Sunday, December 1, 2013

Second Opinion - The Stanley Parable

WARNING: Due to the nature of The Stanley Parable, this review may contain minor spoilers. If this does not bother you or you have no plans whatsoever to actually play The Stanley Parable, then feel free to read ahead, but otherwise it is strongly recommended that you play the game on Steam first before reading this review, preferably with as little knowledge about the game’s contents as possible. You have been warned, so don’t blame me if anything I say affects your experience negatively.

Some of you are probably aware of a piece of interactive fiction called The Stanley Parable, a 2011 Source engine mod by Davey Wreden that sought to deconstruct video games to demonstrate how many of them act in relation to the player, with narrations by British actor Kevan Brighting. In late 2013, after successfully going through Valve’s Steam Greenlight program, this game was given a major upgrade, also called The Stanley Parable, developed by Galactic Cafe, which consists of Davey Wreden and William Pugh, with further narrations from Kevan Brighting. While the end product is largely similar in concept to the original mod, it also greatly expands on it with what the player is able to do story-wise. After experiencing the game while entering it with as little spoiled to me as I could possibly make it, I have to say that The Stanley Parable is a very…unique experience that has me questioning some of the games I have played/seen being played.

The game follows a man named Stanley who works in an office building. One day, his co-workers vanish, and a disembodied voice narrates Stanley’s actions as he tries to take a look outside his office. This is pretty much all I can say without going into great detail about the narrative, due to the nature of this game.

One thing I can say without fear of giving away anything major, though, is that the game actually looks pretty good. There isn’t any visible texture loading and there is a very good range in the lighting and the color palette, each balancing off each other to make things visually appealing. When there is background music present, it’s usually able to set the mood quite nicely, though much of the game creates its own atmosphere by having no background music present, allowing the surroundings to sink in.

The controls are also very simple and easy to get a handle on. You control Stanley through a first-person perspective, using the WASD keys on your keyboard to move about while the mouse steers your direction, controls the camera, and allows you to click on objects. You can also use the Ctrl key to crouch, though you cannot jump at all, as the developers disabled that function.

The most interesting aspect of The Stanley Parable, however, would have to be its main focus, namely its multiple endings. I don’t want to go into too much detail about how this pans out (hint: try ignoring the narration), but some of these endings really had me thinking about the games that I have experienced beforehand. A few of the endings even had me thinking about my own life for a moment before I came back to my senses.

In the end, The Stanley Parable is a very interesting game to play through and one that shouldn’t be missed. It takes everything you know about video games and puts them in an entirely different light as it plays around with the medium’s various well-established tropes. I myself haven’t played the original mod, but if you have and have not yet played this new version, I would suggest taking a look at it to see how much of it has changed. Even if you are not familiar with the mod, I would still suggest checking it out anyway, especially if you are a fan of first-person and/or deconstruction games. The game goes for $15 on Steam ($11.24 with the Autumn Sale going on at the time of this writing), but trust me when I say that this game is well worth the asking price.

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