The Stanley Parable Review – A short, humorous, yet philosophical excursion

A self-aware, yet likable video game

The Stanley Parable (Galactic Cafe, 2013) is the story of a man named Stanley, who one day realizes that the office he works in is suddenly completely empty. He then gets up, tries to search for his colleagues only to stand in front of two doors where he then has to make a choice.

Choice – That’s the core of the game.

TheStanleyParable01
At its core, The Stanley Parable is about binary choices

TheStanleyParable04Writing about The Stanley Parable without giving away what makes it special is a truly difficult task, especially because it is really dull on its surface. To start off, the adventure requires audiences to be familiar with both (first-person) video game mechanics of the early 2000s, as well as commonly used gaming narrative of the same period to be appreciated and understood. One’s interactions with the world are then purposely limited: Jumping has been deactivated and as a rule clicking on objects doesn’t do anything. Instead, the player appears to seemingly be forced to only walk around. The sole focus lying between what the game’s narrator says Stanley will do and whether or not the player follows these commands.

TheStanleyParable03
Players should remember this fern, it will be important later on

This sounds very boring, especially considering that the first playthrough took me around 15 minutes and then the story restarted from the beginning – and overall it takes around ≥ 2 hours to unearth all endings (, except for the one where players need to repeat a mundane task for four hours). It truly would be a dull affair, if it weren’t for the very strong, comedic writing presented by the narrator’s humorous tone and the leitmotif of choice.

With that in mind, I was going over multiple revisions on how to approach this review. After all, The Stanley Parable’s basically only mechanic is presenting players with one binary choice after another and humor is dependant on timing and context. Despite being convinced that a funny review would be the best choice, I find myself tied to earnestly discuss whether or not this game is worth your time and money. And the answer is somewhere between a “yes” and a “no”.

TheStanleyParable06The main issue of this entry is replayability. As it is a very short game, being able to relive the experience in subsequent playthroughs is vital to justify a purchase. True, there are multiple endings and each one of them is memorable, but once an outcome has been discovered, the question stands if there’s a point in doing it all over again. If there were such a thing as video game rentals, this would definitely be a very good rental over the weekend, but with a base price of $14.99 USD or your local equivalent, it is debatable whether or not a purchase can be justified.

This game is a 7 button presses out of 10

 

Where to Get

The Stanley Parable is available as digital download on Steam for $14.99 USD or your local equivalent.

All screenshots taken by me during my playthrough.

If you like this or other reviews of mine, feel free to follow my Steam curation:
http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gaoscorner#curation

As always, if you like, feel free to leave a comment below. The comment section is completely open, no need to create an account or to sign up. If you want to express your criticism, make suggestions, or just voice your opinion, you are more than welcome to do so.

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2 comments

  1. Neat review. On a side note i find it a bit peculiar to put this game together with more traditional games and asking if it is worth the money. Like a fighting game where you’d get a lot more potential play time. In my eyes you buy this type of game, in order to partially support the developers that otherwise wouldn’t make this type of more artistically focused games, you buy their games to support them and thereby broading the types of games that are made, and to support more or less small indie developers you find interesting.

    Or get these type of games on steam sale.

    Like

    • What you said about the price is very true. After settling for one approach and prior to the review’s publication, I was talking this over with a few friends of mine, because I have two major angles to this:

      On the one hand, the narrator has an amazing script to work with and all actresses and actors deliver marvelous performances. Producing this was certainly as much of an arduous process as it was an expensive one.

      On the other hand there is the gameplay duration and how The Stanley Parable as a whole stands in comparison to other smaller productions. That’s where the replay value and asking price come into account.

      In the end, my deciding factor was whether or not I see people wanting to pick it up again some time after they’ve experienced it, and whether or not this would be a good purchase when your budget dictates how often you can buy video games. It certainly isn’t a bad game, I had a lot of fun playing it, but I got stuck between recommending it and not recommending it due to these two factors.

      Like

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