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 wukong

It is worth noting that the demo for The Stanley Parable is completely original content, and is very clever in and of itself.

Posted by Hayt

Is this game Dear Esther short or 30 Flights of Loving short?

Posted by BenderUnit22

The question has to be asked, is this better than Brothers?

Posted by Icicle7x3

@hayt said:

Is this game Dear Esther short or 30 Flights of Loving short?

Can be beaten in under 5 minutes, but there are multiple endings and tons of secrets to look for so it should take you longer.

Also, SECRETS FOR PRESIDENT 2016!

Posted by Abendlaender

@2headedninja said:

@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.

4 out of 5 is 80%. That's why Metacritic says it's an 8/10 (or a 80/100 can't really remember)

Edited by Sweetz
@humanity said:

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.

Bit of an odd statement I think. I'd say there are quite a number of games based on the one aspect of moving a reticule over things, pressing a button, and watching them die or explode.

I mean, how is this effectively different than saying "you have to like the gameplay to enjoy the game" ; well...yes, that is the case. In this respect, I'm not sure how the Stanley Parable is more of a gamble that any other creative endeavor. Nothing pleases everyone and the game wasn't made for people who don't like it...

That said, you should play the demo yourself. Experiencing it second hand alters the experience a bit because the narrator isn't reacting to your actions. The Stanley Parable shouldn't be passively experienced.

-----

Regarding the review score and whether or not it is justified - I don't have much of an opinion one way or another, but I do just want to point out that Jeff has talked about reviewing methods in the past (either on Jar Time or Bombcast, I can't recall which). In particular he encourages a peer review process and he specifically made mention about how if the score doesn't feel justified by the text, he would talk to reviewer to get at the meat of what they really wanted to say. As a result of that dialog, the score would either change or the reviewer would have a clearer vision of what they wanted to point out and the review would consequently improve. Therefore, if people believe that the score isn't justified by the text, I think it is fair of them to point this out as this is a standard that Jeff holds himself and his staff to. That is of course, all still matter of opinion that Jeff doesn't have to agree with, nor do you.

For my own part, I really like the game. It isn't for everyone, but neither is any game.

Posted by Humanity

@sweetz said:
@humanity said:

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.

Bit of an odd statement I think. I'd say there are quite a number of games based on the one aspect of moving a reticule over things, pressing a button, and watching them die or explode.

I mean, how is this effectively different than saying "you have to like the gameplay to enjoy the game" ; well...yes, that is the case. In this respect, I'm not sure how the Stanley Parable is more of a gamble that any other creative endeavor. Nothing pleases everyone and the game wasn't made for people who don't like it...

That said, you should play the demo yourself. Experiencing it second hand alters the experience a bit because the narrator isn't reacting to your actions. The Stanley Parable shouldn't be passively experienced.

-----

Regarding the review score and whether or not it is justified - I don't have much of an opinion one way or another, but I do just want to point out that Jeff has talked about reviewing methods in the past (either on Jar Time or Bombcast, I can't recall which). In particular he encourages a peer review process and he specifically made mention about how if the score doesn't feel justified by the text, he would talk to reviewer to get at the meat of what they really wanted to say. As a result of that dialog, the score would either change or the reviewer would have a clearer vision of what they wanted to point out and the review would consequently improve. Therefore, if people believe that the score isn't justified by the text, I think it is fair of them to point this out as this is a standard that Jeff holds himself and his staff to. That is of course, all still matter of opinion that Jeff doesn't have to agree with, nor do you.

For my own part, I really like the game. It isn't for everyone, but neither is any game.

There is a fundamental difference here. What I'm referring to is an overbearing element of the game overlayed onto the existing framework of press button, make things happen. I think it's a gamble because the game itself is fairly interesting in of itself; the idea of action/inaction defining a malleable course of action is quite unique in a sea of linear corridors. This interesting gameplay component is relying on the narrator to drive it forward, and in this case I don't like the narrator, which in essence is stopping me short from wanting to experience the actual gameplay which I am interested in.

Posted by development

Having played the free mod, I kinda thought it was underwhelming in terms of scope. I felt it should have been "bigger," given the time since that free mod's release. Then again, I know nothing about this game's dev cycle or if I've even discovered everything, so my opinion here is likely meaningless!

Posted by GIyn

Having played the free mod, I kinda thought it was underwhelming in terms of scope. I felt it should have been "bigger," given the time since that free mod's release. Then again, I know nothing about this game's dev cycle or if I've even discovered everything, so my opinion here is likely meaningless!

