Adventure with a cat through nature and a neighborhood in the hand-painted charmer Milo and the Magpies.
Developer: Johan Scherft
Publisher: Second Maze
Release date: 7 September, 2021
Step into a nature journal, enjoy the hand-painted backgrounds of Milo and the Magpies, and experience a neighborhood through the eyes of a cat while helping Milo on his adventure home.
Although the title Milo and the Magpies may sound like a band name, Milo and the magpies definitely aren’t friends. Milo, a gray cat, needs help getting past the interfering meanie magpies to get home. Along the way, Milo gets to know his neighbors as he travels through their gardens and other spaces.
Gameplay and Mechanics
Milo and the Magpies is marketed as “a point-and-click, hidden object game”, but while it has some elements that will be familiar to players of both genres, it doesn’t robustly lean into either. The player does not act as Milo, but rather as a benevolent helper who can tell Milo when to move and take actions that will assist Milo in getting home. The puzzles require using logic and clues (frequently hidden in the artwork) to solve and progress and are unique to each yard and garden (frequently requiring getting to know the inhabitants). All in all, it’s a distinctive and relaxing gameplay experience.
Art Style and Graphics
The art for Milo and the Magpies is definitely the star of the game. The developer, Johan Scherft, is primarily an artist by trade, frequently drawing on nature as a source of inspiration. The environments and animals are hand-painted and hand-animated with beautiful detail and color in the style of classic nature journaling. One of the most realistic looking animals in the story is the scary pike, a species of carnivorous fish, doing his predator best to blend into the background until the opportune moment. Each yard or garden has a unique vibe and charm, much like the people who created it, although the people tend to be less stylistically nuanced than the environments and other creatures.
While Johan Scherft did the majority of the art and animations, artist Barthel Brussee also assisted with the animations, particularly for the cat. The animations of the eponymous cat character, Milo, and the other cat characters have clearly been done by someone who has spent a lot of time observing the unique features of cat behaviors. My own cat is gray like Milo, so sometimes watching Milo was like seeing her in animated form.
Sound and Music
The composer, Victor Butzelaar, has crafted a soundtrack that maintains a relaxing tone throughout the game, while at the same time creating individualized musical theming that reflects the different personalities of the inhabitants of each yard or garden. Although most of the tracks are original compositions, at least one, Gnossienne No. 1 by Erick Satie, may be familiar to people from its presence in the film The Painted Veil. Beyond the music, the sound effects are clearly meant to complement the atmosphere created by the art, including sounds from nature like bird songs and other ambient sounds such as a fountain running.
Milo and the Magpies has ten possible achievements, one of which is awarded for completing the game. The other nine achievements are related to finding a secret – a hidden artwork inside each chapter.
Milo and the Magpies is a short experience, taking slightly under 90 minutes for an initial playthrough, but at $1.99 at the time of review and with achievements for replayability or to extend initial playtime, it is well worth buying at full price. The hand-painted backgrounds alone are worth the cost of the game. The beautiful art makes it a relaxing experience, and one that I think will especially appeal to nature- and cat-lovers.