I’m not sure I can say anything different to anyone else who’s been raving about this game. However, I want to rave about it, so I will. The first thing that anyone talking about this game has to contend with is how to describe it, to talk about it, without ruining the game in some way for others. Once you start playing you very quickly work out what’s happening, but that discovery is the first part of discovering the game.
So, before the cut I’m going to say: I recommend this game. Go and get it.
Ok, with that I can dive into raving about it, and be warned that there are possible spoilers ahead. The Stanley Parable (TSP) is closer to a story game (games like Dear Esther and Gone Home) where the game is more about story than actual gameplay. Having said that, it’s also closer to an editorial, or social commentary than a story. And having said that there are game like elements. TSP is a game (I’m going to keep using that term) that enjoys confounding expectations and highlighting tropes from other first person games.
There are really only two characters: the titular Stanley, and the Narrator. Their relationship, depending on what paths you choose, ranges from simple guide/follower to antagonist/protagonist. While there are at least twelve endings of this game, the game is not really over when you find an ending. Restarting the game from the menu simply puts you back in the first room.
Often the game remembers what you’ve done previously and can change things around. Perhaps you’ll hear some different dialogue, or a room will be in a different place, or different options will be available.
At first the game seems a fairly simple “choose to do what the narrator says I should be doing” or “do the opposite”. In some cases the choices can branch, loop back on themselves or change what’s happening entirely. Just when you think you’ve got the game figured out it not only changes gears, but the entire mode of transport!
I had a great deal of fun poking into all the corners of the world (physical and metaphorical) and found that the game was already ahead of me so often. I thought I’d found a way to break it, and it turns out that I was still playing the game the way it was intended.
Add to that things such as various achievements which also poke fun at gaming and gaming culture and I got more than a few laughs out of TSP. Laughs, not just wry grins.
I know I said this earlier, but I recommend TSP. If you’re at all into trying to break games, or subvert them, then you’ll enjoy it even more!