My thoughts exactly. Because the concept is so neat. You really want them to hit it out of the park. But all you really get is a slight roll 10 metres away. I'm thinking another narrator game comes along not too long.

Posted by TheDarkOn3

@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).

WOOOSH

Posted by defbref

@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).

Its not a comment on GB rating or metacritic, its just a silly joke to do with the demo.

Posted by SemiNormal

Having played the demo AFTER the game, I feel like it actually does the game a disservice, and the Quick Look was actually a better starting off point.

I have to say this is the first GENUINELY funny game I've played since... Portal? That made it worth more than the asking price for me, despite the shortness. Took me about 4 hours to find most of the endings by myself (I missed two that I ended up looking up).

Posted by deathfromace

@deathfromace said:
@2headedninja said:

@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.

4 out of 5 is 80%. That's why Metacritic says it's an 8/10 (or a 80/100 can't really remember)

I know but that is not taking into account why Giantbomb does it out of 5 and their actual thoughts on game. You can not convert it from one scale to another and expect that same value to be what the reviewer would of given it on a different scale.

Edited by MaxOpower

@seminormal: What do you mean by disservice? Do you mean the game was funnier than what the demo represented? Because I came away from the demo, pretty underwhelmed. I could see how the game would be cool. But I didn't really find the narrator funny. Having a British accent doesn't make you funny.

Posted by FurieMan

@richardzk: Because for this type of review its about the general feeling of how good the game is. It is not about taking all the positives and subtrakting all the negatives.

Posted by SemiNormal

@seminormal: What do you mean by disservice? Do you the game was funnier than what the demo represented? Because I came away from the demo, pretty underwhelmed. I could see how the game would be cool. But I didn't really find the narrator funny. Having a British accent doesn't make you funny.

What I mean is that I thought it was better starting the game thinking that it might be "more serious" than it ends up being.

The demo was more "on the nose," and while the game does have that aspect, it's something that uncovers itself over time rather than shoving itself in your face from the get-go.

That said, if you dislike the narrator, you'll dislike the game.

Then again, if the word "Obama" showing up in the "Despair Emotion Cubicle" doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.

Edited by emem

Nice review of a great (thought-provoking) game.

Posted by mikbal

Protected the baby for 4 hours and finally understood the deep meaning of it all.

Posted by TheFridge

"game" of the year

Posted by matti00

@neonie said:

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

Are you dead?

Posted by mindgarden418

Nice review! I can see some people not enjoying the 'game' but I thought it was really fun and compelling.

Posted by zenmastah

In all honesty i haven't laughed with a video game like i laughed with this one for a long ass time, really fucking well written stuff.

Edited by mORTEN81

That's some fine writin' there Jeff

Posted by spraynardtatum

This thing is a masterpiece.

Posted by GaspoweR


Word. There must have been something that clicked in Jeff's head and he was firing on all cylinders when writing this review. Really liked how this was written. :)

Posted by Lysergica33

@slightlytriangularrectangle said:

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.

To me this is like saying Dali should've painted still life pictures or that Dadaism was a waste of time because it was actively avoided convention. Those movements were important for their own reasons just as this movement of exploration into the meta in video games is important in its own way. I can play blockbusters and I can play this and enjoy both in equal measure based firmly on their own merits. .

Posted by mattoncybertron

8

Posted by Krabonq

I finished the mod version quite some time ago and it had some good jokes, was enjoyable to walk through.

But that's exactly this software's problem, it's basically a walking software. Absolutely not a game. To a degree it's... less than a game.

I personally would not give it (the mod version) more than 2/5. And this version is a complete rip-off because of the price. But hey, as long as there are people saying "it's art", I guess you can sell the smallest witty joke for the price of a Porsche.

Posted by parabolee

Amazing game. Loved the hell out of it, and the demo too (which is almost free DLC!).

In my top 5 games of the year probably!

Posted by MATATAT

I circumvented every request I was given, then I ended up in space, then I threw myself off the stairs until I died. Then the game restarted hahaha.

Posted by bakkelun

@wes899 said:

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

That's a very..no, great way of putting how star rating works!

Posted by iAmJohn
@krabonq said:

I finished the mod version quite some time ago and it had some good jokes, was enjoyable to walk through.

