It’s not often that a game tries to deal with mental health issues, and when they do it tends to be told from an outside perspective. There have been some attempts, but none work quite as well as the exhaustingly named Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk and milk outside a bag of milk outside a bag of milk.
As a compilation of two short visual novels that chronicle the struggles of our milk obsessed heroine, this review will cover each title individually. Both are largely similar affairs, albeit with some important differences between them.
Many thanks to Forever Entertainment for the review code.
MILK INSIDE A BAG OF MILK INSIDE A BAG OF MILK
The first of these two short visual novels has our main character setting out to perform the simplest of tasks: going to the store to buy milk for her mother. In order to achieve this goal, she has shifted her mindset so that she is the protagonist of a visual novel and you are personification of her inner voice acting as the player that needs to guide her.
The neurodivergent girl has issues coping with the world around her and this tale, playing out from her perspective, definitely reflects that. Her mind makes monsters of the things around her, time passes by at irregular speeds and people look and act incomprehensibly.
This is also amplified by the game’s use of visuals that make the game almost difficult to watch at times as you struggle to make out shapes in the purple and red pixels that make up the games artstyle, and the game’s unsettling music that plays further adds to the haunting atmosphere.
The game may not last long, taking around 10 minutes or so to beat, but it does a good job at highlighting how difficult even such a small task can be for some people, and the excellent strange dialogue makes the game compelling regardless of which of the game’s multiple endings you reach.
MILK OUTSIDE A BAG OF MILK OUTSIDE A BAG OF MILK
The follow up title is certainly far more ambitious in its presentation when compared to the prior game, but no less effective. Starting off with a really beautiful animated recap of the first title, it quickly swings back to the tiny colour pallet of the original, albeit with far more detail and clarity than before. Gone are the pixelated and obtuse images, replaced by some great artwork that actually shows our distressed protagonist in all her glory.
If you think that will make the game less efficacious in how uncomfortable it makes you feel, then you’re far mistaken. Mere moments into the game, our protagonist gets chased into the kitchen and subsequently gets tormented at the existence of the bag of milk there. After a creepy moment with her mother, the game’s main task begins: get prepared for bed and sleep. Simple, right? Not so much. Not when she’s plagued with so many disturbing thoughts.
Playing out largely the same as the last game, you’ll act as the ‘player’ as you select between different options to progress the dialogue. There’s a point and click mechanic introduced partway as you search for her thoughts [that are embodied as fireflies], but it mainly boils down to selecting an object that you will ‘discuss’ with her. The game still maintains that same excellent dialogue, even if it won’t take you very long.
Despite taking less than an hour to beat both games, the Milk duology (I’m not saying it in full again) are powerful experiences that reflect the difficulty of everyday activities for some people. It’s not an easy game to play, mentally, but it’s one that will stay with you.