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The Stanley Parable (PC) artwork

The Stanley Parable (PC) review

"And over. And over. And over."

And over.  And over.  And over

The Stanley Parable is a game about Stanley. Except it isnít really, and itís not categorically a game in the true sense of the word. Itís more like a parody, except sometimes itís intentionally not comical; itís introspective, so I suppose itís more like an evolving interactive narrative based around first person exploration. Except you donít really explore that much. The path you take is very linear aside from when itís completely open. There is a narrative to follow though! Unless you choose to ignore it. Wait, wait, letís start again.

The Stanley Parable is certainly first person based, and is sometimes seen through the eyes of Stanley, a man working a dull office job in some corner office somewhere who arrives at work one day to find his workplace completely removed of his colleagues. Sometimes, this is a story about his search for his missing workmates and the dangerous secrets behind their disappearance. Only sometimes itís not. Itís sometimes something completely different. Itís dependent on you. Sometimes. I canít stop saying sometimes. Letís start again. Again.

The Stanley Parable asset

The Stanley Parable is a direct attack on the genre tropes that first person exploration and linear gameplay presents. Upon discovering the empty interior of his office block, Stanley can move through the building, following the subtle prompts of the narrator, except that heís free to ignore this and just wander off on his own. The narrator might scramble to tie Stanleyís erratic actions into his narrative, or he might attack you, the player, for your lack of discipline. Or he might do something else. For instance, should you stop to try to gain achievements, he may lead you on a merry dance for his own amusement. Perhaps itís sufficient to say that the real driving force is the narrator and his reactions. Maybe itís all about all the eventual and multiple outcomes your behaviour might garner. Except, no, thatís not quite right either.

The Stanley Parable is ultimately undefinable, aside from the many aspects of the game that are easy to define. Thatís just gibberish, isnít it? Disregard that. Except, hang on, thatís kind of right. Indeed, the game can be as simple as you let it; do as youíre told, and itís a fairly linear tale about discovery and freedom. Is that the tale it wants to tell? Maybe? Probably? No, actually, I donít think it is. Most of the time, you can find conclusion in about 10-15 minutes, and multiple replays are needed to see the outcome of various choices youíre sometimes free to make. The game itself changes along with this; various pathways are boarded up if you abuse them too often; numerous restarts are chastised and long winded exposition mercilessly cut short with exacerbated sighs should the narrator be forced to re-tread old ground too often. It doesnít so much as drive you towards one big true path as challenge you to pervert its most basic outcome as much as you can. Is that a mission statement? Enjoy messing up your tale? I think so. Why would anyone do that?

The Stanley Parable asset

Perhaps The Stanley Parable is just a self-aware computer game that delights in breaking the fourth wall in order to, what? Amuse you? Make you think about the absurdity of similar titles? Bemoan the overall simplicity of the genre? Except it doesnít always work that way. Sometimes, it doesnít seem to want to admit to being a computer game at all. Does it change its mind on what it wants to be? Is it all these things all at the same time? Is anything it advances the true path or is the entire point to be ultimately pointless? It is me? Is it me missing the point? I donít think Iím the problem here. I need to make better sense of this. Let me start again.

The Stanley Parable is a game about Stanley. Except it isnít really, and itís not categorically a game in the true sense of the word. Itís more like a parody, except sometimes itís intentionally not comicalÖ wait; weíve done this bit already, havenít we? I feel weíve done this bit already. Letís make sure.



EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 05, 2014)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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overdrive posted January 05, 2014:

You've found some quirky, intriguing PC titles that have at least made me interested enough to read more about with this and The Cat Lady. If only I either had more time...or fewer games in my backlog, which is up to roughly 30 if you just count recent/modern gen systems (PS2, 360, Wii, 3DS).

I mean, just the way you described it, which was a very inventive way to essentially say the game does its best to defy logical description, makes me interested as hell.
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- posted January 05, 2014:

I found it incredibly tough to review The Stanley Parable, and yet you made it look so damn easy. Great piece here - you sell what makes the title work while keeping spoilers at a minimum. That it's also sharply written and amusing is just plain annoying. Jealous!
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honestgamer posted January 05, 2014:

I've been wanting to buy this game and give it a try and review it here. I was just waiting for a great Steam sale. Now I don't have an excuse to spend money on the game, since you've done such a good job of covering it. I may have to resort to buying it just for the heck of it...
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EmP posted January 06, 2014:

Rob: I would heavily suggest that you make time, in your case especially for The Cat Lady. It might be a nice reminder for you about when horror games had, you know, horror in them. I guess its games like TCL and Stanley Parable thatís helped me turn my back on the console fare for now because there are so many creative titles that simply are not pretty or Ďmainstreamí enough to have console releases just falling through the cracks on the PC that itís insane.

Thank you, all, of your kind words. I had a blast writing this one, but was a little worried it wouldnít really work. You should still pick this up, Jason, and give it a review. It would be interesting to see how you would write about it. Link me in to yours, Ben. Iím sure itís fine, but in case itís not, Iím still bitter about FIFA and can use this as revenge fuel.
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Suskie posted January 06, 2014:

Oh! I forgot to say that this review is awesome.

This review is awesome.
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EmP posted January 07, 2014:

Thank you, Suskie. I try.
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zippdementia posted January 09, 2014:

This review IS awesome. I purchased based solely off of it. Well, and the trailer... but only because the trailer lived up to the review.
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Masters posted January 12, 2014:

Very cool review, Gary. I'm looking to buy it now, thanks to you.
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EmP posted January 12, 2014:

Thank you both. Do let me know how you get on with the game should you each pick it up.

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