Review: Milkmaid of the Milky Way
Developer: Mattis Folkestad
Platform: PC, Mac, iOS
The adventure game genre is one which simply refuses to die. Over 25 years have passed since the slapstick humour of Monkey Island and its ilk captured our gaming hearts. Then, as always, the newer, flashier thing grabbed our attention. Adventure games have slowly dragged themselves along ever since, gasping for life, bolstered by the occasional remake or indie title.
Milkmaid of the Milky Way is one of those titles. Everything about this game calls back to those days, from pixel art to music to animation. It may look extremely retro (because, you know, it is), but it’s proof positive that the feeling of a place can be invoked with little more than a handful of pixels and some evocative sound.
Even the story is simple. Milkmaid takes place in rural 1920s Norway, where our titular milkmaid Ruth works alone on a mountainside dairy farm. Her father and mother having passed away, every day is much the same: milking the cows, creating butter and cheese for market, then taking those same cows out to graze. For a woman with a sharp mind and a restless heart, the prospect of running out her natural life alone in a creaking shack is wearing. Then things take a turn for the cosmic, and Ruth’s true mettle is tested.
It’s a simple story, well-told. The twist is that Mattis Folkestad, the one-man development team, has written the entire thing in rhyme. Every item description, every action, every piece of dialogue. It’s a bit of a stretch to jam some things into a couplet, but mostly they land. It gives the game character it might otherwise have lacked and doesn’t wear on the nerves – and it’s like Child of Light, which is never not a good thing.
Gameplay is nothing you haven’t seen before in an adventure game. Ruth picks up items and applies them to her environment with a simple click-and-drag interface. Occasionally, there’s something which requires timing, but for the most part it’s the same sedate, wandering experience that most adventure games offer. You’ll spend your time running back and forth across the maps, trying to find the right tab A to insert your slot B. It’s hard to mess it up. Milkmaid doesn’t.
That said, the game hasn’t stayed entirely in the past. The awkward, lumbering gait of your Leisure Suit Larry types has been tossed away for more modern conveniences. For instance, certain conversations split into dialogue trees – though really, they’re more about tone than topic. Ruth can be honest, sardonic or vague as the player might wish. It doesn’t impact much at all – really, anything at all – but it allows the player to colour Ruth with a bit more personality than she might otherwise have had. Being mostly about feelings of hopelessness and getting stuck in life, there’s not a lot of room for jokes, even if Milkmaid does throw out some pretty good ones.
But we’re not here for the jokes. We’re here for those sweet, sweet puzzles, and Milkmaid delivers like so many pats of creamy mountain butter. In Ruth’s pokey little fjord farm, things start off simple and slowly ramp up. You repair your chimney, find your milk bucket. Normal farm things. As the game gets a bit more spacey, the problems become bigger, yet remain quite easy to solve. The bear of this genre has always been ‘moon logic’ puzzles: solutions which make no rational sense and can only be arrived at by trying every item you have until one clicks. Milkmaid hits this once or twice, but mostly, things stay in the realm of actual human common sense.
The biggest ding against Milkmaid of the Milky Way is its runtime. Allowing for a generous portion of running in confused circles, the whole thing clocks in at two or three hours. On Steam, it’s a hair too pricey at $7.99; on mobile, it’s just right at $3.99.For a one-man project, it’s very impressive, and surprisingly emotionally poignant. For a brief visit to the fjords and the days of adventure games past, Milkmaid of the Milky Way is the way to go.
|A simple jaunt through the days of adventure games past. Milkmaid of the Milky Way evokes all those old feelings with a fun, if very short, story about living your own life.||3.5 3.5 ( on 5 rating)|