Some things in life just get the Australian experience. Milo and the Magpies is one of those games.
Anyone who has lived in Australia with animals and a backyard knows this experience well. One day, a cat will be bored. It might be your cat. It might be a stray who wanders in, or maybe the neighbour’s cat from next door who’s bored and just wants to scam extra food.
Eventually, that cat will see the birds and think, ooh, time to play. The birds, responding in kind, swoop the living shit out of the cat to gently remind them of its place.
This is what Milo and the Magpies, the first game from artist Johan Scherft, is all about. It’s being published by Second Maze, a new program founded by the same team behind the peculiarly brilliant Rusty Lake series, and as you’d expect every pixel of Milo and the Magpies is nothing short of stunning. (Scherft provided some of the art for the Rusty Lake games, so it’s a natural collaboration here.)
The game is out now on itch.io and Steam. It’s only $2.95, and there’s 9 chapters each with a different hand-drawn garden. It’s fundamentally a point-and-click puzzler with some hidden object mechanics and secrets to find. It’s extremely charming, although that’s immediately obvious from the launch trailer.
Growing up with animals and watching them play with each other, chase each other around, defend their territory and just generally tease each other is uniquely Australian in a very childhood, almost rural kind of way. Maybe it’s just the fortune of living out of the city with a bit more space, something that future generations (particularly with current housing prices) won’t really have. Of course, magpies pestering cats is not just an Australian thing; Scherft was born and lives in the Netherlands to this day, so the land down under isn’t being specifically called out here.
But given how common magpie interactions are to Australians, and how familial it is to just sit and observe magpies, cats and all kinds of creatures grow up with each other, there’s just something about Milo and the Magpie that feels very genuine.