Intrigued by the title, I downloaded Milkmaid of the Milky Way on somewhat of a whim, not really sure what to expect. The premise seemed odd enough to be fun, but also conceptual enough to be a disaster. To my pleasure (and a little to my surprise) it was definitely the former.
Although the game has a few flaws, if you're a fan of point-and-click adventure games, love a good story with science fiction elements, or have a soft spot for poetry, you'll likely find Milkmaid of the Milky Way pretty entertaining.
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Story and Setting
Set in Norway during the 1920s, you play as Ruth, a mountain dwelling Milkmaid who spends her days running the family farm and making delicious dairy products. One day, Ruth wakes up to find some of her tools along with her trusty milk bucket are missing and she needs to find them so she can milk the cows. This is where your adventure begins.
The game does a very little to reinforce the setting of the 1920s to the point where I wonder what the point of including it in the app description is even necessary. While there doesn't seem to be any technology around, Ruth lives on a mountainside farm so it's not hard to imagine that would be the case regardless the time period. They game does make sure to point out (on two occasions) that Ruth is wearing pants instead of a dress, so I suppose that's something.
Where Milkmaid of the Milky Way really shines is in its storytelling, and something you should know about me, I love a good story. What seems like a very bland story about a Norwegian milkmaid, quickly becomes the story of a young woman saving an entire alien race from an evil dictatorship. Feel like that made a hard left turn? That's exactly how you feel while playing the game, and it's probably how Ruth feels, which helps add to the connection you feel with her. Life was hard for Norwegian milkmaids in the 1920s.
While that connection with Ruth is established pretty early on, the optional backstory — which comes in the form of Ruth's diary — which really cements your connection to the protagonist. The keyword here is optional. There is a ton of great back story on Ruth and her family that I wish the game included as part of the main story, instead of in an item you don't even have to open. I had almost beaten the game before I got around to reading any of it, and I felt like I missed a part of the experience.
There isn't too much to talk about when it comes to gameplay. As a point-and-click (or point-and-tap) adventure game, you tap on the screen to cause Ruth to move to a specific location or interact with different objects and characters.
You do collect various items throughout the game that all rest at the bottom of the screen in a menu bar. To use these items, you have to drag them to wherever you want to use them on the screen. Unfortunately, this causes you to accidentally launch Control Center on occasion, a small but annoying inconvenience.
As mentioned before, the story starts off a little bland and a little slow. For the first 15 minutes, I found myself repeatedly wondering how many cows does a Milkmaid need to milk before she's abducted around here? However, this slow start doesn't last too long and the game picks up in no time.
Fair warning Milkmaid of the Milky Way will probably only take the average player about three hours to complete and there is no reason to play the game a second time.
Design and Sound
As an avid retro gamer, any game that uses retro-style pixel art usually has me swooning over the artwork, and Milkmaid of the Milky Way is no different.
The character sprites are a little too simplistic for my tastes, but the truly beautiful backgrounds and landscapes are so picturesque, I didn't spend a ton of time looking at the characters anyway. Some of the mountainside scenes look like paintings you would find in a museum.
The soundtrack complimented the gameplay really nicely. When Ruth was in trouble the music came up and when things were calm it slipped into the background. The sound effects were a little jarring, but they only last a second. Plus, the game gives off a friendly ding when you completed the next objective you needed to do, it was nice to know when I was progressing further in the game.
A unique design quality of Milkmaid of the Milky Way is the all the text and dialogue in the game rhymes. As I played through the game I found myself tickled with joy at reading everything with the cadence of a Dr. Suess audiobook. I love when a developer tries something small but neat like this, and I think bonus points need to be applied for creativity.
Asking $3.99 for a 3 - 4 hour long story that has zero replayability is kind of steep, but I would still strongly urge you to check it out if you like story-driven adventures. The writing is solid and being contained into such a small amount of time means the game doesn't get boring or drag on too long. Plus, the incorporation of a script that rhymes the entire time makes playing Milkmaid of the Milky Way a very unique experience.
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Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.