“This is the story of a man named Stanley…”
Since I have started this blog, I have played games I would never have played before in a million years. The Stanley Parable, however, must be the weirdest yet one of the finest games I’ve ever experienced. In fact, it is rather debatable whether this is a “video game” in the traditional sense. If the first images that come to your mind when you think of video games is Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, this is not it.
A high-defination remake of the original Half-Life 2 mod (which I have not played), The Stanley Parable follows the eponymous Stanley who has a simple job of pushing buttons according to the instructions he receives. One day however, the instructions simply stop coming. So, Stanley must head out of his room to investigate where adventure awaits him!
Stanley finds that all of his co-workers are missing and a “narrator” who is there to guide him throughout. This is where the game gives choice to the player. The player could simply follow the narrator’s instructions i.e., when the narrator says “When Stanley came by a set of two doors, he took the door on the left”, you take the door on the left. This would lead you to what has been dubbed as the “Happy Ending” of the game. But this is only one of the endings. Ignore the narrator’s instructions and head out on your own and you would end up with a different ending. This is where the genre freaks can classify The Stanley Parable. It is an explorative interactive game; the more you explore and interact with the environment, the more you are rewarded.
There are, in fact, so many endings to The Stanley Parable that the guys at guardianlv.com had to come up with the flow chart detailing how different choices lead to different endings. You can see the flowchart here. Spoilers, obviously.
The narrator is voiced by British actor Kevan Brighting, who does an impeccable job. The more you turn against his instructions, the more vexed he gets, even remarking the following at one point: “Stanley was so bad at following directions; it’s incredible he wasn’t fired long ago”. These result in some of the funniest monologues in gaming history.
Another astonishing feat of The Stanley Parable is its attention to detail. By this I do not mean the visuals. This is not an Assassin’s Creed game with detailed rendering of historic cities. I mean the fact that the game does not become chaotic no matter how much you explore is certainly laudable. It is almost like the developer has thought of everything.
With its boldness to challenge the notions of what video games represents and its readiness to poke fun at the industry, The Stanley Parable is quite a departure from most games. (Which is why we also make this departure from our traditional article structure to review this game.) Witty and intelligent, The Stanley Parable is a fantastic experiment in what video games can become.