Stillwater is a free mystery visual novel created by StudioClump as part of DevTalk’s Spooktober 3rd Annual Visual Novel Jam. Brilliant writing and character creation sweep you up in the dramatic story of Hugo Laurent, a private investigator trying to solve a profoundly troubling mystery. This is a jaw-dropping take on the classic PI mystery genre, featuring 7,000 words, intricate character building, and two alternative endings.
If you enjoy mystery games, Onlooker is another interesting take on the genre. However, if you prefer a little more horror in your mystery games, The Mortuary Assistant demo and Siren Head Resurrection might be more to your taste.
Stillwater is available as a free download on Windows with the option to contribute any amount of money to the creator. This expertly laid out visual novel has various characters you can get to know and many stunning backdrops that add to the mystery. The characters are relatable, the more minor details of their lives written in clever ways that don’t feel like outright exposition.
Hugo Laurent is different from the usual private investigator. He looks exhausted and weary in his first interaction; delving deeper into his character reveals his commitment to his work. He has long-standing chemistry with Noah, a charismatic co-worker who looks after Hugo when he gets too busy and distracted to look after himself.
Within the first few minutes, you also meet Nina, a deeply troubled young woman who fears for her grandfather’s life; she’s received a series of threatening letters from an unknown antagonist. While Nina isn’t the main character, she’s so well developed that you feel sympathetic toward her.
Unlike other free games, Stillwater pulls you completely into the experience. The music adapts to whatever the mood in the story is, which amplifies the gameplay experience. While the visuals are static, features like particle effects and in-depth descriptions of the in-game environment create an almost cinematic experience.
Well-rounded mystery visual novel
Whether you play to kill time, figure out mysteries or to see if Hugo and Noah end up being more than lightly flirtatious co-workers, Stillwater will have you thoroughly invested from the first line.
The eerie theme and mysterious undertones weaved throughout the story are perfectly apt for the spooky season; the artwork is also beautifully done.