Giant Bomb Review

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The Stanley Parable Review

4
  • PC

Prodding at The Stanley Parable and seeing how it will react to your various actions makes for a great, brief experience.

Will you get up the nerve to even leave your office?

The Stanley Parable is a genius bit of interactive fun that originally started out as a free mod for the Source Engine. It plays around with the concepts of game narration and player choice in some really inventive ways that will likely appeal most to people who enjoy thinking about the nature of games and the push-pull relationship between their creators and their players. But that's really only half the story, if that. The core of The Stanley Parable only works because it's genuinely funny. It's brief, but powerfully effective, with plenty of moments where you think you might have found a situation that the creators didn't account for... only to be proven wrong yet again. Once you've replayed as many different paths as you can think of, there won't be much reason to go back and play it again, but the few hours you'll probably spend with The Stanley Parable are worth its purchase price.

The crux of The Stanley Parable is as follows: The narration will tell you what happens next, and you can either do that thing or, in most cases, do some other thing. Or maybe do nothing. The opening of the game, for example, strongly implies that Stanley--a worker drone who seems to push buttons for a living with next to no authority or autonomy in his job--leaves his office. From there, you can walk out of the office immediately, stick around in the office until the narrator pipes up to account for your complete inaction, or close the door leading out of your office, triggering one of the game's many different conclusions. The decisions spin out from there, rarely becoming complicated but definitely becoming more and more ridiculous. You poke at The Stanley Parable and The Stanley Parable pokes back. Restarting the game--whether that's your decision or the narrator's--is part of the game, and the way the story accounts for and occasionally addresses those restarts helps create some mind-bending twists and turns that blow the logic of the scenario apart in a handful of ways. Are you Stanley? Or are you the player controlling Stanley? Depending on the choices you make, the narrator may address you as either.

Do as you're told. Or don't.

Of course, none of this would work unless the writing and narration were able to keep you engaged and interested in seeing what else you can find. Both of these aspects are very sharp and keep you exploring around the edges, looking for one more way for the game to react to your current level of obedience/disobedience. There's a dry wit to the writing, which pairs well with the British narrator's performance. His exasperation when you deviate from his instruction feels genuine, but a certain amount of malevolence--or at least utter disdain for Stanley's role in this story--comes through, as well. But, most importantly, The Stanley Parable works because it's funny. Its unexpected turns are best left unexpected, so you'd do well to go into the game a bit blind, but the way it gets fed up with your performance and the ridiculous things it occasionally asks you to do are truly great.

This is a telephone, as seen in The Stanley Parable.

It's worth noting that the free, mod version of The Stanley Parable has much of the same foundation as this new, paid version, and you'd certainly get the gist of all this from that previous release. But this isn't just some simple visual makeover. The writing has expanded in some smart, more interesting directions, and the game has evolved to allow (and account for) more deviance on the player's part. The mod feels like a rough draft by comparison--you can see the bones and structure in the older release, but the rewriting and tuning of existing material along with the introduction of new material makes the final product much, much sharper and funnier.

It's a small, very charming release. You could blow it up into something bigger, if you like, and talk about how it serves as commentary on how meaningless player choice in most games actually is, and certainly there's some amount of discussion you could have about the larger context in play. But you don't need to have that conversation to enjoy The Stanley Parable. It works because it's fun to explore the limits of the scenario and see which bits they've written smart, well-delivered dialogue for and how many different "endings" you can come up with as you play around.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
116 Comments
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Posted by coribald

Nice review - really want to play this.

Edited by Neonie

I'll just be over here in this broom closet.

Edited by gregoryc

I don't have any problems with authority, but if I played this I'm sure I would never listen to the narrator..

Edited by Box3ru13

Between this and Gone Home, first-person non-shooters have been amazing on the PC this year.

Posted by Strife777

I"m literally playing it as I write this comment. I've had some very good laughs so far. Great game.

Posted by ManiacMaysin

I never found the room with the phone! Now I have to go back . . .

