Review: The Beautiful Madness of The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable is a game about control–or the lack thereof. You play Stanley, an office slug who’s day consists of waiting for a computer to tell him what buttons to push at his desk. One day he notices that computer is no longer feeding him instructions. Stanley’s co-workers have gone missing and he is all alone in a massive office complex. It’s up to Stanley to unravel the mystery…or not. For the first time in Stanley’s life, he has to make his own decisions with a Narrator providing commentary on everything he does.
The Stanley Parable is the HD upgrade of an adventure game based on a free Source mod that turned heads in the indie community last year.
The best parts of the game comes from veering off the path set out in front of you. The best example comes early on when you’re given your first decision. In front of you are two doors and the narrator explains that Stanley knows that the meeting room lies past the left door. You can choose to listen to the Narrator or defy him and go right. You will be praised for following directions or chastised for being disobedient.
There is a constant battle between the silent Stanley (actions) and the disembodied Narrator (words) in deciding which one of you has the most control.
The Stanley Parable is also a comedy poking fun at storytelling in modern games. The writing in The Stanley Parable is pure delight and the main reason you’ll actually want to play. When you hear the Narrator, who is cognizant that this is a videogame, slowly lose more and more patience with you with every defiant action you take, it’s capable of leaving you with a sinister grin on your face. The comedy is spot-on–mostly because the Narrator himself, voiced by British actor Kevan Brighting, has an excellent delivery of classically accented snark.
The title’s short length actually works in its favor. In a few hours, you can see everything this absurd journey has to offer with its multiple endings. You’ll end up thinking of choice, control. and narrative in videogames in a new way. If you don’t care about that sort of thing, you can simply just do what you can to piss off the Narrator. These are all valid ways to enjoy and play it.
The controls themselves are limited to just moving around and occasionally being able to push buttons. Some could argue that the game’s really all about going left or right. Honestly, you won’t even think about it once you start playing. The game is over long before you realize you’re just a guy wondering around an empty building listening to a British man call you names.
There’s no right or wrong way to play The Stanley Parable. You can do what your told and hear the story the Narrator had laid out for you or you can go out of your way to circumvent the system. Go left when told to right. Stay still when you’re told to move. There’s an outcome for every decision or indecision you make but saying too much about it actually works against what makes it fun. Just play The Stanley Parable; it will make you laugh and, most importantly, it will make you think.
*Jorge Note* If you’re not sure if this is the game for you, the demo for The Stanley Parable is a free self-contained story that will more or less tell you what to expect from the full game. You should still try out the demo even if you plan on playing the full game because it’s insanely funny.