The Stanley Parable - Brutal Backlog
The Stanley Parable is the brainchild of Davey Wreden, who first experimented with the idea of this game as a mod in Half-Life 2. It became popular enough that Wreden decided to team up with William Pugh to create a standalone game in 2013. Friends told me that the game was fun, but when they tried to explain it to me it didn’t really make sense. The way they described it made it seem rather boring. Why would I want to walk around an office? I’ll spend a large chunk of my life doing that in the real world.
But in seven years not a single person who I’ve talked to about it said they didn’t enjoy it, which means there must be something special about this game. That, along with an ultra deluxe edition of the game being due to drop this year, makes me think it’s time I give The Stanley Parable a chance.
Fifteen Minutes In
Immediately I know this game is going to be meta. In the start menu there is a desk with a computer on it, and on that computer screen is, well, my screen, which I can tell by moving my mouse back and forth. It isn’t often that a game sends a message before it even begins.
Once I start the game, a narrator — with a soothing English accent — tells me that Stanley (my character) is essentially a salaryman whose life revolves around work. But today Stanley realises all of his coworkers are gone and that he’s no longer receiving orders on his computer. After a long-winded but hilarious speech, the narrator tells me I must go investigate what is going on.
As soon as the door to my office opened, I began to explore a seemingly ordinary workplace, clicking on every door and computer I can find to see if it does anything — it doesn’t. Shortly after I hear that beautiful voice tell me that touching everything isn’t going to advance the story. Now I get it. The narrator is going to be more important in this game than most.
Every time I enter a room he has a funny quip to make. Eventually, we get to a point where there are two doors. It was here that I realised that this is similar to a choose-your-own- adventure book — where certain decisions you make affect the next part of the game. The narrator tells me I should go left before I’ve even chosen. So naturally I go right to see what happens. As you might expect the narrator doesn’t approve of this and tries to tell me I’m wrong. He tries to give me opportunities to turn around and do what he wants, but I can’t help doing the opposite. Because then I get to hear him make clever, sassy remarks.
After doing everything wrong I could for around fifteen minutes, I finally got to the point where the game couldn't take it anymore. The world began to deteriorate around me and the narrator informed me he has to start the whole thing over due to my poor decision making. The game resets back to the beginning, and just like that I have my first ending.
I’m still shocked at this point. I had never played a game that had broken the fourth wall so brazenly. It was new and exciting and I had to have more.
Forty-Five Minutes In
I started playing a little quicker after my first completion. Since I did everything wrong the first time I figured I would follow the narrator's every command. This ultimately led me to a giant room filled with TVs. Each one was used to control the minds of Stanley and his workers. Thanks to the narrator's advice, I turned off the machine and was rewarded with the freedom to escape to the beautiful outside world.
Next, I did everything the same except I turned on the machine. This began a countdown to an explosion. There were buttons with numbers scattered around the room along with numbers posted on the walls. I attempted pressing the numbers in combinations, hoping to stop the bomb. The narrator toyed with me as I tried desperately to find a way to stop it, even adding more time to the timer. But nothing I did worked, and I was killed. I tried to figure out the code several times with no success. I could only take so much and looked up how to beat it only to find out there is no combination that works; once you initiate the timer you are doomed. I was a little mad at myself for not realising this myself, since the narrator gave hints that any attempt to stop the bomb was futile.
One Hour and Thirty Minutes In
I kept playing The Stanley Parable because of how creative it was. Depending on the choices you made, you could go to entirely different places and experience completely different endings. In total, I had eight endings before I decided I had seen enough. Some were happy, like when I was able to free myself; some were sad and I died multiple times; some left me scratching my head trying to figure out how the writers — Davey Wreden and William Pugh — came up with this. The consistent detail is that I enjoyed them all. Most of the credit for this goes to the witty dialog of the narrator, voiced by Kevan Brighting. It’s the best narration I have ever experienced in a game, surpassing even GlaDOS from the Portal franchise. The narrator isn’t the only funny part though, there are also some funny jokes written on whiteboards and a PowerPoint that anyone who has worked in an office can relate to.
There really isn’t much to the game other than that. The controls consist of basic movement, an interaction button, and a crouch button that I didn’t get a chance to use (but I’m sure there is an ending that requires it). The graphics aren't anything special, The Stanley Parable was released in 2013, but you could have told me it was from 2008 and I would have believed you. Another issue I had was after playing it so many times some of the jokes, especially at the beginning of the games, started to lose their lustre.
I would recommend The Stanley Parable to almost anyone, gamer or not. The thing that makes it great is the humour. Any game that can make me laugh will get my approval, even if the rest isn’t anything special. Fortunately for this game it isn’t just funny. The dedication to multiple endings was impressive as well and made me wish that other games would try it more. I know it makes it more difficult to have a good story, so games like Uncharted and God of War should probably just stick to what they're doing. But why couldn’t a game with soft lore like Doom have different paths?
Upon a little research I found that there are a total of 19 endings. I plan on coming back to The Stanley Parable in the future when the jokes are fresh again to attempt to find the rest of them.
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