A demo built in a month for Game Off 2020, Stardust Lingers from a team led by Zelveri Lunari follows the story of Mira. Returning to an old cabin in search of a secret, she finds a companion in a strange black bunny. She comes to learn that not only is the bunny, named Lune, not quite what they seem, but other things are afoot in the dark forest around the cabin and within it.
A review for this demo was requested through the VN Game Den review request form.
In simple terms, this is a gorgeous-looking game. Somewhere between painterly and cartoony, it’s filled with deep, rich colors. The exteriors feel lush yet mysterious, while the interiors are melancholy and heavy. There’s evidence of a great amount of care put into things like camera framing, movement through the space, and adding small environmental details, even if some of the backgrounds aren’t as polished as others.
While there’s very little sprite work, what there is of the bunny character is expressive and gentle with wonderful attention to form and texture. What it lacks in character art, it makes up for with a number of rendered scenes and an overall kinetic feel despite its stationary backgrounds.
The writing tends toward the poetic, lilting through a string of conflicting emotions and brought together by a strong inner monologue. It leads with an emotion-first approach, carrying the player through the rawness of Mira’s experiences as she goes searching for clues to a secret she doesn’t have the answer to. So far, the story feels very intimate and close, like it’s living primarily internally. The “big mystery” of what she’s searching for isn’t treated as any larger a story element than her individual feelings over said mystery. Even the existential questions raised late in the demo still feel small and personal. It’s highly character-driven with beautifully liquid prose.
It does feel like in an effort to hold back some information they went a little too vague on occasion. Some of the word and phrase choice, for example, trips over itself a little to obviously not reveal something. You also don’t leave the demo with a solid grasp on exactly what her relationship is to the mysterious people in question or how what might be three different plot lines could possibly converge. While it does leave a lot of room for mystery and opens a lot of questions, with the demo being so short, it doesn’t quite whet your appetite enough for the full game. I’m still interested in the full release, but the end of the demo felt more like an abrupt cut then a gentle cliffhanger.
Functionally, there are a few places where it could benefit from some polish to play better as a visual novel. Many of these things are inconveniences of the engine, however.
Stardust Lingers is a very enticing demo. It drags you in with wonderful art, keeps you in with solid writing, and caps off the experience with a fantastic soundtrack, crafted perfectly to catch the mood. It promises something soft and introspective with a nuanced look at interpersonal relationships, all touched with just a dash of supernatural whimsy.
Play it now in-browser or download from itch.io.