The Stanley Parable Review

It's a picture of a game menu... inside a game menu... inside a game menu... inside...

  • Developer: Galactic Cafe
  • Publisher: Galactic Cafe
  • Release Date: 17 October 2013
  • Time played: 1.5 hours

If I recall correctly, I was curious about The Stanley Parable when it was first released because there was already a lot of positive buzz about it - not to mention the game's description on Steam was very cryptic, not actually giving much detail on what the game was all about. Consequently, thanks to the generosity of my brother (thanks bro!) I managed to secure a copy and so I could sate my curiosity!

Plot (3/5)
In the game you play the role of Stanley, occupant of office room 427 and an employee who has the mind-numbing task of punching keys on your keyboard when instructed to. One day something inexplicable occurs: You stop receiving the commands and everyone in your office is gone. The narrator tells you that it's now up to you to solve the mystery.

There isn't really much else to the plot as even if you finish the game (with the "true" ending), the plot still remains quite vague but I think this was done intentionally so. If you're the forgiving sort you'd say this was for artistic purposes but the more cynical might say it's because the game lacks any substance. Even if you sit in the cynical camp though, you've got to give credit to the fact that the plot is an open slate and although the Narrator is dictating your actions, whether you choose to follow them or not is your own choice, and often disregarding them tends to have humourous consequences. I won't go into all the details since indeed, the game is terribly short, but suffice to say I really dig the comedic writing style which reminds me of books I've read by the late Douglas Adams (namely, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

Gameplay (4/5)
This game, like Dear Esther, Thirty Flights of Loving and Gone Home, are what most gamers nowadays would describe as "walking simulators". There isn't actually much gameplay to be honest besides walking around and interacting with objects. I find it better than other walking simulators though since unlike the ones I've previously played where further exploration would reveal extra dialogue or information, in The Stanley Parable, you actually get to choose which path the story takes, quite literally. This results in a branching narrative and even multiple endings, similar to many games in the visual novel genre. Some of the most entertaining parts of the game are when the Narrator breaks the fourth wall (which he does frequently) to scold you for ruining his story or even berate you at your futile attempts on earning a Steam achievement: it's moments like these when you almost think the Narrator can read your thoughts (no mean feat)! I won't say much more, since that's part of the fun in the game: exploring and then watching what hilarious or profound scenario unfolds.

Sound (4/5)
Sound effects are minimal but there is some great narration by veteran British voice talent, Kevan Brighting. His narration is performed admirably and it's done in a similar vein to Stephen Fry.

Music (4/5)
The game has an eclectic mix of music for its soundtrack which suits the game since it defies any typical game genre. It contains a mix of 50s advertisement music (similar to stuff you'd listen to in The Sims) along with mysterious classical music, a comical march and even a secret disco track.

Graphics (3/5)
Graphics uses the Source engine so occasionally when you go up close to items, they look kind of blocky; besides that though, no complaints about the graphics.

Replay (3/5)
The game has slightly better replay than your typical walking simulator due to the very nature of the game. Thankfully the game has multiple endings to discover but note that it took me three playthroughs before I managed to clock one hour of gameplay - so this is a very short game. It's also worthwhile noting that there are some intriguing achievements to acquire - some that are seemingly impossible or requiring a great deal of effort.

Polish (5/5)
Nothing to report in terms of bugs and the controls are pretty simple to get used to for any FPS or PC gamer.

Score – 7/10

I'm not usually a big fan of the genre known as "walking simulators" but The Stanley Parable, despite it's short length, has won me over thanks to its hilarious Douglas Adams style of writing with several laugh-out-loud moments. The game also plays a bit like a first person version of a visual novel, which means multiple endings aplenty.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam.

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[ LINK: Official The Stanley Parable website]