The Stanley Parable Review

[As Read on GIO.]

As you may notice from some of the resemblances it bears to its forefather, The Stanley Parable was in fact originally a mod for Half-Life 2- and still utilizes that particular source engine today as well. Although its gameplay is limited at best- I guess you could almost refer to TSP as an interactive adventure anyways, even if it is more of a figurative one than a particularly literal one at times. Most interesting of all is the omnipresent, omniscient narrator who seems to know your every move before you do it- or rather before you decide not to carry on and he forces you to do it. Depending on how you look at it, TSP is an intriguing lesson in choice, responsibility, and consequences. Boring as it may seem to traipse through the seemingly same corridors, same empty conference rooms, and same lessons and scenarios- TSP is a highly replayable situation, with each playthrough only lasting around twenty to thirty minutes tops.

As would be expected, you take up the name of Stanley [Insert Name Here] and solve puzzles for science. Er, or rather, you contemplate them and walk about a little bit, so… It’s not so much like Portal, in some ways… Mysteriously, one day you are all alone, and an equally mysterious voice that narrates your very thoughts decides to take pity on you and shepherd you about the place. This is…good, I suppose. Depending on your viewpoint on the deeper connotations of freedom of will and choice, I guess. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you want to give in and follow his advice and clear cut instructions, so it’s not so much an Atlas says sort of thing…at least until you finally give up and do what he wants, and do it again, and again, and again, and- You get the point. It never ends. Although you can see several different outcomes by the end each time, all in roughly three hours or so, depending on how long you wander about. In fact- so far I’ve experienced ten endings, and heard of two others.

What is interesting and often amusing, much to the chagrin of the narrator- voiced by a certain Kevin Brighting I believe, is the fact that you can choose at your whim to obey or disobey the parameters handed to you by said narrator. Whereas sometimes the story may get bent and changed to accommodate these unsightly errors in script, other times you may find yourself strangely teleported back onto the correct path. Or he might just scold you a few times. You can never really be sure what to expect honestly… The best thing is, the more you resist, the more the game resists you and your urge to finish it. Give in, and you’ll make it through no problem. But fight it, and it’ll challenge your previous notions- a la up is down and down is up in Ender’s Game- but on a greater and more figurative level, more often. Ever experience a truly no-win scenario? Yeah- it sucks.

Despite it inevitably running out of steam after several playthroughs, I can assure you that TSP’s basic principle stands, and it stays fresh throughout for the most part as well. The twisting narrative encourages further exploration, even if it’s as simple as walking through a different doorway on the next playthrough, as opposed to trudging fifty miles across Skyrim or something. It’s no less game changing or different or immense for it however, even if it might seem to not be so in terms of literal size. TSP accomplishes what many games cannot do in twenty hours and thousands of miles, in twenty minutes and one hundred yards. It’s unique. The gags are there, the theoretical musing is there, and the morals and values are there. All it needs now is a little more Gordon Freeman.

The premise itself is incredibly simple, but shields a much deeper, more complex matter at hand- as any good thinking material does. It is not two-faced in any way, rather a different side of another coin, not the same one you thought you were holding- if that made any sense at all to you. Bear in mind, it is no more than an experiment to be honest- so not everyone will take to it as well or as little or as much as I have. Make of it what you will. There’s a choice for you.

Concept: Create an interactive experience that challenges preconceived notions of free will and player choice in video games as well as in life.

Graphics: Simple, but not poor.

Sound: The narration is witty and amusing as often as it is spoken- which is the entire time. You should enjoy it at first, even if it does get old later on. The experience is too short for it to become horrendously annoying.

Playability: Basic at best. Point, move, click, interact, slide. Simple.

Entertainment: The majority of the entertaining qualities come from each ending once you discover them, and the branching choices of each path as well.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.0

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