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The Stanley Parable Review

The Stanley Parable

Release: 17/10/2013
Publisher: Galactic Cafe
Developer: Davey Wreden
Genre: Action, Adventure
PEGI: M
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8.0 - Gameplay
          
 
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9.5 - Audio
           
 

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The Stanley Parable Review – Introduction

Where do I begin? Where do I end? Where do I middle? When it comes to The Stanley Parable, there’s no real way to review it, just as there is no real way to play it, or finish it, or even describe it on a basic level. In the spirit of The Stanley Parable, allow me to go a bit meta – when I write a review, I like to spend the first couple of paragraphs giving an overview of the game. The story, the setting, but here, there is no proper story, there is no proper setting. Do you see the quandary? Maybe there’s only one way to review it…

The Reviewer Parable

The Stanley Parable started life as a Source mod back in 2011, and you can still download and play it to this day. In fact, the reviewer just did, just before he started writing. So you may ask: why would I pay for a game when I can get it for free? The reviewer’s response would be “piracy is wrong” but then he would realise you were simply talking about the original mod, at which point he would be painfully embarrassed and rephrase his answer – “because you should”.

Staying true to itself, The Stanley Parable is new but not new at the same time. Scenarios are fresh and interesting, but old and dusty at the same time. You can follow exactly the same path in both the mod and the game and reach something new, but not new. It’s all subtle changes; the layout changes, the script is altered, it’s a very clever way to make the game new but also deliver the original experience in a much better package. It’s like the game went off the University for three years and arrived back home a man.

 

If you were to ask the reviewer to give one word to describe the game, he might say “new”, at which point you would point out that he already used that word five times in the previous paragraph and that he should be ashamed of his vocabulary. He would probably cry and change his answer to “grand”. Yes, by making this into an actual full game, the creator has been able to craft a game that feels as epic as it should be. Big wow moments actually feel like big wow moments due to this game having an actual budget. It’s grander in its execution and it really helps the story have the impact it always wanted to have. Sets are bigger and bolder and crescendos in the story feel like, well, crescendos.

The Story, or Not

The story, or more so the message, is unchanged. Stanley comes to realise that his office is suddenly empty and, at the instruction of the Narrator, sets off to find out where everyone has gone. You can follow everything the Narrator says, or you can chose to disobey him and find your own path, and it’s here that the reviewer finds the genius of The Stanley Parable. If you’ve ever wondered why everyone is talking about this game, it’s because of this feature, it’s also why the reviewer said this game has a story, but also doesn’t; the story is set by you and in the choices you make. 

Not in the same way The Walking Dead or Heavy Rain did it, as each path leads somewhere different. The reviewer has seen lots of endings, but he has no way of knowing if he’s seen them all. In fact, the reviewer, looking to waste some time in his meaningless life, turned to YouTube for some mindless entertainment. There he found someone else playing The Stanley Parable, and the reviewer was shocked to find that within the first five minutes, the man in the video had found something he had never seen. The reviewer fought off the feeling of inadequacy and instead decided that this meant the game had more depth than you could ever comprehend. Yes, keep telling yourself that, reviewer.

While the reviewer was content with what he had played, he mused that maybe not everyone would appreciate that there was very little game here, and that was true. You can’t even jump. What’s up with that? Beyond walking, and occasionally clicking, you are merely walking through a story. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s something that David Cage is constantly trying to create, with his recent game Beyond: Two Souls trying to make a movie in video game form. The reviewer might even be bold enough to go as far as saying that The Stanley Parable does it better than Beyond, that David Cage doesn’t realise what it takes to make a truly interactive story. Forced gameplay elements are dull and pointless, and the stripped back nature of The Stanley Parable’s gameplay serves the genre much better.

Maybe it’s also in the script, the reviewer pondered. The Stanley Parable has an amazing script, with tight, dry comedy that knows exactly what it is saying and doing. The message of the game is weaved into every line, and the delivery by the actor, Kevan Brighting, is arguably better than most you would find in triple A titles.

Maybe a Conclusion

So if you were to ask the reviewer to justify the £9.99 price point in a succinct, almost conclusive paragraph, he might say that it’s worth it to simply promote what The Stanley Parable is doing. Galactic Cafe’s game says so much about video games, and it does it in a cheap, affordable package. The bright minds behind the game deserve to be given the chance to thrive and grow. You’re investing in the company as much as the game. But of course, these are just the mad ramblings of the reviewer, who knows if he’s even right. Who knows if he’s even sane, maybe you shouldn’t even listen to him. Maybe the only way to be truly sure is to buy the game, not because the reviewer told you to, but maybe to see if he’s right or not. Maybe he’s right and not right at the same time. Oh sod it, I’m buying the game.

And it’s with that, that the Narrator left his post to go buy the game. How unprofessional of him – now what will the reviewer do? Maybe I should just hit this reset button…

Where do I begin? Where do I end? Where do I middle? When it comes to The Stanley Parable, there’s no real way to review it, just as there is no real way to play it, or finish it, or even describe it on a basic level.

Positives

  • One of the funniest games of the year
  • Doesn’t break the bank
  • Succinct story and message
  • So many different paths

Negatives

  • Not enough gameplay
 

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