jduster's The Stanley Parable (PC) review

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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!)

Gameplay ****
The gameplay in and of itself is as simple, yet the experience as a whole is so much more than just the core mechanics.

Narrative *****
It has a strong sense of what it wants to tell you and it tells it quite well. By the "end", you know exactly that the game tried to convey to you.

Visuals ****
Simple, clean, minimalist and colorful. Technically average, yet it's artistically ideal for what this game is trying to achieve.

Sound ****
Sound effects and score aren't anything special, but the voice acting from the narrator is stellar

Pacing *****
Can be played in short bursts or extended periods of time. Deja vu can sometimes be cloying but there are no slowdowns or obstacles disrupting the fun.

Originality *****
No other game has even attempted to do what this one has effectively done.

Replay Value ***
It may lose it's significance during the second playthrough, but you won't forget this game anytime soon.

Other reviews for The Stanley Parable (PC)

    An interesting art piece that will have you going back time after time for various outcomes. 0

    The Stanley Parable is an interesting piece of interactive software that originally started as a free mod for the Source Engine. You start in your office and almost immediately encounter a narrative voice that spurs you along a path. As you move through the environment, you are told to go one way but are given the option to head another. On first play through it lasted roughly 5 minutes where I deviated from the path of the narrator, defied his warnings about "heading towards my demise" and eve...

    1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

    Clever, Quick, but just barely worth it. 0

    I'd recommend this game, but only very barely.This game may be a victim of its own hype, but in my experience, it didn't live up to those expectations. There is very little action on the viewers part. You largely go down hallways, listen to the narrator, and constantly make left / right choices. Depending on which order you choose these, you get the different endings to the game. There are some neat ideas and endings here, but some of the paths can become repetitive to get to, when the only dif...

    1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

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