But that's exactly this software's problem, it's basically a walking software. Absolutely not a game. To a degree it's... less than a game.

I personally would not give it (the mod version) more than 2/5. And this version is a complete rip-off because of the price. But hey, as long as there are people saying "it's art", I guess you can sell the smallest witty joke for the price of a Porsche.

So what, in your mind, defines something as a game if you're so willing to tell us how it's not a game in spite of the fact that it literally cannot be experienced (and loses its point) without the interactivity element? Oh, and comparing a $15 experimental game to "the price of a Porsche" is horrifyingly disingenuous and you know it.

Posted by hxcaleb

@strife777 said:

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

Does that mean that there's a working web browser inside of the game you can use? If so that's pretty genius.

Posted by Krabonq

@iamjohn said:
@krabonq said:

I finished the mod version quite some time ago and it had some good jokes, was enjoyable to walk through.

But that's exactly this software's problem, it's basically a walking software. Absolutely not a game. To a degree it's... less than a game.

I personally would not give it (the mod version) more than 2/5. And this version is a complete rip-off because of the price. But hey, as long as there are people saying "it's art", I guess you can sell the smallest witty joke for the price of a Porsche.

So what, in your mind, defines something as a game if you're so willing to tell us how it's not a game in spite of the fact that it literally cannot be experienced (and loses its point) without the interactivity element? Oh, and comparing a $15 experimental game to "the price of a Porsche" is horrifyingly disingenuous and you know it.

It's like a DVD menu, where you pic the scenes.

Or one of those "your own adventure" books.

There is no challenge, therefore it is no game.

"horrifyingly disingenuous and you know it." No, it's not and you know it.

It's really not, if you know anything about the jobs that writers for sitcoms, cartoon shows, late night shows etc. have.

Besides, it was obviously not a 100% accurate comparison, I was just trying to say the price is a joke. There was no reason to point it out as you did.

Edited by Sydlanel

@krabonq:

That is actually wrong, challenge is solely defined by the expectations of the user, so even the most basic of navigation may be a challenge. In the case of Stanley Parable, a lot of the challenge is not presented in a mechanic level but more on an intellectual level, what does the game mean? is it just joking? How can I change the outcome? how much freedom do I have within it's rules? should I give in to the narrative or challenge it?
It might sound a bit pretentious but it surprisingly delivers a lot of frankly entertaining views, that even when unappreciated, can be very funny.

In many ways it is much more challenging than your average game.

In fact the game itself comments on your conflict, by generating fake and meaningless challenges along the way as to make it more of a "game" ( and makes fun of that as if you had to fulfill a certain number of inputs in a checklist to call something a game, and any less would not do ). It deconstructs the structure of many games presenting some of the conventions we always take for granted with a lot of humor.

As for the prize, the game has pretty high production values for what it is, and the art and narration are very carefully put together, it is nowhere near AAA but it isn't an unreasonable Porsche prize. Considering how uncommon a game it is, and taking into account that you can play through it several times and have dramatically different experiences, it is well worth the admission prize.

Posted by Sydlanel

@thedarkon3: WHOOSH INDEED!
missed him by [ this ] much


@abendlaender said:

@deathfromace said:
@2headedninja said:

@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.

4 out of 5 is 80%. That's why Metacritic says it's an 8/10 (or a 80/100 can't really remember)

I know but that is not taking into account why Giantbomb does it out of 5 and their actual thoughts on game. You can not convert it from one scale to another and expect that same value to be what the reviewer would of given it on a different scale.

Cheer up buttercup!
I was just making a pretty bad joke, because fractions and magic, and mainly because 8....

If it got ported to Metacritic I'm sure it would be around 2.546 * π
Or ninjas.

Yeah, probably ninjas /10

Edited by Budwyzer

@white_lando said:

@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.

The ones where you undress girls, and then someone comes into the scene behind you with a fire-hose connected to a vat of mayonnaise and sprays that stuff everywhere.

Those kind "need" to exist.

Edited by megalowho

@mikbal said:

Protected the baby for 4 hours and finally understood the deep meaning of it all.

I only watched a video but the shit they pull halfway through is diabolical.

Have seen most of the endings now and haven't felt this exhilarated about a game in a long time. It's really great stuff, dark and thoughtful and hilarious.

