Linearity has always been tricky to deal with when it comes to storytelling in games. Do developers force players down a small, linear path to deliver a stronger narrative, or do they allow players to do what they please, paving the way toward stronger gameplay? “The Stanley Parable” is a deconstruction of this conundrum.
The main character is Stanley, working at a boring office job when all of his coworkers mysteriously disappear one morning. Stanley must piece together why this happened, in addition to unraveling the dark secrets his employer hides from him.
Aiding him is a narrator who clues the player in on where to go or what to do. Of course, the player can just disregard the narrator and do whatever he or she wishes.
These choices of whether or not to obey the narrator lie at the heart of “The Stanley Parable,” and they lead to a lot of moments that are both comedic and dramatic. It’s a fascinating commentary on the role of choice in games, stating that players only have the illusion of choice instead of true choice.
Each “choice” is one laid out by the developer, carefully planned like a lab rat experiment. It’s a fantastic deconstruction of games like “Mass Effect” or “The Walking Dead.” Here, in “The Stanley Parable,” games like these are revealed for what they truly are, mazes of narrative. It’s a chilling and shocking testament, but it’s also congratulatory in a way. A well-crafted maze is just that: well crafted.
That goes without mentioning the game’s sense of humor. The narrator often gets quite snarky when the player pushes him to his limits. The game’s many secrets are also hilarious, but to spoil them would ruin the experience. Suffice to say, some of the secrets will catch players off-guard and leave them rolling on the floor in hysterics.
“The Stanley Parable” is not a long game. A single playthrough only takes around 10-15 minutes. Not only will players want to play it again and again, but the content within that short amount of time is absolutely mind-blowing. The $15 price tag may sound steep, but the payoff is very well worth it.
Game: “The Stanley Parable”
Developer: Galactic Cafe