Posted by: Ben | April 18, 2009

if: The Milk Of Paradise

(Videogame. Z-Code. Graboff. Spring Thing 2009)

This is a review of The Milk Of Paradise by Josh Graboff.  Spoiler, break.  Break, spoiler.  A although and anybody are blurting, can’t contents do. Don’t feeds flatter few. From go here, I Inserted ipsum is. Kanpai.  Lengths likely lorum myself, nonetheless of onto page people post prevent read really. Screens simple so such syndication that the the them this to to to to to traditionally unnecessary. Views want who who words.

First, the obligatory out-of-context excerpt for comedy value.

He is tall well-muscled black man with a bald head. He almost looks like a eunuch, though he is not. His body ripples with strength, and glistens in the light of your perfect dome.

TELL BABA HE LOOKS LIKE A EUNUCH

I didn’t understand that sentence.

The Milk Of Paradise is a small game with big ideas which, one might reasonably interpret, mainly concern the ethics of the achievement, exercise and retention of power.  Also you get to compensate for any racial anxiety you may be experiencing by questioning your large bald black servant’s virility before overpowering him and drowning him in the bath he’s just run for you.  Which was uncomfortable.  The drowning, not the bath.  Although the bath would have been uncomfortable as well, if I’d drowned him first.  Ahem.

Accompanying you is the reassuring presence of your handsome friend Ja’far.  He describes himself as a servant, but you might prefer to think of him as a Grand Vizier.  Nobody else but you can see him, which is an especially desirable quality in a Grand Vizier.  It’s not surprising that a nefarious vizier should be such a desirable commodity for your modern despot.  They think of the things you’d be embarrassed to think of yourself and act as a moral sink for the accumulated debris of necessary evils.

According to my good friend Wikipedia, the name Ja’far is associated with viziers thanks to Ja’far ibn Yahya (pictured below), vizier to Caliph Harun Al-Rashid and fictionalised in the Arabian Nights.  Think of him as the Elvis of viziers.

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Ja'far ibn Yahya(جعفر بن يحيى) yesterday.

As well as being your anti-conscience, this particular Ja’far is also on Violet duty as the narrator, and he’s every bit the silver-tongued devil you’d hope for, ever liberal with his flowery praise.  Sadly the game all too frequently breaks character to deliver a standard error message when you attempt a command it hasn’t anticipated, which is nothing a bit of time and effort won’t fix.  This type of narration needs to be made much slicker to work well.  Oh, and the auto-generated object listings fail to sit well with the prose style.

Apart from that gripe and the general shortage of implementation, there’s the issue of there being no actual gameplay and all you can do to move the story along is exactly what Ja’far tells you.  That and the short length by no means adversely affect the quality – I’m a big fan of Deadline Enchanter, insofar as it’s possible to be a fan of it – but given the limited possibilities for exploration together with the debatable nature of the actions the game asks you to carry out, most players will want to at least look for alternatives, and The Milk Of Paradise isn’t -as far as I can tell – willing to permit you to do so.  This inhibits identification with the player-character and hence with the game.  Perhaps this is deliberate – the endings would suggest that the game wants to test your reaction to the situation after the fact, but it would be nice to at least be able to express hesitation. You know, before the killings begin.

I like the idea of this game a lot.  But it’s just not as good as it should be.

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