‘This is the story of a man named Stanley.’
So begins a game that kept me hooked from beginning to end. Or should that be ends? It is possible to reach an ending of The Stanley Parable in mere minutes, but this is a game about choice and curiosity. ‘What happens if I do this…’ is a common thing within the game, and The Stanley Parable presents its choices clearly. Do you go through the left door or the right door? Upstairs or downstairs? I found myself wanting to explore every nook and cranny, and the game held me until I had.
The story goes that all of Stanley’s co-workers have gone missing, and thus Stanley’s normal daily routine is broken. What follows ranges from the weird, unexpected, hilarious, and thought provoking, among others. I won’t say anymore as it is something to experience for yourself really. I feel this is often used as a cop out, but The Stanley Parable isn’t a very long experience (Steam puts my playtime as 6 hours, but some of that was paused) and the experience would be very easily ruined.
The Stanley Parable is extremely self-aware when it wants to be, the forth wall gets broken, and a large part of my enjoyment of the game came down to the Narrator – who wonderfully talks you through Stanley’s actions, thought processes, and (more importantly) much much besides. The Narrator is wonderfully voiced, utterly believable and really makes the experience so much better.
I played through the demo of The Stanley Parable after playing the full game, not realising until later that the demo was a completely separate experience. While the demo does a good job of setting the tone, it felt off after experiencing the full thing, and I’m not sure the demo alone would have sold me on the game. The demo is about 30 minutes, and is extremely funny in places (‘Eight’ – you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it, and you’ll know what I mean if you haven’t but try the demo), and if you haven’t tried it you really should.
I could talk about The Stanley Parable a lot more than I have, what I thought of X ending, Y ending, or when Z happened, but as mentioned this would almost ruin it for anyone who hasn’t played it. I may do a spoilerific post in future, without playing it again, to see how much of it I remember to judge what impression it left on me (I only played through this three days ago at time of writing) – this is also something I’m considering doing with other games.
I would recommend The Stanley Parable to anyone with a PC. It runs in the Valve’s Source engine, which means that a 1980s Casio Calculator could probably run it (maybe a slight overstatement – 1997 at least), so there’s no excuse really. This inadvertently turned into a review there with that recommendation, but it’s worth it!