The choice is yours.
Talking about a game such as The Stanley Parable is a complete minefield of potential spoilers, it’s difficult, but not impossible.The game itself is irritatingly hard to define, but here’s my whack at it:
Do you remember those old ‘choose your own adventure’ books? You’d be given a choice and you either had to go to page 15 to fight the dragon or page 34 to run away? By the end you’d have your fingers holding certain pages just to make sure you’d picked the right one.
Well The Stanley Parable is that, in video game form, without being able to ‘cheat’ your way to the good ending by keeping your fingers on the pages.
You play as Stanley, an employee at a huge, unexplained company. Stanley is employee number 427 and his job is to press buttons on his keyboard when the computer screen tells him to do so. He spends his entire time at work in his office, number 427. This is his job every day, all day, and Stanley loves his job.
Other than that, Stanley’s life outside of work is something of a mystery. Whether what we learn about him is the truth, conjecture, allegory or just outright lies is hard to tell. The only thing that remains constant about Stanley is that he loves his work.
How we learn about Stanley is through the omnipresent, maybe even omniscient Narrator, an English chap who appears to know all of Stanley’s thoughts and the intentions behind his actions. His role is somewhat reminiscent to the narrator in Thomas Was Alone, describing the emotions and intentions of our silent protagonist. Outside of that, he also acts as a Game Master, providing Stanley with options throughout his adventure and sometimes choosing the outcomes for his choices.
For example, you’re on your way to find your co-workers, will you choose the door on the left or the right? The Narrator tells you outright that the left door is the correct one, so let’s go right. “This was not the correct way to the meeting room, and Stanley knew it perfectly well,” chastises the Narrator, but the story continues on anyway.
Once decisions are made that’s that, there’s no going back. You could use server cheats if you’re desperate, but that’ll just get you locked in the ‘Serious Room’. Your choices are final until you play again, which won’t be long, finding ‘endings’ is intentionally quick in order to keep you exploring.
Stanley is employee number 427 and his job is to press buttons on his keyboard when the computer screen tells him to do so
That’s what is so refreshing about The Stanley Parable, in an industry filled with long, unfulfilling choice systems, you can guarantee if you change one single thing about your trip through the game you’ll get a completely different ‘ending’.
‘Endings’ are somewhat confusing, the Narrator has his own ‘ending’ that he’d prefer you complete, but getting to that is easy. Finding as many ‘endings’ as you can is mainly the aim of the game, with the developers hinting in a recent Reddit AMA that some endings still haven’t been found.
The Stanley Parable is a mod built on Valve’s Source engine by developers Galactic Café. The game is actually a complete HD remake of a 2011 mod created by Davey Wreden. Wreden, with the help of Saxxy Award winning William Pugh, undertook the re-creation of the mod after its original iteration was a success.
Similar to recent release Gone Home, playing the game is simple. You’re expected to explore your environment by moving Stanley from point A to B, pointing and clicking while you go. While simplistic, the game does - as Gone Home did - make the environments you encounter interesting enough to distract away from the lack of any typical game mechanics.
As the Narrator, Kevan Brighting performs fantastically. His fine work brings the game to life, and makes standing in an empty room just listening to his voice interesting. It can be said that without Brighting’s talent on The Stanley Parable the game just wouldn’t be the same. Much of the humour that comes from the game is, the majority of the time, simply from listening to Brighting’s voice.
A choice game
- Great humour throughout
- Simple choices make simple fun
- The Narrator
- Can become frustrating after a while
The Stanley Parable ReviewThe Stanley Parable is an annoying, hilarious, confusing, fourth-wall shattering piece of art. It should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt, as finding ‘endings’ that aren’t obvious can become tedious and even irritating when you’re struggling to discover something new. It’s short, but purposefully so. With the large amount of ‘endings’ in the game, the shortness of each run is a necessity.
The choice system is refreshingly straight forward. There are no crew members to seduce after hours of dialogue, no morality meter and no karma bars. Pick one choice or the other, red or blue, on or off, left or right. This simplicity opens the door for you to pick the opposite on your next play, and see what would have happened if you did things slightly differently.
Kevan Brighting is superb as the Narrator, and he’s backed up by fantastic writing and comedic timing from the Galactic Café team, making The Stanley Parable a game that will have you laughing long and often. This is a rare title that is great fun and definitely worth your time.
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