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Video Game Review – The Stanley Parable

Viral video games are common place now-a-days, but in 2013 we were introduced to The Stanley Parable which took off on the internet hard. It’s no wonder, the game has a clever storytelling mechanic, with a fun but really easy to understand underlying story. But now it’s time for us to step back and look at this title subjectively and decide whether or not The Stanley Parable is worth your time.

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Story

You’re a number, really Stanley. Number 427.

I mean, that is the story of the game. You’re an easily replaceable number who has been a strong cog in the wheel for some time. One day, you decide to stop pressing buttons as you are told and you gain a sort of sentience and want to know more about your employers. You realise all of your colleagues are gone and you set on a journey to go and find your way around these strange offices.

Gameplay

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You cannot jump and straight away if you give it a try, the game will tell you this with an achievement saying that you tried to jump. The gameplay is more or less a case of walking around and clicking on some objects to interact with them, which really isn’t revolutionary.

The game excels in giving us a set of rules which the game explains to you via narration. What happens next however is then down to the player to decide: Do you follow the arbitrary path that you’ve been given, or do you go off tangent? The amount of times I found myself just lounging around the staff room, or hiding inside of a broom closet just because I liked the idea of not progressing and having a bit of banter wit23h the narrator was highly amusing. Basically, with this game, expect to break the rules.

Audio

Relatively minimalistic, but the most important point of the game isn’t in the music. It does have some nice ambience which helps to set the tone, but like many indie games, it doesn’t have anything special in the music department. The truly special part of the audio however lies within the voice actors.

The narrator is played by Kevan Brighting, who is a fellow Brit with a damn fine voice if I may say so. The casting was perfect as he speaks with utmost clarity and every emotion that the narrator is feeling is reflected perfectly in his inflections. Honestly, you play this game mostly to hear him speak, so they cast this exquisitely. In March 2014, at the Tobacco Docks in London (same place as Rezzed this year, don’t forget to check our gallery out), the 10th British Academy Games Awards nominated Kevan Brighting for best performer in a video game. He was beaten to the punch by Ashley Johnson (as Ellie from The Last of Us).

Graphics

Have a look through our gallery for The Stanley Parable:

Overall

Should you go running to the hills to go and play this game immediately? I’d argue not, but don’t get me wrong: I’d still recommend playing it at some point. It’s a great little title, but the game suffers with just how short it is. But the very experience of going through the game and hearing the different ways the narrator can taunt you, or help you change your story based upon your rebellious streaks, is worth it.

This isn’t a long game, it’s not a hard game but it is a memorable one. The voice acting is stellar which is exactly as you’d expect from a game of this sort. Whilst there’s not much to do in the gameplay, nor is there much story to cover, there’s enough intrigue on the initial play through to see you go through to the end. Further to this, once you’ve beaten the game once, you’ll want to know all of the different endings and different nuances the game throws at you, depending on how you play the game. It’s also a lot of fun going for some of the achievements. There’s one achievement where you click on a door a certain amount of times, where the narrator then decides to take you on a wild goose chase to click doors and printers. It’s all around fun.

Have you played The Stanley Parable? What do you think about it? Was the game too short, or was it just long enough for you to enjoy it? As always, please leave your comments below, over on Facebook and Twitter.

4 responses

  1. A phrase I’ve used to describe The Stanley Parable is “paradoxically one-dimensional.” It’s interesting while it lasts, but it never ascends past the level of being merely “sort of neat.” I’ve never felt the need to go back to it, for it has a distinct lack of substance. It is cool that the developer tried to craft a story that could only be told through an interactive format, but I think he relied too heavily on his one good idea.

    It seems like a lot of indie developers make these games that have a few interesting ideas, but aren’t actually all that fun to play, thus breaking one of the medium’s fundamental rules (and not in the avant-garde sense). As a counterexample to this, Papers, Please, which was released in the same year as The Stanley Parable, has a unique premise, being a bureaucracy simulator, but the difference between the two games is that the creator of the former was successfully able to translate the premise into engaging gameplay. That’s where I think a lot of indie developers (and even some AAA ones) fall short; they have great, out-of-the-box ideas (or in the case of AAA developers, they can at least present them well), but are unable to make a fun game using them.

    Like

    September 25, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    • Its interesting that we have so MANY of these developers with these great ideas, yet so few of them take off the way they should. It becomes viral, such as The Stanley Parable, remembered as great for what made it unique but ultimately it doesnt constitute a “good game”. But it certainly is a fun while it lasts ride!

      I think if we got some of these indie devs to band together, we could see a truly innovative, fun experience that the world wants to see. I’m intrigued to see what the minds behind Stanley Parable could offer in the future! Conceptually and first play through, this game is fun… But sadly, it’s a flavour of the month :(!

      Like

      September 25, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      • That’s the thing, isn’t it? This game went viral, but I don’t think it has any real staying power – even if it may have inspired entire essays dedicated to gushing about it. It wouldn’t be too difficult to surpass this game, and when someone does, it will be rendered obsolete. I think that the creator of this game has potential, but he has yet to truly realize it.

        A lot of critics seem to have the propensity to hand out praise to otherwise middle-of-the-road games as long as they’re independently made and have that one quality, such as pathos overload, which makes them immune to scrutiny (AAA developers have also done this, but it’s not as common). It would be nice see these indie developers band together. They could make a game that’s innovative, fun, and actually lives up to the praise critics are all too willing to give it.

        Like

        September 25, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      • I’m willing to praise creativity, always: but we should always be ready to let people know what we, the gamers, really like. But, I notice that if I write a review right after playing, reading or watching something, I will be more fond of it than if I wait a while :P thats the nature of our internet too… Fast response!

        Like

        September 25, 2015 at 4:34 pm

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