'The Stanley Parable' simply has to be experienced

The Stanley Parable
PC, Mac
Davey Wreden, Galactic Cafe

The Stanley Parable
PC, Mac
Davey Wreden, Galactic Cafe

Rating

5 Stars5/5

Daniel Anderson, ClickOnline.com

, Last Updated: 12:40 PM ET

Born as a Half Life mod built with the SourceEngine,The Stanley Parable has had some cosmetic work done for an all new reissue.

Originally released for free in 2011, The Stanley Parable was the work of one young man - DaveyWreden - who wanted to interrogate the nature of video game narratives.

And he's certainly accomplished that goal. This is one of the most unique games I've ever played, and one which asks serious questions about exactly what we expect from video games and their stories.

It's the tale of Stanley, that's you, who finds himself at work on a normal day when suddenly all of his co-workers vanish. Stanley wanders down the empty corridors, as a helpful narrator fills in the gaps in our knowledge of him. Then you come to a room, with two open doors. The narrator says Stanley took the door to the left and that's where the game comes to life.

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You can, of course, go left. You can then proceed through the basically drawn levels (floating in a familiarly Gordon Freeman way) and doing the obvious thing every circumstance. Some buttons will be pressed, the narrator will be encouraging and the game will reach its conclusion with a happy ending.

Or…

You could go to the right. The narrator will scoff, belittle your seemingly futile attempts to wander off the beaten path and he'll attempt to coax you back to that meeting room. And you can be the good little peon… or you can just not.

And that's the beauty of The Stanley Parable, the moments of branching that draw you further from what you're expected to do. And unlike the supposedly sophisticated choice gameplay of recent games like Beyondor The Wolf Among Us, these moments have something real to say about how we play and consume games.

In one version of events, the exasperated disembodied voice (British VO artist Kevan Brighting) begins to despair at your inability to follow simple commands. And it made me think for the first time about the similar exasperation of game developers, spending years crafting a riveting experience only for gamers to get hung up on a misaligned texture. Or, for some bizarre reason, for them to try to wander off in a non-linear direction!

You'll find more thought-provoking moments here, probing into the essential futility of game playing and the arbitrary nature of the win-state, all told with an ear for clever dialogue and a sense of the absurd that could be favourable compared to the work of DouglasAdams.

It is, by its nature, a somewhat fleeting experience - and sometimes the only recourse is to stop playing for a while. But you suspect that even this is something which Wreden and co-developer William Pugh have planned for. This might be a game which actively wants you to stop playing it.

I don't know if I can adequately get across in words just how hilarious, self-reflexive and revelatory The Stanley Parable is. It's such a unique game that it simply has to be experienced and if you've got an interest in taking a sideways step from the slicing and shooting of most modern titles, you owe it to yourself to step into this strange and wonderful world.

The Stanley Parable is available now from Steam for €9.59.


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