Müll is the creation of a single developer.
The Müll Littoral by Librarium Studios is a Point-and-Click with hand-drawn artwork that focuses on a unique topic: anxiety. I'm someone, along with many others, who has suffered from the affliction, so I had hoped Müll would resonate. I also love Point-and-Clicks and puzzles, so I gave it a try. Unfortunately, I discovered a game that is far from perfect.
Müll is the creation of a single developer, through what I have no doubt was a mind-boggling amount of effort and skill. The man behind the game, Ozzie Sneddon, shows he has a passion for helping people understand mental illness. He is also a competent developer (a moment of applause for his hard work!). So what’s the problem? Well, Müll is neither enjoyable or interesting to play.
NO NEED TO MULL
My biggest problem with Müll is that the puzzles are either easy or inscrutable. None feel like they make sense. Most of them are exercises in frustration, which ironically increases anxiety, as opposed to teaching us anything about it. At no point did a puzzle make me think.
A part of the problem is the puzzle design. You must use a lens to gain information about a scene with which you are presented. It gives you information you couldn't know otherwise, spelling everything out for you. From that information, you simply figure out in which order to click things, and while sometimes there are tricks to it, they aren’t interesting, intuitive, or satisfying.
I got through most of the puzzles in a few minutes, and there are only ten total. Two, I solved in seconds. One I completely skipped because there was no information or clues given on how to solve it, at least from what I could tell. It seemed to require a million clicks, until you stumbled upon the solution accidentally. I don't have the time or interest for that, and I can't imagine anyone who would, either. The puzzles are appallingly bad.
In terms of content, Müll only takes you more than an hour to get through, if you happen to get stuck on one of the perplexing puzzles and you are too stubborn for your own good that you won't skip past it.
ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
Gameplay enjoyment aside, Müll could be educational or cathartic. It does succeed some on this score, but nowhere near enough to redeem itself.
Many ideas, thoughts, and situations will feel familiar to someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression. There are some useful words of wisdom on coping with mental illness, but nothing I hadn't already heard. The reminder could be helpful to someone, or perhaps it could be educational for someone who had no idea what depression or anxiety feels like.
One specific message in Müll is troubling for its lack of clarity.
Daily suicidal thoughts are downplayed as normal for someone with depression. As a result, the protagonist, Juul, is equally ready to face her fears as she is to recklessly endanger her life. While Müll advocates facing fears, fighting for your life, and not letting your mental illness control you, it should be a lot clearer about it.
At the end of Müll, Juul doesn't change much. She remains flippant about life, which is hardly a comforting message to send to people who deal with emotional imbalance. I, by no means, think this was intentional, but simply due to a lack of attentiveness to the narrative. Sadly, faithfully conveying the experience of depression did not lead to a gamer’s perspective on how to treat it. Müll could have started with conveying what it's like to have a mental illness, and then transition into how to deal with it.
EYE CANDY, NOT MIND FOOD
You cannot save your progress. You can jump to a different Act, but you cannot jump directly to the different Challenges, so navigation is odd.
There is a small bug in Challenge 7 where the speed at which you must click something is bordering on impossible. But, hey, I did it in about forty tries. Yay!
The ending gives a password. The password gives access to artwork but no context, and you could already find this graphic on the internet - if you're a savvy searcher like I am. It’s disappointing, but still, it's impressive art. And this password could have given access to a more coherent summary of all the points made throughout the Acts. If that included artwork, all the better.
Müll wowed me with the artwork. The creatures, scenes, and characters were imaginative, unique, and hauntingly beautiful. Ozzie Sneddon's talent for drawing and animating is evidenced with abundance in every corner. This is overwhelmingly the best part of the experience.
The Verdict: Poor
For an experience about anxiety and depression, perhaps Müll should have been structured as a graphic story, and not a puzzler. A compelling plot, a character arc, and a clear message could go a long way, coupled with the drawings of the talented game creator, Ozzie Sneddon.