Posted by J23

I think some of the best parts (without going into too much depth) are when The Stanley Parable mentions other games, definitely some of the funniest and most clever stuff is in those situations. Wonder if the Bomb Squad liked those parts as much as I did?

Posted by RichardZk

Don't see why this is only 4 stars, the review doesn't mention any negatives.

Posted by Wes899

@richardzk: I would think that's because scoring is additive and not subtractive. A game doesn't "start" at a perfect score.

Posted by irishalwaystaken

Wow, those last two paragraphs really hit on what I was worried about. Even though I loved the mod when I played it I was wondering if it would be a good "remake" and it's great to hear the meta-commentary really isn't heavy handed or spoiling the narrative.

Posted by Dalai

It's really a lovely "game" and it's absolutely worth buying just for the humor and the aforementioned larger context, but the only issue I have with the game is its length. You pretty much see everything after just a few hours.

Edited by MasterRain

As you embark on a different avenue of the game you get excited every time, wondering where it will end. After playing through the game and trying to find everything, I recommend a walk through to get any you missed.

Posted by Humanity

Unlike GlaDOS which is the closest comparison I could find to this, I didn't take a liking to the narrator from what I heard in the demo that Patrick played, and thus elected not to play the full game. It's a really big gamble to base your entire game on that one aspect, as I think it makes or breaks the experience.

Posted by DevourerOfTime

@maniacmaysin: It's not that well hidden. Just go with your gut and you'll find it.

Posted by DevourerOfTime

@richardzk: It's 4 stars because Jeff felt that it deserved 4 stars. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by BBQBram

Would you kindly listen to the narrator?

Posted by Brendan

I feel like the last paragraph was addressed partially to Tevis Thompson haha.

Posted by jimmyfenix

Will get this later. Damn you back log.

Edited by teapoted

I loved the Stanley Parable, but for it to be a '5 star game' (whatever that means) it would need to be a bit more.

My main issue with the game is that you start off by believing that you will move the story along by learning more about the world and gathering clues among the different endings you pursue. But you quite quickly realize that the purpose of the game is more akin to a Douglas Adams version of I wanna be the Boshy that just wants to find new ways to kill you.

It is more parts satire of video games than it is a unique way to tell an interesting story. The latter is what I expected from the opening scenes, but in actuality it is rather shallow. A wonderful journey, but as the game alludes to at one point, without a destination. Some might think that's enough, but I can't be super impressed when in reality it's nothing more than 'lets see how many different paths we can code in for people to take', of course, brilliantly executed, but nothing earth shattering.

Edited by jimmyfenix

Will get this later. Damn you back log.

Posted by Shaanyboi

Don't see why this is only 4 stars, the review doesn't mention any negatives.

That's not how reviews work. 5 stars, on the giantbomb scale tends to mean "holy shit, you should really play this, this is something special, I (the reviewer) had a helluva time." 4 stars means "This was a really cool and interesting thing. It may not be for everyone, but it warrants atleast taking a look at." and so on.

Posted by ComradeCrash

Cool review! Might check out the demo first to see if this will run on my laptop. Thanks!

Posted by benu302000

8

Posted by soulcake

i really liked the game but i liked the demo more for some odd reason.

Posted by mrfluke

i like this review.

Edited by Tarsier

woa jeff actually likes something?

Posted by cassus

Actually bought this game a few hours ago. Haven't played it yet. I'm glad it's short, cause I don't normally get into these kids of games.

Edited by SlightlyTriangularRectangle

I tried the game, played around with it a bit, said, "hey, this is neat," then left it and felt no desire to return to it.

This game, like so many recent indie titles, to me, reeks of something that need not exist, of creative talent gone to waste. With The Stanley Parable specifically it seems that the developers said to themselves in planning something like, "let's make a game that pokes fun of all the conventions used in other games because we're smart enough to understand those conventions, but others are too stupid to notice them without our assistance."

I sure do miss the days when people played games because they were fun, not because they were "art" or extended commentary on the genre itself.

