I’d be perfectly happy to only play games that feature a/the T-55s, but that would be a tragic narrowing of my palette. It is actually helpful to be aware of games outside of my sphere of weird interests – specialization is for insects and I’m a full human bean. Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk is definitely out there in the savage terra incognita, and it only cost like €0,39 on sale. With a price that low and playthrough time reportedly very short, I could afford to dip my toes outside my comfort zone.
In Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk, you are a girl. So that’s a nice first step, I’m tired of being an identical bald white guy in every game. And what the girl wants, what the girl needs, is to go to a store and buy a bag of milk. Easier said than done: the girl is in a strong grip of mental illness. You’ll be the voice in her head guiding her through this banal activity that’s suddenly tinged with dread.
As a fairly accurate Steam review put it, “POV: you are the meds.”
What follows is a very short visual novel – more of a pamphlet, really, it barely lasts 15 minutes if you’re slow – where the player is like a daemon riding in the girl’s head. You are tuned into her very much skewed perceptions of the world, and the only thing you can do is talk to her.
If all goes well, you will help her get home with a Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk.
A slice of a slice of a life of a slice
Now, the author states outright that they will not reveal what’s the real diagnosis for the girl, but there’s also an implication that developer is, ugh, game-developing what he knows. Personally, I don’t have such wild experiences with being mentally unhealthy, but I’m not free of issues either. Thus I have learned: objective reality tends to morph to fit the voice in your head.
And it is very hard to get back above the waves when it is you yourself who’s dragging yourself down. The layer of false consciousness, false reality. Engulfing all until something removes it. Sometimes, the most you can do is remind yourself that this will pass.
Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk captures both the fantasmagorical malaise and the struggle that comes with meds not being a miracle cure. They may not work or may not work completely. You still have to rely on therapy, and that’s a laborious process, not helped by the fact that the call is coming from inside the house.
AAA visuals are for games without stories
In the actual moment-to-moment gameplay, the visuals and audio matter a lot – and at the same time, you can be forgiving of their crudeness. So while Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk has some very basic visual novel gameplay elements and illustrated with some barely-parseable purple-and-red images accompanied by sounds some of the earliest consoles would have been able to produce, it all works in concert to create the atmosphere and mood.
Some reviews state that they have never felt so tense, and yeah, I can believe them.
Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk is a great example of storytelling at its most miniature, and it’s a game that tells a story that will expand the borders of your empathy and does so without going too twee or metaphorical about it.
The game shows that you won’t heal in an instant – and that you may develop coping mechanisms, some of which may be less than healthy. But hey, the mind will do anything it can to survive, and every small victory counts. You know, just like finally managing to go out and buy milk.