Milo And The Magpies

PC, Mac

This short, sweet, gentle puzzle game comes from the artist responsible for the Rusty Lake games’ gorgeous vistas and backdrops, Johan Scherft. It’s the third game published by Second Maze, founded by the Rusty Lake team, and strikes a very different tone. This is positive, friendly, and cute, and features not even one sinister owl. Magpies, though.

More than anything else, Milo And The Magpies is an observation piece on the indifference/idiocy of cats. And it nails that perfectly. Milo is a grey cat, struggling to get back to his house because of the pesky magpies in his way. Your goal is to click through a series of back gardens and one living room, to solve little puzzles and allow the cat to continue on his way, unimpeded by corvid beaks.

It’s actually very similar in approach to the Amanita games, if not matching their finesse and attention to detail. You find the interactive spots where your mouse cursor changes from arrow to pointy hand, and then click to see what happens. Experiment with the scene, work out in what order you might click on things, and explore for hidden secrets in each scene. As you do, you see a series of portrayals of cat behaviour play out, many of which made me grin with recognition.

There’s the casual way in which a cat just destroys objects in their path, and then cares nothing about the results; the way that if there’s a hole in the side of something, it has to be investigated; cleverly portrayed interactions with other cats; and how they will get high on catnip and then dance on their back legs to jaunty piano music.

Within all this are a few solid puzzles, more than just experimenting, but noticing the details in pictures or the order in which things occur, and then applying them elsewhere. They will be second nature to those who regularly play Amanita and Rusty Lake games, but still in that satisfying, “I’m so clever for noticing!” way.

Milo is a little rough around the edges, with some glitchy lines appearing in the otherwise lovely art, and the humans seem a bit rushed compared to the details and animations in the animals. It’s also pretty short, but then at well under £2 it’s hard to get too fussed about that. Plus, in my first play through I missed half of the secrets, despite looking pretty hard for them – there’s definitely replay value in that.

If you’re a cat owner/lover (as all good people are), then this does a lovely job of calmly referencing many familiar behaviours and characteristics, without resorting to laboured “wackiness”. If you’re a cat hater, you’ll be able to side with the disgruntled humans, dogs, and perhaps even magpies. This isn’t particularly original, nor something that will rival the games by which it’s clearly inspired. But it’s a nice chat over a cup of coffee sort of game, of which there are far too few.

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