Edited by mrfluke

@richardzk said:

Don't see why this is only 4 stars, the review doesn't mention any negatives.

That's not how reviews work. 5 stars, on the giantbomb scale tends to mean "holy shit, you should really play this, this is something special, I (the reviewer) had a helluva time." 4 stars means "This was a really cool and interesting thing. It may not be for everyone, but it warrants atleast taking a look at." and so on.

also a star got knocked due to the fact that the game is short

Once you've replayed as many different paths as you can think of, there won't be much reason to go back and play it again

Posted by Familyguy1

If there is anything this game told me, its that I would love to have the narrator narrate my life...

I loved this game though, well worth the $12 I spent.

Posted by MormonWarrior
Posted by MarkDarkness

See... Jeff can write a review of an abstract game without going "hurr durr just trust us" like some OTHER gaming sites that get the hell hyped out of them. That's why Giant Bomb is the best.

Edited by Sydlanel

well as many people have noted.. the score 4 / 5 is equivalent to 8 / 10.

8

8

8

Posted by BeachThunder

@neonie said:

I'll just be over here in this broom closet.

At first, I read that as bloom closet, which would certainly be an apt description of the last image.

Posted by bybeach

This will be the perfect game to break up what else I am playing. Max Payne could use the break also, the way he goes on about things.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

This seems like something I would absolutely enjoy. It also seems like something I will purchase for $5 on sale, play for 2-3 hours and then never touch again.

Online
Posted by Seedofpower

This game is GOTY material. At least for me. 8888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

Posted by huser

@gregoryc said:

I don't have any problems with authority, but if I played this I'm sure I would never listen to the narrator..

The thing of it is, the narration accounts for that as well. You can at most temporarily countermand the story, but only to have the narrator include whatever you do back into it.

Edited by mrcraggle

I ended up buying this after watching the QL earlier today but it's been on my radar for the past few weeks in the build up to its release. It's one of the few games out there that really just invite you to poke at everything until it breaks which the game often takes quite literally. If I had to liken it to other games out there, I'd say it was a combination of Portal 2 + Antichamber. The writing is top notch and genuinely funny with plenty of WTF moments that kept me hooked and I intend to go back for more. The biggest knock I can give against the game is how it repeats itself and then other times it's aware of what has already happened and comment on it. For example, if you hide in the closet like Jeff did in the QL and go back again in another playthrough, the narrator will question your fascination with this meaningless broom closet.

Edited by Obsurveyor

I felt absolutely nothing for the Quick Look of the demo I saw. It was way too on the nose with the developer's obvious hate of demos bleeding through. The first scene in the Quick Look of the full game showed me something that I love and absolutely do with nearly every game I play: try to break the shit out of it. I had to pick it up after that. I stopped the Quick Look and immediately purchased and have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the game so far.

I disagree that it's "only a couple hours" though. After the 3.2 hours I've spent on it this weekend so far and still not getting through the story the narrator wants to tell yet, I estimate I will probably put 10 to 15 hours into the game, depending on whether I play a certain less-than-a-mini-game for the required 4 hours to see if that yields anything or not.

The amount of things this game takes into account in my attempts to circumvent the narrator is pretty great though it could always use more. I've had a number of ideas during my play that could make it more interesting but I'm sure the voice narration isn't cheap and that makes it all work.

Posted by xbob42

I tried the game, played around with it a bit, said, "hey, this is neat," then left it and felt no desire to return to it.

This game, like so many recent indie titles, to me, reeks of something that need not exist, of creative talent gone to waste. With The Stanley Parable specifically it seems that the developers said to themselves in planning something like, "let's make a game that pokes fun of all the conventions used in other games because we're smart enough to understand those conventions, but others are too stupid to notice them without our assistance."

I sure do miss the days when people played games because they were fun, not because they were "art" or extended commentary on the genre itself.

The game is plenty of fun. Not every bit of fun needs to be "hit buttons to make stuff explode."

Edited by Necrotron

This game is GOTY material. At least for me. 8888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

Agreed. I can highly endorse this game.

