I’ve seen a few mentions of The Stanley Parable kicking about since its release at the end of July, and these seem to have been very much on the positive side of things. It had piqued my interest, and over the weekend I finally got around to taking a look; I wasn’t disappointed.
Let me try to explain why, while trying to keep spoilers to a minimum…
The Stanley Parable is a free source mod, and you only need Steam and the Source 2007 SDK (downloaded free the first time you try to run the mod, and you probably won’t have much to download much if you’ve already another source game or two) – basically anyone with a computer that can run the source engine should be able to play, and the game isn’t particularly intensive, so you can take a look even if your machine is aging a bit.
Let me start by explaining what kind of game this is. Actually scrap that, let me let the creator explain what kind of game this is:
The Stanley Parable is an experimental narrative-driven first person game. It is an exploration of choice, freedom, storytelling and reality, all examined through the lens of what it means to play a video game.
You will make a choice that does not matter
You will follow a story that has no end
You will play a game you cannot win
…it’s actually best if you don’t know anything about it before you play it :D
Okay, let’s be entirely clear here: The Stanley Parable is a clever and intelligent exploration of, and commentary on, how players interact with choice within games. It is entirely narrative driven – there’s not a lot in the way of game mechanics outside of movement and “use” – and it’s not particularly long (an hour should let you find all paths) but it is clever and interesting throughout.
As that last paragraph and the rather obtuse quote above may imply, this is a bit of an “art” game, but don’t worry, this isn’t some dull and dreary affair – the game’s delivery is very good. The voice acting is just absolutely superb; the combination of some really solid, amusing and clever writing with exactly the right kind of voice, delivered with spot-on pacing, tone and inflection… it just works so well and really draws you in. The game’s less impressive visually – the graphics are a little dated and there’s a few minor artifacts – but they’ve found a visual aesthetic that works with the theme rather well.
If you’re already interested, then just go and download the mod now and stop reading, seriously; you really should play this game with as little prior knowledge as possible.
You still here?
Well, if I’ve not yet convinced you yet, then check out the trailer. It doesn’t really give much away, but it gives you a few of the narrator’s lines over some potentially intriguing visuals.
The Stanley Parable is something a little bit different and while it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s well worth the download to give it a try, especially since it should take you less than an hour to uncover each possible outcome, and it’s free. So outside of download time, it’s not going to take up much of your time.
I don’t want to add anything further about the game, as it’s best played with as little foreknowledge as possible. If you’re really interesting in spoiling it for yourself, there’s plenty of play-through vids on YouTube that’ll show you the game’s content, but it’s not quite the same if you don’t experience it directly.