Edited by Krabonq

@sydlanel said:

@krabonq:

That is actually wrong, challenge is solely defined by the expectations of the user, so even the most basic of navigation may be a challenge. In the case of Stanley Parable, a lot of the challenge is not presented in a mechanic level but more on an intellectual level, what does the game mean? is it just joking? How can I change the outcome? how much freedom do I have within it's rules? should I give in to the narrative or challenge it?

It might sound a bit pretentious but it surprisingly delivers a lot of frankly entertaining views, that even when unappreciated, can be very funny.

In many ways it is much more challenging than your average game.

In fact the game itself comments on your conflict, by generating fake and meaningless challenges along the way as to make it more of a "game" ( and makes fun of that as if you had to fulfill a certain number of inputs in a checklist to call something a game, and any less would not do ). It deconstructs the structure of many games presenting some of the conventions we always take for granted with a lot of humor.

As for the prize, the game has pretty high production values for what it is, and the art and narration are very carefully put together, it is nowhere near AAA but it isn't an unreasonable Porsche prize. Considering how uncommon a game it is, and taking into account that you can play through it several times and have dramatically different experiences, it is well worth the admission prize.

You're all describing things that can also apply to movies, books and TV shows.

In fact, there have been books that play (duh) with the expectation of the reader stopping to read and not continue the story. You might want to call that an interactive story.

What you describe does not define it as a game.

Posted by SinGulaR

Good review. I had a great time with the game.

Posted by SinKing

Good to hear it has come some way, since the mod. I already enjoyed that a lot thanks to the original idea.

I find it interesting that nobody seems to realize that we are Stanley. We sit in front of computers waiting for it to tell us what buttons to push (to drive left or right, for example). The Stanley Parable is computer game philosophy. It's one of those games that can't be compared well to others. It sets a new standard for narration in games.

Edited by bledsoe9mm

personally think jeff is the best reviewer in gaming

Edited by Sydlanel
@krabonq said:

You're all describing things that can also apply to movies, books and TV shows.

In fact, there have been books that play (duh) with the expectation of the reader stopping to read and not continue the story. You might want to call that an interactive story.

What you describe does not define it as a game.

Except you are completely missing the point

First you also fail to provide a definition for game, you only list why it doesn't fit into your expectations of what it should be. And deny it from the prejudice.

Second, your observation fails to explain why it is not worthy of that name, as it has abstract goals, the demo even makes a point out of this, as all other games, no absolute fail-state doesn't mean no challenge, just like very clear fail states and very defined challenges don't make MOAR GAME. You think something as menial as a timer or a score counter would make it more of a game? Those are just mechanical crutches, as LEVELS or LIVES were a few years ago. Would having make the experience in any way better? Would it prove its communicative point better?

This subversion of the established goal based challenges is particularly obvious when this game proposes itself as some sort of narrative continuum capable of adapting to any fail state to turn in a different direction.

Many "videogames" today have demonstrated that the distinction that you fail to pinpoint doesn't have any validity. In fact a lot of games have proposed the question about the validity of the word GAME today. How does it bare any importance to the evaluation of a non defined interactive media experience?

If it uses the tools of games, and behaves like a game, Isn't it just your expectations and prejudice that prevents it from being one? In fact a lot of the discussion overtly presented by TSP is why are we clinging to the silly "gameyness" of games, when we know that the medium today have far outgrown their basic entertainment role.

AND this particular entertainment software, does have one very particular characteristic, it requires very specific user inputs to be completed, the narration can only continue if the player makes an active choice, like all other "MOAR GAME" games, but intentionally with less of the unnecessary bloat that games have grown dependent on (and making fun of it as well). The bottom line is that it's exploration delves directly in the interactivity only videogames can provide.

In fact I'd even say that The Stanley Parable proves you wrong, but you don't realize it, because you are too busy trying to demonstrate how it is not what you KNOW IS GAMES! because it is not what you expect it to be. And that is it's exact purpose.

Edited by chilipeppersman

@singular: it looks really different, ill have to check this out

Posted by Giantstalker

This review was valuable because it gave me several good reasons not to buy or play this piece of software; when it comes to writing, Jeff's still got it!

Edited by scarycrayons

@richardzk: There's only around two hours of content at absolute most, which makes the game feel kind of pricy for what it is. All two hours of content are absolutely amazing, but... yeah. It's the kind of game where you start off thinking "oh my gosh, I want to see every outcome and hear every line of dialogue!" and two hours later, you've exhausted every single possible thing in the game, and it didn't quite last as long as you'd hoped in the beginning.

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