Oh boy…where do I begin with this one. When I saw this game, it had my attention. I could not give one flying fuck about the awards I saw attached to it (which is a good thing considering recent events in the gaming world, it turns out), but the narrator, between his reactions to the player and the pure sarcasm that oozed out of his voice, I had to know more. So when the game went on a steam sale, I picked it up.
Having now had the time to play through this game and put down my mouse, I have to say, I’m glad I looked. This is not going to be a game for everyone, but I am going to do something I do not do for most other games I review. I am going show you a trailer… if it intrigues you, read on.
Story: Stanley was a simple man. He went to work every morning, sat at his desk, did his job hitting the buttons he was told to, then went home to his wife, watched TV, and went to bed. Every day, this was his routine. And while many would see this as soul-crushing, Stanley relished it. At least he did for years until one day, he got to his desk sat down, and the commands of what buttons to push never showed up on his computer screen. Confused, he got up from his desk and looked around, and this is where the story begins.
The story in The Stanley Principle is rather hard to explain, because really there are several possible ones that can occur depending on your actions. The only real common element is the struggle between Stanley, your character, and the narrator who will try to tell you what to do and get directly upset with you when you decide to do something else. To go into more detail of that, however, would be to ruin one of the main parts you should be discovering for yourself when you play and will bring a smile to your face as you do so.
The results of these discoveries are incredibly varied due to the god-like power of your narrator, and it will entertain you the entire time due to his complete disbelief of your actions. For you Star Trek fans out there, you are basically dealing with an exasperated Q, and for all of you reading, the results are amazing.
However, this is probably the only time I’m ever going to say this about a game, but to get the most out of it, you need to play it many times, and you will. The game is INCREDIBLY short, most storylines lasting only 10-15 minutes to complete, so this variety from the very room you start in and forward is absolutely essential to keep the writing fresh while you play.
Overall, the story is too convoluted to explain without ruining, but is definitely worth sitting down with a for an hour or two to discover all the ways it can go.
Graphics: This game is played from a First Person perspective, where you will play as Stanley as he wanders around the building he works in (for the most part). To this end it is not something to marvel at graphically. It looks good enough and was clearly written using the Souce engine as made famous by Half-Life 2. It can be little sparse at times, but it just does not have much in the way of environments that would show off any extra detail if it was added. Outside of some specific paths, you will basically see the same walls, floors, and ceilings right up until the end. And to that end, really this game is about as “meh” graphically as you can get without being text based instead. The graphics are good, clean, and clear enough, but they are just nothing really to describe.
Sound: This is the real star of the Stanley Parable. The music is often not noticeable or even there, and there are very few actual sound effects in the game, but it’s really all about the Narrator. He single-handedly carries this game from being s boring “walking simulator” to a comedic romp that seems to want to be about something deeper, and even manages to strike that cord once or twice (depending on what ending you head to). You will laugh, a lot… you will be stunned from time to time, and you might even think to yourself that an ending or two is unnecessarily cruel to Stanley as an example of some life lesson. But across all of the possible endings, your narrator will carry everything and be the reason you enjoyed it. He alone is worth playing this game for.
Gameplay: Stanley Parable is about as basic as you can get of a game and still call it a game. It is a first person title that literally gives you the ability to move, look around and a single interaction button. There are no enemies. There are no objects to find. There really isn’t anything special to do. And almost any given session is over within 10-15 minutes easily. For all intensive purposes, this is a walking simulator without a lot of gameplay.
But what is here is basically one of the most intricate “choose your own adventure” style games I have seen in a long time. Your actions will not only decide how the story ends, but what the story entails. It’s clear the narrator has one or two specific stories he wants to show you, but it’s completely up to you if you want to comply, or if you want to completely jump the shark and do your own thing, and he will react to your actions.
If you have played Bastion, the best way I can describe this is that the developers heard how the Narrator in that game reacts to you and decided to build an experience around just that element of the game so that the narration would stand alone and on it’s own. The result, I imagine, would be something akin to this.
Bugs: I found no bugs while playing this game. It ran perfectly.
Overall: It is really hard to give an overall to a game like this. It’s charm is simply not in the gameplay as much as it is in the experience of seeing it. And yet, you can’t really duplicate the experience by watching someone youtube the game because it really is too open-ended with more endings that are more bizarre (and yet in it’s world make a hell of a lot more sense) then even the out there “dog endings” of your favorite Silent Hill title.
If you are looking for something different to toy with for an afternoon or two, this is definitely something you should be considering, but if you are looking for your next puzzle, next maze to navigate, next enemy to destroy, or really playing anything of a much more traditional game, you best look elsewhere. If this interests you, I recommend trying the demo available on it’s steam page, as this will give you a better idea of what to expect then I can in text without ruining everything for you.
Source’s Listed System Requirements:
- 3.0 Ghz single core processor, or any given 64 bit dual core processor
- 2 GB Ram
- ATi Radeon X800, NVIDIA GeForce 7600, Intel Graphics HD 2600. Must have 128 MB VRAM or more.
- 3 GB hard drive
- Windows XP/VISTA/7/8
- AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz
- 8GB RAM
- Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM
- and Windows 7