Having seen the promo for this, I’m pleased to now give a Stilstand review after bulldozing through this stunning art piece so I could share it with you sexy people.
I’m declaring my love for Ida Hartmann. I’ve always been a fan of adult animation (a mature context, not just boobs) and had a penchant for comic books, without actually reading many or knowing anything about them.
In a former life I studied film (like everyone else), and aside from my desire to write some killer scripts, storyboarding was something that I held dear and that’s what Stilstand is: a storyboard that captures the life of a young woman yearning for a place to belong.
The art style should be the standout here as Stilstand is promoted as a story by Ida Hartmann and illustrated by her too, but remember that this is a team effort and Niila Games have done a stellar job in making this bittersweet story playable.
You play a young woman, it’s a scorching summer, and she’s a prisoner of the rising temperature, but also the torment of her insecurity, where does she belong and who is she?
This is a story that’s relatable to us all and not about empowering women – we can all identify with feelings of anonymity, not being appreciated and being ruthless with our self-criticism.
In a game that covers three chapters and a playtime of around 45 minutes or so, the narrative weave grows stronger as you play along. Expectations were already met on first impressions as I already loved the art style, but how would it translate as a game?
Told via a comic book panel aesthetic, the story advances each time you click the screen or interact with the numerous activities that include smoking, surfing through available TV channels or texting a potential booty call after a few drinks.
The protagonist is a self-inflicted prisoner on how she perceives herself and is desperate for interaction. Within the first chapter, you encounter a being from the figments of her imagination, and quite possibly some necessary company to keep her going.
Anything interactive is typically highlighted in blue to indicate that it can be tinkered with. It isn’t too bold with the black and white artwork, and in some ways, a subtle reminder on what to do next.
Some of the set pieces in the game had me chuckling aloud, from drunken shenanigans and that constantly shifting toilet when you need to go puke, or going on a date and knowing what the right thing to say is.
A People Story
In many ways, Stilstand is an assault on the senses as at times you’ll laugh and might even say “that’s me!”, which I did a few too many times. In other situations, it’s borderline melancholy, but not in the sense that it brings you down, but it raises questions with your own identity and makes you grateful for what you have.
Ida will get all the attention for such a heartwarming story and fantastic illustrations to boot. Still, it’s well animated – given it’s traditionally a static medium, and the soundtrack to the game is almost perfectly nuanced so as a package, it works well.
I don’t like giving review scores, this isn’t a new thing, but I do realise that Stilstand won’t be for everyone. However, if the art style appeals to you and you’re fascinated by the human condition, this quirky indie title may be what you’re looking for.
If it was a case of a thumbs up and a recommendation, Stilstand gets an overwhelming word or two of endorsement. The story itself feels quite bitesize, but I don’t doubt for one second that this took an age to produce. I’ve done a dozen or so storyboard pages in the past that wasn’t even 1% the quality of Stilstand and it aged me.
Quite a short review, but it’s quite a short game and I guess my biggest criticism, or perhaps comment is that it was too brief. Not in terms of value, but by the time I reached chapter two, I was hooked and wanted more. Despite having flirted with Denmark for a brief time, I have zero understanding of the language and would like to, at some point, see/read more of Ida’s work. In the meantime, you can follow her on Instagram and Niila Games on Twitter.