In the The Stanley Parable you play as Stanley (surprise!), an office worker who suddenly finds his whole office empty. Everyone has disappeared! The first, immediately obvious thing you do is to find out why your co-workers have gone. What sets this game apart from most games is that a narrator (who sounds awfully a lot like Stewie Griffin) starts announcing everything that happens in the game, right from the very beginning. Charming at first, he’s witty, sarcastic, and can be a very desperate, he kind of makes me think that he could be that voice in your head who’s always there but you dare not follow. The voice updates you of everything you do as you do it, introduces you to the choices you have as you encounter them, and “guides” you on which decisions you should make as you make them. Do what the voice tells you to do and you will find out the real truth about the company you are working for. Follow the voice and you will then be rewarded with an easy victory and a convenient Steam achievement.
Watch the game launch trailer:
When I first played The Stanley Parable, I admit, I expected the game mechanics to be terribly simple. There is a hype around its unusual storytelling, so I suspected that the focus is going to be in narrative, not the game controls. Sure enough, getting around in this game is noob-friendly: just walk to where you want to go. And so I did. Or at least I tried. You see, the game is set up in such a way that you cannot interact with anything other than with what you’re allowed to. See those papers on to your right? Nope, can’t read them. Do you want to snoop around your co-workers’ desks? Sure, but that will lead you nowhere – all you can do is turn their computers on and off. Five minutes into the game I started to feel trapped. I’ve always been the type who ends up getting distracted by the extra things you can do in the environment, especially when the game is labeled as an “exploration” game. But what in The Stanley Parable world are you supposed to touch? Well, that depends. You’re only supposed to go where the narrator tells you to go, and you’re only supposed to touch what he wants you to touch. He gives you choices (right door or left, mystery room or escape route, ignore the phone or answer it), but at the same time he tells you which choice you should make. The real choice, then, becomes whether you want to do what he says or not.
You continue to make choices throughout the game, and you get a different ending each time you play. I guarantee you that you will not be satisfied on your first run. I, myself, have managed to blow up the whole building 10 minutes in. You have to play the game over and over again to experience all the endings. But then again, the point of the game is not really its branching storyline. Sure, the hundred-or-so endings are part of it. But do you honestly think any one of those endings is going to depend on your own choices, or the those of that voice — that stranger — inside your head?
If you thought I lied about this game being a game of endless endings, you’re totally right. You can check out the different endings (some of which are quite disturbing) here: The Stanley Parable wiki (Beware: Spoilers!)
I borrowed the game launch trailer from here.