Friday, November 1, 2013

The Stanley Parable - Game Review (PC)

No matter the medium, any piece of entertainment that offers different things to different people is difficult to explain. The Stanley Parable is one such beast, which defies easy genre classification and provides many facets to enjoy. Despite its simple presentation and two to three hours play time to see and hear everything, it's every bit as well honed as the original Portal. The good news is that there's something for just about everybody, and you won't need twitch reflexes or fast-scoping skills to see it all. There isn't even a jump key...

At its heart, The Stanley Parable is a clever piece of narrative fiction, presented with just the right amount of interactivity to keep you exploring the concentric mazes within Stanley's world. Every step of the way, a kindly narrator explains the situation and guides your progress. Obey him at all times and you, as Stanley, will be led through the office building in which he works and on to a better life. Disobey, and the game really starts to get interesting.

It is in disobeying on repeated play-throughs that TSP truly shines. It understands how gamers' minds work - the things we try to get away with when presented with walled gardens. It understands the tropes, the cliches, and the dichotomies of modern game mechanics. And it has used them both surreptitiously, while at the same time holding a light up to them. To say TSP breaks the fourth wall is an understatement - and if the narrator happens to find out you're a real human, you'll see one of the best possible plotlines of the story.

The only prerequisite to playing The Stanley Parable is to have played other games - at least a couple of FPSs, and the more of everything else the merrier. It's not that TSP is full of pop culture references or hidden props from major franchises. It's that TSP requires that the player has a few years of gaming behind them so they not only have the tools to find every branch of this electronic choose Your Own Adventure™, but to appreciate what the narrator has to say about your inability to follow direction. And it is on the merits and strength of Kevan Brighting's voice acting that The Stanley Parable works so well. His deliveries, both emotional and deadpan, are the star of the show, and you'll want to hear every last line of dialogue. I recommend visiting the employee lounge on at least four separate occasions.

When it comes down to it, I can't recommend The Stanley Parable highly enough. For me, it was laugh-out-loud funny and absolutely perfect as a morsel of self-referential escapism. Any gamer with a few years of playtime up their sleeve should feel rewarded and entertained by the time they've seen even half of the endings-that-aren't-really-endings. There's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Oh sure, you could point at the success of narration as a game mechanic in titles like Quantum Conundrum or Bastion, but the original Stanley Parable was developed when these titles weren't even on the market. True, replayability is low, as is the polygon count, but that doesn't get in the way of how finely crafted The Stanley Parable is. We can want for more endings, but the truth is that TSP is already everything it needs to be.

Platform: PC
Price: $15(USD)

Available on Steam

Visit the Stanley Parable Game Site - HERE

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