Life in the fjord has Ruth feeling bored.
I’ve never been able to make up my mind about whether or not I enjoy point-and-click adventure games. The real, true-blue classics (the cream of the crop, as you might call ‘em) hit the PC gaming scene just a bit before my time. While my crazy, half-baked uncles were rattling off machine gun fire in Wolfenstein 3D during family gatherings, I was relegated to a different room in the house, playing with my Fisher Price toy telephone, and entirely unaware that the idea of game narrative was in the middle of a bullish surge toward mainstream adoption. When I got a little older, I made sure to check out Day of the Tentacle, Leisure Suit Larry, and the fantastic King’s Quest series. It was easy to see just how revolutionary these concepts might have felt to an audience that was theretofore exposed primarily to home console variations of stuff like Pac-Man and Space Invaders. But I was stuck making these analyses with my head, not with my heart. I’d simply arrived at the party too late.
I find it very cool that there are still indie studios (and in this case, a one-man-band) that believe wholeheartedly in the lasting influence of the almighty Point-and-Click. I had the opportunity to play an early build of Milkmaid of the Milky Way this past week, and I feel like a little more polish might make it into an experience that imbues with me a few more heart-thoughts than head-thoughts.
Milkmaid of the Milky Way is developer Mattis Folkestad’s take on the enduring (and endearing) eccentricities of a genre that used to be dominated by Sierra Games, prior to its purchase by Activision and subsequent absorption into that publisher’s branding. Ruth, a young farm girl in 1920’s Norway, has had a tough run of things lately. Her family is long gone, and she’s overseen the old milk farm ever since. One day Ruth awakes to find a huge space ship hovering outside her sleepy cabin. Ruth is faced with a tough decision: does she stay at the family farm and keep the milk flowing, or is it time to acknowledge her longing for adventure? You probably don’t need me to tell you which choice keeps the game from ending right away.
Mattis will have a little bit of work to do to iron out some game-breaking bugs, but I never encountered a design flaw that made me question the point of his creation. While playing the preview build, I found myself getting stuck on the terrain every now and then (mostly during the early chapters), and I’d have to restart. But the item interaction, movement speed, and sprite design are all top-notch. I don’t expect to see anything of the sort modified before the game is released on Steam and iOS on January 5th. Milkmaid of the Milky Way also features a surprisingly robust and enchanting soundtrack; it’s easy to forget that point-and-click adventure titles benefit just as much as other, more modern gaming genres from quality music.
I’ve really gotta’ commend Mattis for his decision to deliver the game’s story entirely in rhyme scheme. Every single line of narration—from the description of an item to Ruth’s personal journal—fits into a whimsical, prose-centric theme. Milkmaid of the Milky Way is full of lines like, “They gathered the men and arranged a search, the village went out to look. Even the priest came from the church, but no one was found in neither nanny nor crook.” When I first started playing I had the cynical notion that I’d grow annoyed by the sing-song narrative before too long. But the opposite happened. I don’t think the game would be nearly as charming without it.
I’ll be re-visiting Milkmaid of the Milky Way and expanding upon my initial impressions with a full review for HeyPoorPlayer when the game hits stores on January 5th. If you’ve got a particular aspect of the game you’d like me to focus on, let me know in the comments!