GAME REVIEW – Milkmaid of the Milky Way (PC)

By Marty Mulrooney

milkmaid-of-the-milky-way

Milkmaid of the Milky Way is a ’90s style point-and-click adventure game created by Norwegian indie developer Mattis Folkestad, aka Machineboy. Set on a remote farm in a faraway fjord in 1920’s Norway, players take control of a lonely young milkmaid named Ruth. It’s a tough life of churning butter and cooking cheese to make ends meet. Then a mysterious golden spaceship turns up and steals all the cows…

Deep in a fjord, a girl and her bovine,
Western Norway, nineteen-twenty-nine.
This is a story from Calf Ledge,
a small farm perched on a mountain edge.

Like the very best point-and-click adventure games of years gone by, Milkmaid of the Milky Way makes the relatively mundane feel captivating and exciting. Despite a lack of voice acting and graphical definition (by modern standards), the world of Calf Ledge is picturesque, quaint and inviting. There isn’t a lot of unnecessary exposition. Instead, it soon becomes apparent that Ruth lives a somewhat lonely life that she nonetheless takes great pride in maintaining.  Her inventory contains a single item as the adventure begins: her diary. Before exploring the fjord, it’s well worth reading through to gain a full understanding of Ruth’s current situation.

Exploring Ruth’s world is a wonderful, humbling experience. It’s a simple, rhythmic affair of pure pointing and clicking. Despite the farm and the surrounding area consisting of only a few ‘screens’, the sense of time, place and scale is impressive indeed. A quaint sense of realism pervades that is both endearing and fascinating. There is also an underlying current of unease: the game begins with Ruth tossing and turning in bed during a violent thunderstorm that seems to go far beyond mere nature alone. Something is amiss. Ruth and her cows aren’t alone…

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Another restless night. Luckily the storm had passed.
The fields were wet but the sun was rising fast.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now from the trailer embedded above and the included quotes, Milkmaid of the Milky Way is written completely in rhyme. It’s a charming quirk that was previously used in Ubisoft’s Child of Light with great success. There is of course the occasional awkward or stilted line, but overall the writing is strong and the lyrical nature of the narration and conversations elevates an already unique experience. There are even some subtle nods and clever winks to the classic adventure games of yore, which will no doubt be much appreciated by longtime fans of the genre.

Without giving too much away, an unidentified flying object eventually turns up and steals Ruth’s cows. Being a woman of action and strong moral fibre, she gives chase. What follows is a superb second act that calls to mind the classic action-adventure platformer Another World by legendary French video game designer Éric Chahi (despite the obvious differences in gameplay). This second act is where the majority of the inventory-based puzzle solving takes place and thankfully, the puzzles are – for the most part – well designed, logical and fun to figure out.

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On the tree that had taken root,
branches were filled with fruit.

There is also a surprising amount of emotion packed into the narrative. Conversations are kept brief but each character Ruth encounters has a fully formed personality and, although the premise of the game may sound almost comical, the story is seldom played for laughs. There is plenty of gentle humour to be found throughout, but the stakes are incredibly high and very real. It’s amazing how much genuine pathos can be achieved with just a handful of pixels and a bucketful of creativity.

Unequivocal, genuine complaints are few and far between. The main sticking point for many players will be the short 3-4 hour length – which is undeniable – but that seems rather silly in the end when the game and its modest intentions have been so perfectly realised. Milkmaid of the Milky Way is currently selling for £4.79 on Steam, which seems a fair price for an indie game of this calibre. It may be short, but it’s also extremely sweet. I would certainly love to see Mattis Folkestad tackling a larger adventure game project in the future.

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“Old days, I must leave you behind.
My future is elsewhere, today I’m unconfined.”

Overall, it’s been decided,
Milkmaid of the Milky Way won’t be derided.
Yes it’s short, that much is true,
but while you’re playing there’s lots to do!
You’ll save some cows, meddle with age, liberate an alien race.
These moments will leave you with a smile on your face.
It’s not hard to see why, in the end,
Milkmaid of the Milky Way is easy for AMO to recommend.

8 OUT OF 10

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