Milkmaid of the Milkyway’s tranquil pixel art landscapes and rhyming couplets are intertwined with pillars of melancholy that seize your heart, suddenly and without permission. It’s a melancholy worth pursuing, however, not only because shrinkingly few games latch onto your emotions so powerfully, but because of the offbeat humour and a magnificent plot twist that is quite literally out of this world.
Dairy farmer Ruth lives on a sleepy mountain fjord tending the cows, but in her heart, she’s a young, self-sacrificing scientist whose parents have breathed their last, leaving behind cooking recipes to keep her company instead. It’s heartbreaking, but as you manoeuvre Ruth through the plain beauty of 1920’s Norway, you start to forget. The story is embedded in a frame of classic adventure game puzzles, and true to their obscure yet delightful roots, they’re genuinely challenging and sometimes frustrating, definitely a venture for seasoned adventure gamers.
Hints decorate the pages of Ruth’s notebook, but even simple tasks like churning butter and salting the cheese require you to think outside the box. Her witty, amusing, and sometimes philosophical commentary adds a surprising level of depth to each action. This prompts a desire to explore every pixel of Milkmaid of the Milkyway’s beautiful screens, awash in a serene, muted palette: green pastures, humble mountains, and rugged cliffsides all quietly shout for attention, but never demand it outright. Eventually, Ruth is transported from simple country life into a time-travelling journey across the universe. Yet the pacing remains calm, and the surrounding atmospheric melodies that are equal parts Studio Ghibli and Stranger Things are in perfect alignment. The only thing that breaks the flow are (the very rare) jittery animations when Ruth tries sitting on a rock overlooking her home, and the tiny item icons on the bottom of the screen which don’t always respond to touch or being dragged - the latter of which would likely vanish with the precision of a mouse.
Interacting with NPCs introduces a novel, choice-based element into gameplay, and while the results are still linear, the frightening, bizarre turn of events is more than enough to keep players invested till the very end. Don’t be fooled by the brevity of Ruth’s adventure either, which belies rich, emotional magnitude and a tightly condensed package of wonderfully imaginative writing - I’ll never be able to explain how laconic, structured rhymes manage to be more bittersweet than plain language ever could.
A soul-searching tale of exquisite sensitivity, Machineboy's Milkmaid of the Milkyway is an aesthetically splendid debut that charms effortlessly by virtue of its poetry-driven narrative, nuanced humour and gentle soundtrack. Although the difficult puzzles are perhaps better suited to hardcore fans of the genre, it’s definitely worth powering through for the uplifting resolution.
Milkmaid of the Milky Way (Reviewed on iOS)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
A mature, aesthetically splendid debut that charms effortlessly by virtue of its poetry-driven narrative, quaint artistry, and subtle humour. Occasionally obscurity aside, Milkmaid of the Milkyway is a stellar little gem.