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Review: The Stanley Parable HD Remix

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.

stanley 2
Due to its nature, spoiling the game in this review would ruin the entire experience, so you will forgive me if I remain vague throughout. Nevertheless I will try to give an impression of what The Stanley Parable has to offer without giving away anything. The game is based around the various routes one can guide Stanley along, and once you reach any particular ending you will automatically restart in Stanley’s office at the beginning again. And yet, far from this being an arduous endeavour, like many RPGs with multiple endings, it is in fact a sheer joy. You simply never know what to expect from The Stanley Parable, except that when it happens, it will be moving or funny or poignant or sad or vindicating. Every ending has a point, and indeed so does every part of the game.

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.

stanley 3
In fact this is perhaps The Stanely Parable‘s greatest strength, since the bond between these two is the basis of the entire narrative. And make no mistake there is a narrative here that transcends the various different endings. After a couple of restarts you will being to notice that some things don’t stay the same way you though they would. Was that clock always there? Wasn’t the hallway down there. What in God’s name is that yellow line on the floor? But it is not just the scenery that changes depending on the way the game has been played up to that point, soon enough the narrator catches on. He seems surprised at first and worried when he realises things are not in order. After enough playthroughs he even becomes disillusioned with the whole thing. You even begin to realise that he is in some ways afraid, even lonely.

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

[/tab][/tabgroup]

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Hi all! I am the newest member of the Palace of Wisdom team. I have a strong background in Philosophy, English Literature and, of course, Games. As a result my favourite games combine all three of these interests. Some examples include: Bioshock, Mass Effect and Deus Ex.

3 Comments

  1. it wasn’t “making fun” of Minecraft and Portal, it used them as examples of “other games” since they’re first-person and almost all PC gamers have played them

    • I concur, Jean-Luc is entitled to his opinion, but I believe his analysis falls far short of the truth.

      To be pretentious is to pretend to knowledge one does not have. The Stanley Parable makes very clear that it understands its topic, game design, very clearly and thus is not guilty of the charge.

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