Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Cat Lady

It's painful to see good stories gone bad. It's especially painful for one who would wish to tell tales but can only spew drivel. For me, a worthless dimwit, an utter failure, a loser in every way, the beginning of a story like The Cat Lady always holds the hope of catharsis, of showing the despair of being immersed in this putrid animalistic, seething, parasitic detritus that is humanity... and the inevitably saccharine ending is always the more painful for it. I am sick of tales of redemption and newfound hope.

But I suppose I should start with the basics. I'm filing this under "games" as a formality. I bought The Cat Lady on a whim as part of my foray into adventure games. In reality it's less of a game, less of a task-oriented struggle, and, like Dinner Date, more of a theater sketch filled with perfunctory, trivial audience participation. In the technical sense it holds to one unusual gimmick, a mouseless interface, which neither adds to nor detracts from its quality. There are quite a few bugs and one or two obscure clues, but generally you just follow the standard adventure game routine of gathering all possible clues so that you can MacGyver together something which advances the plot. Puzzles are generally simplistic: try all options until something clicks. Despite the appearance of choice at numerous points in the plot, it's almost entirely linear, with a few steps right before the end varying the ending monologue slightly. So follow your heart without qualms. You're doomed to a sappy life-affirming bullshit ending anyway.

Don't get me wrong. The game starts out very strong, and continues to be interesting through at least the first half. Only during the last chapter or two does it devolve into rampant optimism. The visuals are great, the sound has gripping moments, the dialogue's quite good, but it's the story which matters, and that story was entirely destroyed by a pathetically feeble conclusion. Susan Ashworth has no right to hope. Her metaphysical journey should have ended in reality, in ash. For such an excellent portrayal of one of life's losers, she should have ended how she began: "Thanks for nothing. Goodbye." We are all worth only ash, and the few of us who understand it, live it, should not be bombarded with false hope. Yes, I'm aware of the ironic Misery reference. I know the author knows some of us will react as I have. I could've been this game's number one fan. But you didn't destroy the title character, and that's the cruelest betrayal of your own creation.

Susan had no right to learn how to smile. We cat-ladies and dog-men have only one path to tread.

"And travelers now within that valley
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody

While, like a ghastly rapid river

Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh - but smile no more."

Oh, if only I possessed the social skills, the manipulative gift to induce suicide via my disjointed ramblings.
To prod others to greater courage than my own.
I just foam at the mouth and hope some of it sticks.

February 10, 2014
I feel a little guilty about halfway bashing this game. I did have a very strong Miserable reaction to the optimistic ending. I still maintain that the only logical way to end this was to absolutely crush Susan... or rather, me the player as Susan. That's how the world works.
However, I was wrong to say that the story was entirely destroyed by the ending. This is a beautiful, enthralling quasi-game piece of interactive fiction for the most part, and I would gladly recommend it.

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