This is a story about a girl named Ellie. Ellie would regularly spend each of her days sat in front of a screen, pressing keys on a keyboard. These keys usually were linked to games, but not always… One day, Ellie came across a game on Steam called The Stanley Parable. Despite raising questions about her life, Ellie found the game both entrancing and perplexing on a number of levels.
The Stanley Parable is a first-person experience available on Steam. It is similar to games like Portal and Dear Esther in which the gameplay is minimal, but the first person perspective is vital to the experience. You play as Stanley; an office drone who leaves his workstation to find that all his fellow employees have vanished. For once in his life, Stanley decides to take his life into his own hands and discover what has happened. As Stanley explores, a narrator fills in the story gaps around him, similar to Rucks in Bastion.
At a glance and for most players, the game will seem very linear and simplistic. Following the tale the Narrator reads leads the player through the game’s story and provides about 20 minutes of gameplay. This, for some people, probably heralded the end of the game, but that was only the tip of the iceberg.
You see, The Stanley Parable isn’t just a story-based experience. It is actually an adaptive story-telling experience. The narrator doesn’t tell you a story, he tells your story; this changes based on the decisions you make at scripted choices, but is also enhanced by the things you don’t do or personal aspects of your own play style. The first, most obvious, choice the player encounters is simply going through the door on the left. As you move towards this, you hear: “When Stanley came to a room with two open doors, he entered the door on his left.”
The obliging player will follow suit, but you don’t have to do as the narrator tells. There is a whole new set of dialogue behind both doors and the game adapts constantly to create the illusion that you are playing as intended. It is clever and surreal.
The main draw of the game is to uncover all of the endings the game has in store. These offer a range of new stories; some tangentially related to the “main story” but plenty that just go off in their own directions or offer alternate views on Stanley or reality.
After playing for a few hours, I thought I had experienced most of the content but then realised some very small changes can open up huge opportunities for more content. The way the game is based on a “Groundhog Day” replay can open up new takes based on how many times you have restarted in the particular session of play, as well as the choices you have previously made.
Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the game the first time round, the repetitive nature which the game encourages started to wear thin on me after a few replays. Until I discovered the alternate stories after playing several stories, I had thought the game was a more casual entry, but that runs contrary to the amount of depth hidden within the world.
The narration is very well written and the performance is well executed and does add to the draw of the game. Much like Rucks, from Bastion, I was happy to run through stories with very small differences just to catch the little extra dialogue pieces that litter later retellings.
While the game is built in mundane environments, that isn’t to say they aren’t pleasing to look at. The amount of detail tucked into every corner of the environments is wondrous and only enhances the immersion the game offers.
So, there isn’t a whole lot left for me to say. If this sounds appealing to you, I think you probably should buy it, if you haven’t already. If it sounds a bit quirky, then it may not be ideal. The game is a perplexing beast and I’m not sure how much more time I will put into it…
The achievements that come with the game are also of note. Between a single piece for completing the “story” and a couple of cool hints at other stories to uncover, the game has several horrible achievements; the most noteworthy being “Don’t play The Stanley Parable for five years.” If you are someone who wants to get all the achievements in your games, maybe pass on this one… It will be unfinished in your games list for a looooooooong time….
As Ellie played through The Stanley Parable, she routinely pressed CMD, SHIFT and 3 to take screenshots of her experience. These would later be put into an article for a small gaming blog, though she couldn’t be sure if people would try claiming ownership over them, so she planned to add an overly-long disclosure paragraph citing her own screenshots. That being said, she knew she would have to acknowledge Galactic Cafe for creating The Stanley Parable and giving her the means to even write her weekly article. What a strange girl she is…
Last played and completed on 05/08/15 for Steam.