Indie Review: The Stanley Parable Is Brilliantly Witty
The Stanley Parable was originally a mod for Half-Life 2 created by Davey Wreden. Proving to be a huge success, he formed Galactic Cafe with William Pugh and the duo set to give it an HD remake (or rather a re-imagining) for a Steam release. How does it hold up compared to the original?
- Worth The Time?Yes, no doubt about that.
- Things LovedThe excellent graphics, the very witty and highly entertaining narrative, there's more story paths and a lot is new and different, it's crazier, it's amazingly well put together, anyone can enjoy it.
- Things HatedNothing.
- RecommendationAny and all kinds of gamers, with the exception of those who care nothing for and have no appreciation for narrative or wit.
- Name: The Stanley Parable
- Genre: First Person Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: Galactic Cafe
- Publisher: Galactic Cafe
- Price: $14.99 (about R150)
- Reviewed On: PC
I played the original The Stanley Parable sometime ago, back when it was simply a mod. I absolutely loved it. It was charming, witty, wonderfully written and unique, and was truly a game that could be enjoyed by anyone. I even gave the game to my favourite eight year old cousin and he loved every minute of it. There are few things that give me as much joy as this, especially when considering where gaming was about ten years ago. I feel people do not often appreciate this enough – where gaming has come. Naturally, I was extremely excited to get playing the re-imagining of The Stanley Parable, as it promised a complete redesign of the map, new story paths, entirely new dialogue and a bunch of new endings and story twists. Unfortunately exams delayed my playing of this game, but after giving it a thorough Let’s Play and checking out what it had to offer, I’m here to tell you that The Stanley Parable is easily one of the best indie games this year, and a pure example of why indie gaming has become so hugely important in the modern industry, and a big part of its future. And it’s awesome to see.
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The Stanley Parable is unlike any other game you will play. I’m well aware that minimalism, that is the absence of traditional gameplay and doing a lot with very little, is becoming quite big now, but still this game manages to be entirely different to the rest. While it is true that there’s not much gameplay aside from bare bones interaction, the heart of the gameplay is choice, narrative and the wonder of discovery. You play as Stanley, who is essentially the idea of a man without freedom who endlessly sits at a computer desk and hits buttons as instructions pop up on his screen. This is his life as he lives it every day. However, one day the commands stop coming, and upon closer inspection Stanley discovers that the entire facility he works at is devoid of any life whatsoever, and he is miraculously alone. This sets him on a path to discover exactly what’s going on, of which there are many directions.
The game is played from a first person perspective and focuses on exploration, of which you are free to walk around and explore at your leisure. But the core idea of the game comes from the narrator. Constantly, there will be a narrator overseeing events of the game and explaining what Stanley is supposed to be doing at any time. You, as the player, will decide whether to obey the voice, be a rebel and do the opposite, or only loosely follow and make your own choices. For example, you may come up facing two different doors, and the narrator observes that when faced with this challenge, Stanley took the door on the left. You will then decide whether that’s the way you want to go, or if you want to take the door on the right and pave your own way. No matter which choice you make, the story changes, the narrator adapts and you’ll find yourself on a different path that leads to one of multiple different endings. The sad part is that merely explaining it to you does an injustice to the wonder and intrigue of actually experiencing it, and such is the downfall of reviewing a game such as this. And that’s not shameless encouragement to go watch my Let’s Play up above, but rather the genuine truth.
But that essentially encapsulates most of the game. There’s nothing more to explain. It’s simply the discovery of a brilliantly written narrative, laughing your way through obscene but highly witty story paths, and wanting to see the different ways the game can go that engages you so well with its content. Your first few playthroughs will play on your mind, make you think about your choices and make you extremely eager for the next time you go around Stanley’s universe. And what’s especially great is that the game actually adapts to your multiple playthroughs as well. The narrator himself, for example, will maybe express his impatience and try to hurry the story along at set moments when you’ve experienced the same sequence multiple times. It’s completely natural, and organic. There’s just always something to smile about in this game, and I guarantee you especially that most gamers will be able to enjoy this. Give it to a kid, give it to someone who never plays games or give it to an adult even, and they will be amused and entertained. Such is the quality of the writing and the humour.
It’s undoubtedly a stronger offering than the original mod, but in many ways it is also simply different rather than better, which in this case is equally valuable. It means you can still enjoy the original The Stanley Parable and come back here to be entertained by similar as well as completely new themes. I suppose if you have no appreciation for narrative and aren’t really attracted to wit or these kinds of games, that being those that utilise minimalism and aren’t about traditional gameplay, then this might not be your cup of tea but even then I still can’t see how you wouldn’t crack a smile or find this interesting enough for at least two or three playthroughs. It’s not about being hipster or having some acquired taste or anything like that. It is simply about appreciating that games can always be more than what is usually offered in mainstream. That there’s a whole world out there to explore and it takes games such as The Stanley Parable to remind us of the fact that art essentially is infinite.
Visually, The Stanley Parable is a great-looking game that boats high quality graphics and detail for an indie game. You can play around with a bunch of graphical settings as well, but it’s based on the Source engine so it won’t be too taxing on your hardware. The variation and level design is stunning though, and the places you’ll explore are especially interesting artistically. What deserves the most praise though is definitely the voice acting, as the narrator offers an excellent performance that without a doubt is the heart of the experience. In comparison to the mod, new to the experience is also background music at set points in the game in order to make use of tension, and various visual tricks to up the variety, of which I won’t spoil. These are welcome and fit the game like a glove.
In conclusion, I have to say honestly that I don’t think I’ve done the game justice in this review. It’s pretty hard to do that because The Stanley Parable is the quintessential example of how the modern game cannot be defined. It can be anything; the scope is limitless. And for what it is, The Stanley Parbale is wonderful, unique and brilliantly witty, and an experience you should not miss out on or underestimate. It is one of the purest examples of the greatness indie can bring to modern gaming, and why it is a big part of the industry’s future. The Stanley Parable is easily one of the best indie games this year.