What began life as a Source mod is now a fully-fledged, paid-for game, but is it any good? Find out in our The Stanley Parable review.
Published on Oct 22, 2013
The Stanley Parable is one of those games that uppity gamers like to pat themselves on the back for.
‘Aren’t we clever’, they might say, ‘look at how great videogames are’. They may hold it aloft, as though they might be using it to avert an outside audience’s attention away from the truth of gaming. Perhaps pretending that games are art.
That truth, by the way, consists almost entirely of sweary 12 year olds playing Call Of Duty, excessive violence in GTA and the classic tea-bagging after a good rivalry in Halo.
Staying true to form, we’re not about to tell you that The Stanley Parable is gaming’s Citizen Kane, nor will we digest its meaning and present what that suggests for life, the universe and everything in between.
What we will say, however, is that The Stanley Parable is a ruddy good game.
What Is The Stanley Parable?
So you play the titular Stanley, a typical office employee who finds himself mysteriously abandoned, his work colleagues seemingly vanished into the ether. Stanley is alone, and he’s not sure why.
Perhaps it sounds a little sinister, but the truth is quite the opposite. As Stanley explores, wandering through his empty environment, he is followed by a voice. A narrator, even.
When you approach a pair of doors, this narrator explicitly tells you the left door is the one Stanley takes – before he’s even taken it.
And it’s here where the crux of The Stanley Parable lies. Choice. Do you accept this unknown entity’s comment and take the left door, or do you forge your own path and take the right?
It’s like The Matrix but with doors instead of pills.
Regardless of the decision you make, Stanley’s narrator will attempt to regale you with the tale, making excuses for Stanley’s diversions or guiding him onto the correct path.
In essence, a single play through of The Stanley Parable will take no more than 15 minutes. Maybe you’ll stop to explore a broom closet, maybe you’ll take the long way round.
Maybe you’ll ignore everything the narrator has to say, maybe you’ll accept it wide-eyed, hoping to find the answers to the mysteries surrounding Stanley.
And that’s what The Stanley Parable is all about.
Replaying The Stanley Parable
Once the game is done – and note that The Stanley Parable is extremely meta in this sense, the narrator often referring to the story as ‘a game’ – it automatically resets.
Back inside Stanley’s humble office you’re left with questions as well as, more importantly, options.
As you replay you’ll discover more tangents, more choices and increasingly unusual circumstances. You may never find the answers you’re looking for, but you’ll certainly enjoying searching for them.
There’s a humour to The Stanley Parable, too. Unavoidable considering the ability to diverge from the narrator’s prescribed story, but great effort has gone into the pacing – and variety – of oddities to make this game amusing, if not bemusing.
It’s hard not to sound like a pretentious arse when praising The Stanley Parable for its ‘narrative’, but then that’s all there is to it.
Perhaps this isn’t a ‘videogame’ in the strictest sense of the word, but it makes better use of the medium’s interactivity than almost any other game. For that it should be praised.
It’s the narrative that ties everything together, adding questions wherever there’s an answer and having you attempt different routes, choose different choices as you try to see everything there is to see.
The Stanley Parable Review
Truth be told The Stanley Parable won’t be appealing to everyone. You’ll need to be willing for the game to work, to accept that you won’t be doing anything more than moving forward and looking at things.
If you’re the kind of gamer who likes to uncover the intricacies of a game’s story – say Dark Souls’ lore or Fallout 3’s hidden details – then there’s reason for you to drop a few quid on The Stanley Parable.
And it’s worth pointing out that after a couple of hours trying to squeeze as much out of The Stanley Parable as you can, it’ll begin to feel a bit repetitive.
An inevitable criticism for a game about corridors.
Though it is a game best experienced in a single sitting, you may not feel the desire to hunt down every ending or alternative when doing so.
There’s little in the way of longevity, too; once you’re done with its entertaining tale – whether that’s after an hour or four – there will be no reason for you to come back.
As such the price of £9.99/$14.99 is probably a little steep; The Stanley Parable may well be doing something new and interesting, but it’s not so impressive that its value is recovered for what will likely be a short runtime.
Nonetheless, if you’re looking to enjoy something different, something truly original, then The Stanley Parable will be well worth your time.
8.0 / 10
9.0 / 10
8.0 / 10
7.0 / 10
N/A / 10
8.5 / 10
The Stanley Parable might not prove that videogames are art, but it is an intriguing - and original - game that plays around with the tried-and-tested tropes of player choice in gaming.