad-ass piano tunes, and Mitzi, a young homeless woman and terminal cancer patient. The Cat Lady sets all phasers to melancholy, pairing up two of the most hopeless and unfortunate souls in order to show us that as long as we’re still kicking, there’s still time to love, baby. You’ll spend the other half of The Cat Lady playing as an immortal demigod whose only remaining purpose is to seek out irredeemably monstrous people and kill them in the most gruesome, thematically vindictive ways possible. But it takes rough turn of events to get there. See, Susan reaches the height of despair in the opening moments of the game. She makes the awful decision to end her own life, but wakes up in a dirty stinky fieldan afterlife I can believe in where she’s instructed by an eldritch horror named The Queen of Maggots to rid the world of five psychopaths she lovingly refers to as parasites. From there on the game basically becomes an inverse Se7en, where you already know ‘what’s in the box’ and hunt down the crew of monstrous serial killers that put it there. These killers get off by preying on innocents in some pretty grotesque ways. It’s all accompanied with surreal, layered art that mixes a paperdoll aesthetic with photography for a truly unique multimedia look. This is a grimy, serene world punctuated in equal parts by absolute stillness and graphic violence. The puzzles shift from traditional item-hunting, trial-and-error tests to more of an interactive walking sim, where you occasionally set up Home-Alone-esque death traps for each of the themed murderers, ensuring they die writhing around in a pool of dramatic irony. And even though you’re going up against a crew of unfeeling butchers, there’s no fail state or genuine threat to Susan. If she dies, she’s resurrected immediately. so The Cat Lady is a great fit for horror fans that don’t like the high anxiety that comes with running from monsters in Amnesia or Resident Evil 2. But it hasn’t aged perfectly. The licensed music is laughably bad, but I find that kind of aged cheese endearing. And the greater mythos doesn’t always line up with the mental health themes or make much internal sense at all, but they’re expanded in and improved upon two other games, Downfall and Lorelai. They each feature characters from The Cat Lady and really dig into what the Queen of Maggots is all about. The Cat Lady is simultaneously goofy and sentimental, an exercise in justice and comic violence that doesn’t always seem to match up with the dead serious subject matter, but this is a game ultimately about persistence against the pain of existing, and the fleeting bits of catharsis we find in one another, or the even smaller bits buried in the microscopic nodules of hope we’re able to conjure up in our darkest moments. And if those nodules take the form of graphic revenge fantasies against genuinely evil people, we’ll take ’em.