Play the demo, it is it's own game in and of itself, and completely free. If that doesn't strike you, you probably won't like the full game. I personally loved it.

Posted by deathfromace

@mrfluke said:

@shaanyboi said:

@richardzk said:

Don't see why this is only 4 stars, the review doesn't mention any negatives.

That's not how reviews work. 5 stars, on the giantbomb scale tends to mean "holy shit, you should really play this, this is something special, I (the reviewer) had a helluva time." 4 stars means "This was a really cool and interesting thing. It may not be for everyone, but it warrants atleast taking a look at." and so on.

also a star got knocked due to the fact that the game is short

Once you've replayed as many different paths as you can think of, there won't be much reason to go back and play it again

I don't believe a star would get knocked off for the length of the game. I think it's best to just say that he felt like it is a 4 star game and that's it. The flip side of it would be the game is to long and wore out it's welcome and for what the game is I think a couple of hours is more then enough.

Posted by naeblis213

I really loved the game myself. I only wish it did the Telltale thing of showing how many users chose left or right on their first playthrough and stuff like that. It probably would ruin the surprise though.

Posted by mithhunter55

I tried the game, played around with it a bit, said, "hey, this is neat," then left it and felt no desire to return to it.

This game, like so many recent indie titles, to me, reeks of something that need not exist, of creative talent gone to waste. With The Stanley Parable specifically it seems that the developers said to themselves in planning something like, "let's make a game that pokes fun of all the conventions used in other games because we're smart enough to understand those conventions, but others are too stupid to notice them without our assistance."

I sure do miss the days when people played games because they were fun, not because they were "art" or extended commentary on the genre itself.

As if their is a lack of everything else? Why is it a problem that the game space is so large that people can explore concepts.

Posted by ILikePopCans

Yeah, I really want to play this too. Watched a play through of the mod so I know I will like this.

Also for the people complaining about the review scores, just stop. I do lean toward the text saying this is a 5 star, by it really does not matter AT ALL. Especially since the metracritc score surly won't effect the creator as it would for AAA games.

Posted by 2HeadedNinja

@sydlanel said:

well as many people have noted.. the score 4 / 5 is equivalent to 8 / 10.

8

8

8

uhm, no its not. The GB system doesn't work like that. You can't just double the stars to get a 10-point version even if metacrtic does it (which is stupid).

Posted by deathfromace

@sydlanel said:

well as many people have noted.. the score 4 / 5 is equivalent to 8 / 10.

8

8

8

uhm, no its not. The GB system doesn't work like that. You can't just double the stars to get a 10-point version even if metacrtic does it (which is stupid).


Yeah I never understood that either. If anything it would be a 9/10 but Giantbomb does not go by that system for a reason.

Edited by ch3burashka

I tried the game, played around with it a bit, said, "hey, this is neat," then left it and felt no desire to return to it.

This game, like so many recent indie titles, to me, reeks of something that need not exist, of creative talent gone to waste. With The Stanley Parable specifically it seems that the developers said to themselves in planning something like, "let's make a game that pokes fun of all the conventions used in other games because we're smart enough to understand those conventions, but others are too stupid to notice them without our assistance."

I sure do miss the days when people played games because they were fun, not because they were "art" or extended commentary on the genre itself.

Is it remotely possible to have both? Also, is this not the age of the "pure mechanic" game as well as the "art" game? There's Stanley Parable for the latter, and something like Spelunky/Binding of Isaac for the former. Maybe it's not a "creative talent gone to waste, something that need not exist" just because you can't respect to concept. That's kind of fucking harsh.

Edited by White_Lando

@slightlytriangularrectangle: Playing games for fun is not some bygone era we can but only be wistful and nostalgic for. Grand Theft Auto 5 alone made over a billion dollars in a few days and it wasn't because the people who bought it were looking for some kind of insightful meta commentary on modern game design. Actually, if you want more examples, look to almost every single game released on consoles. You're being melodramatic because a game you decided you don't like was released.

Also please, I'm begging you, tell me which video games "need" to exist.

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