IFReviewed by Andrew Plotkin on 2006-06-25 08:59
This is a (non-supernatural) horror storyline. Unfortunately, it's not very horrific. To explain why, I'm going to go into more detail about the storyline than most of these reviews, so skip the rest if you dislike spoilers.
It begins with a station wagon pacing you on a dark, foggy night. This is a good start, actually; the thing creeps alongside you as you walk home, betraying no sign of what's inside. It lets you get nearly all the way, too.
Then it stops, blocking you from your house, and... a man and six lions get out. This is my first problem; in fact, my first two problems. I don't think you can get six lions in a station wagon without a blender. Ok, that's a quibble. But the lions just aren't very scary. Maybe our culture has desensitized us with "noble hunter" images, but even so, when you look around and the game says "...You also see a lion, a lioness, and four lion cubs," it's not doing enough to get the mood across.
So you spend some time running from lions. This picks up the pace again, as you wander around a claustrophobic maze of streets. (Although there are some odd hitches -- for example, until you take your first step away from the car, you can wait as long as you want with no response from the lions or their owner.)
So you finally get in contact with someone who will help. You go back to a friend's house... and then the game pretty much ends. The place of safety turns out to be the lions' den, pardon me for grounding my own metaphor, and you're drugged. (Without even the grace of typing "drink liquid" yourself; the game just tells you you've done it.) You can't move.
So you spend the last twenty moves typing "wait" and watching some people be gratuitously exhibitionistic and then kill you. I must regard this as a failure of pacing. There isn't much explanation, either, except that for a hint that you were... hard to work with at the office?
It's hard to avoid comparing this with the Laurell Hamilton "Anita Blake" novels, which have included some hellishly charged scenes of sex, violence, and leopards. (Were-leopards, in fact.) Those worked because of the prose, the clear evocation of the emotional currents behind the events, and the fact that Anita wasn't a passive victim. (Was, in fact, active enough to eventually make mincemeat of the were-leopard and anyone else that annoyed her. I realize that Cattus Atrox was never intended to have a happy ending. But it should have an involving ending; that's the strength of interactive fiction, we generally agree.)