The Stanley Parable review

Ooh, this one's a tricky beggar to describe without giving too much away, or without making it sound desperately dull. For instance, summarising it as 'a comic look at the existential crisis of hapless office drone' might understandably lead to someone to believe it's tedious navel-gazing, like some particularly indulgent mumblecore indie film. Believe us, The Stanley Parable is nothing like that.

The reality is that The Stanley Parable is very funny, packed with surprises and curveballs and an absolute treat for anyone who's spent a fair amount of time playing videogames. The office drone aspect rapidly fades away in favour of strange, tragicomic spectacle and constant shaking-up of what's required of you.

It's an affectionate satire of the choice and consequence, the moral dilemmas and the dramatically branching plots found in some of the most highly-feted games  - for instance Mass Effect or BioShock. Only rather than potentially universe-destroying decisions, or agonising crises of conscience over who lives or who dies, you're choosing whether to obey an unseen, apparently beneficent narrator when he says you should take the left rather than the right door.

The Stanley Parable began life as a mod for Half-Life 2 a couple of years ago, but has now been made over, extended and worked into something extremely slick, strange and sharp. You'll probably recognise the graphics engine behind Portal and Left 4 Dead, and in the case of the former the acid-tongued narrator here will remind you of the similarly snarky GlaDOS, but other than that The Stanley Parable has little in common with Valve's games. No shooting, no vehicle sections, no action - little more than walking and the occasional optional jump or button push, in fact. Yet the game wrings so much from so little.

The heart and soul of the game lies in  the Narrator's outrage and scorn if you disobey him - this is a wonderfully written and performed game, and a very funny one indeed. But more than that, the very situation you're in changes both dramatically and absurdly depending on what you choose to do or not do. We're on dangerous territory here, but suffice it to say that the rug will repeatedly be pulled from under you, no two playthroughs will be quite the same and, if you take the right/wrong turns, you might even encounter cameos from other games. Aargh, we've said too much.

 The Stanley Parable

Most of all, The Stanley Parable will get in your head. You'll become determined to prove the Narrator wrong, to prove you are a free being, not a mindless drone who follows orders - a person, not a videogame character.

You'll become determined to uncover every possible permutation, every one of the absurd, comic, bleak, unexpected endings.

You'll marvel at sights you could never possibly have predicted. And you'll play again and again, unsure whether you're really starting a new game each time or having your own personal Groundhog Day.

Then you'll suggest that a friend plays The Stanley Parable, and you'll find yourself struggling to describe it without giving too much away or making it sound desperately dull. Good luck. You're going to need it.

The Stanley Parable: Specs

  • OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 Processor: 3.0 GHz P4, Dual Core 2.0 (or higher) or AMD64X2 (or higher) Memory: 2 GB RAM Graphics: Video card must be 128 MB or more and should be a DirectX 9-compatible with support for Pixel Shader 2.0b (ATI Radeon X800 or higher / NVIDIA GeForce 7600 or higher / Intel HD Graphics 2000 or higher). Hard Drive: 3 GB available space Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • OS: Windows XP/Vista/7/8 Processor: 3.0 GHz P4, Dual Core 2.0 (or higher) or AMD64X2 (or higher) Memory: 2 GB RAM Graphics: Video card must be 128 MB or more and should be a DirectX 9-compatible with support for Pixel Shader 2.0b (ATI Radeon X800 or higher / NVIDIA GeForce 7600 or higher / Intel HD Graphics 2000 or higher). Hard Drive: 3 GB available space Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible

OUR VERDICT

The Stanley Parable is steeped in videogame knowledge, history, affection and contempt. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you wince, it'll make you reflect on just what the hell you're doing with your time, and it'll make you play it again and again and again.

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