While cats are famous for roaming the neighborhood and doing what they want, when they want, all the feline protagonists of Johan Scherft’s first game Milo and the magpies wants to do is go home. Unfortunately – or lucky for us – there are birds that get in the way and force our adorable hero to take a less than straight path in this short but beautifully crafted puzzler full of fun.
Milo and the magpies follows the titular little gray cat as he tries to scramble across several meters after being knocked off a roof by a magpie. The plot is simple and easy to follow, yet extraordinarily sweet with a twist at the end. It’s easy to sympathize with the fact that Milo just wants to go home, though we also understand his dislike of those annoying feathered creatures that have caused his predicament. He encounters a few people and other animals on his journey, each representing familiar snapshots of life, like three children playing together or a pianist practicing behind a glass door. With your help, Milo will prove he’s resilient and smart, letting no setbacks stand in the way of his journey.
You will have to solve several puzzles while progressing past the neighbors. Each new backyard or area has its own obstacles to overcome, from crossing a river to dodging a barking dog, so Milo can move on. Rather than letting players solely control Milo and collect inventory along the way, the game literally takes point and click. Clicking on a person or object, including Milo, prompts them to perform their respective actions; getting them in the right order is the tricky part. For example, in the first garden, clicking on a boy will make him bounce higher on the trampoline while clicking on another will make him use his remote-controlled helicopter. There are a few locks that need to be opened, the combination digits of which are scattered throughout the environment, but the safe puzzle in the eighth of nine chapters is the only one involving rather obtuse logic to solve.
Being a cat of the non-anthropomorphic kind, there isn’t much dialogue other than a few word bubbles popping up with short thoughts of Milo or others he encounters. The few vocal lines are executed adequately but actually sound out of place, as only a few humans have lines while the majority of them are silent. Instead, most characters express their thoughts purely through their appearance and actions, like the musician’s annoyed stares every time you tap the piano and stop playing, or the gardener’s irritated banging on the greenhouse door.
The best part of the game is its hand painted backgrounds. Every scene is lovingly detailed and looks absolutely fantastic, from the artist’s neglected and overgrown backyard and fish pond to the birdwatcher’s cottage with its tidy flowerbeds, its strange gnome and his perfectly paved stone path. The skill and care that went into creating Milo’s small world is simply magnificent, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen better backgrounds in a video game. It’s a traditional style of art, with rich textures and multi-layered colors reminiscent of Paul Cézanne’s post-Impressionist landscape paintings, but with more detail where needed, or as if Monet’s garden paintings had been sharper focus.
The characters and certain elements appearing in these magnificent settings are represented in a rough but cute style. These feature less detail and little shading, instead focusing on conveying emotions and actions as simply as possible. There are also a few more photorealistic objects, like the goldfish in the pond that Milo encountered. While the contrasting art styles are certainly noticeable, they tend to work well with the simple animation style. People and moving objects with less detail stand out well against lush backgrounds, and the quirkiness of more realistic objects makes it clear that they’re meant to be used in puzzles.
The game is light on musical accompaniment, usually having only an acoustic orchestra track, as the pianist practicing his piece or a simple bass melody to mark Milo’s adventures. The songs are there for ambiance, and are slow and soothing, as befits such a leisurely gaming experience. The effects are much more noticeable, from Milo whistles to duck quacks to trampoline springs, each sound adding its own touch of life to the experience and making it even more real and immersive.
With just over an hour of play and ending with an unrealistic but surprisingly poignant finale, this game is a very short but sweet adventure that focuses on art and feelings, with beautiful painted backgrounds by hand and fun sound effects. The puzzles aren’t too difficult, but they match the casual nature of the game and make for an entertaining journey for everyone. If you have little time to gamble and want something quite casual and light in between more substantial dishes, especially if you have a fondness for cats, Milo and the magpies will scratch just the right itch.
WHERE CAN I DOWNLOAD Milo and the Magpies
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