“The point of The Stanley Parable: HD Remix is to lose.” “The point of The Stanley Parable: HD Remix is to win.” So goes the first few slides on the Steam preview page for the critically acclaimed indie darling The Stanley Parable and I have to say, I couldn’t have put it better myself. The Stanley Parable is more than a game, but it is also less then one. It is a paradoxical mix of ideas so brilliantly realised that it is almost hard to believe. Thus the game defies such a feeble convention as a mere review and yet, at the same time somehow revels in it. Read on to see why.
Developer: Galactic Cafe
Publisher: Galactic Cafe
Reviewed on: PC
Also Available On: PC only
Release Date: Out Now
At first appearance The Stanley Parable is a simple enough game, with a simple enough premise. You play in first person mode as Stanley, an office worker who likes to press buttons – in fact his entire job involves just doing that. Your controls are also basic, you can move around and you can occasionally interact with certain objects by pressing a single key. One day Stanley’s orders stop coming through and, finding his co-workers all missing, Stanley sets out in order to find out just what is going on… or doesn’t, or begins to, then decides against it, or commits suicide, or loses his sanity, or goes to Heaven. In fact, the story of Stanley ends up having so many permutations that pinning down exactly what happens, who Stanley is and indeed whether it is possible to win or lose, is impossible. It’s more than that in fact, it is besides the point.
Another key focus of The Stanley Parable is its critique of choice in video games. This is achieved brilliantly through the symbiotic relationship between Stanley and the nameless narrator, who recounts what Stanley does in a vein similar to 2011’s Bastion with one catch, he narrates things before he does them. For example, very early on in the game you come to a room with two doors and the narrator says the following: When Stanley came to a set of two open doors, he went through the door on his left. This presents the player with a very interesting paradox. If you go through the left door, then you haven’t chosen since the narrator guided you there – determining your action. If, on the other hand, you choose the right door, you are no less determined as you purposely to the opposite of what the narrator says – which means that your choice was still determined by what the narrator said. From here your decisions begin to build upon one another in a complex web of narrative and choice, requiring a focused mind or a carefully drawn map in order to fully comprehend. There are secret paths, unorthodox actions and what you do changes the interaction between Stanley and the Narrator drastically.
As the game progresses (regresses? digresses?)their relationship changes between that of total control of the narrator to total control of Stanley to no control for either and so on. The beautifully worded dialogue and the insane amount of different routes lead you to a slowly growing understanding of the reciprocal nature of these two entities. As one ending puts it “How they long to destroy one another, how they long to control one another.“[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]Unique premise and gameplay draw you into the story.
Puzzle-like, alternate routes and endings keep you guessing.
The narrator and what his implementation says about choice in games is groundbreaking.
[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]The Stanley Parable is too short. The Stanley Parable is too long.
The Stanley Parable has too little choice. The Stanley Parable has too much choice.
The Stanley Parable is a bad game. The Stanley Parable is a good game