Delightful deja vu
The Good: Innovative and unlike anything you've ever played; Many hilarious laugh-out-loud moments; Interaction with the narrator is satisfying; Excellent satire on the nature of choice and decisions
The Bad: Short, and the novelty wears off
The premise is simple. You play as Stanley, an office worker who is a cog in the corporate machine who repeats the same day over and over again, but this time, you are presented with choices to deviate from your regular path. The office building is quiet and empty, with no other person, but the narrator which comments on your every move. As you walk into each room, you are often presented with a decision (for example: go upstairs or go downstairs). The narrator expresses which decision you are going to make, and you can opt to either follow his instruction or disobey him. With the many decisions you can make, there are quite a number of possibilities that open up. You will often have to repeat the beginning sequence over and over again, but sometimes, it's hard to tell whether you are repeating the same loop or starting a new one, with all of the subtlety in it's design.
Your relationship with this narrator is a strange one. His reactions to your decisions are immensely entertaining, whether they are jokes, backhanded compliments, or remarks of disgust. He is often like an antagonist, especially if you don't go along the path he designates. At the same time, albeit being only an intangible voice, he is the only friend you have. You have the power to defy him, yet he's always a step ahead of you. This may seem like it was inspired by Valve's Portal, and it does bear some degree of similarities, yet it feels entirely like a game of it's own. And this game is not afraid to break the fourth wall by actually talking to the player rather than the protagonist or be self-referential and honest about it's mechanics.
There are lots of satisfying moments whether they are laugh-out-loud funny jokes and unexpected surprises, though I won't spoil them, as this game is best explored with a clean slate. Aside from being raw entertainment, it also provides some commentary on the nature of choice, whether it's within many of the games we love that refuse to give us choice or aspects of our daily lives that we have no control over. Games, like life at times, give us the pretense of choice rather than an actual one. The Stanley Parable is completely honest about this. It doesn't subvert this nature of restricted freedom, but rather is honest about that, and uses it as it's strength. It gives you a limited amount of room to swerve away from the expected route, yet in the end, you are still not in control.
If you comply with the narrator and follow through with all of his instructions, you'll beat the game in less than 10 minutes. However, the real fun is the many ways and combinations in which you can deviate from his orders. The meat of this game is to discover all of the alternative endings and explore every possibility. Almost all of these alternate endings are rewarding. This won't take you long, though. You could discover nearly all of them in under 4 hours. This is a short game, even with all of it's permutations, but the developer knew how far to take the joke and the game is sure not to overstay it's welcome. When you are done with it, chances are that you might want to try it again in the future, but it's also likely that you won't find other reasons to come back to it.
The game is short and the novelty does wear off after a while, however, there is nothing comparable to playing this gem for the first time. Something bigger probably could have been done with these concepts, but there's no denying how satisfying it already is. The excitement, euphoria, immersion and interactivity of this game, while you aren't fully aware of all it's mechanics yet, are peerless. And this is a game you will want to invite friends over to try purely to see their reaction to it. Once you figure out it's secrets, The Stanley Parable loses a bit of it's shine, but it's still well worth the price, and recommendable to anyone who is tired of the usual.
|Overall Rating 4/5 - (Recommended!)|
Replay Value ***