Do you ever wish or wonder if your life was being narrated? That someone was telling everyone what you did or will do? If you woke up one day to suddenly hear a disembodied voice telling you what to do, would you listen? The Stanley Parable, a PC game released in 2013 by Galactic Café, takes this line of thought and runs with it.
You are Stanley, a normal guy working in a small office; following instructions relayed through your computer. Everything is fine until one day when something strange happens and suddenly there are no instructions and your co-workers have all disappeared. As the game starts you are introduced to a ‘helpful’ narrator who will outline your next course of action. Whether or not you follow his exact instructions is completely up to you.
The Stanley Parable was originally a game mod made with the Source engine and so the graphics can be easily compared to Valve games like Half-Life 2. Set in an office building, the environments are decidedly simple but with small, amusing details sprinkled throughout. The gameplay is pretty basic, limited to a normal movement scheme and interacting with some objects and buttons. The lack of any significant obstacles or puzzles to solve may make the game sound boring and uninteresting but this is offset by the main focus of the game.
Where The Stanley Parable gets interesting is the many different paths you can take for example, one of the main decision points early on in the game is the player being presented with two doors and told to go to the left door. Past both doors lay numerous opportunities to diverge from the set path encouraging curiosity and exploration. One run-through isn’t necessarily long but what brings you back over and over again is the different choices you can make and how those changes manifest in the following runs. The game has approximately 19 significantly different endings which you can get to through several different combinations of events and decisions the player can make. A few ‘wrong’ turns here and there can have some pretty noticeable effects.
The narration covers a lot of different scenarios and doing things like ignoring the narrator’s directions or even just standing still in a broom closet can have some amusing results. The well-written and delivered dialogue combined with the huge variety of possible scenarios definitely offsets the lack of action-packed gameplay and obstacles proving The Stanley Parable to be an engaging and entertaining experience. If you’ve never wished that your life was narrated by a sassy, British man this game may have you reconsidering.