Review

The Stanley Parable Review

  • First Released Oct 17, 2013
    released
  • Reviewed Oct 17, 2013
  • PC

You can't break away.

I have always been someone who wants to go the "wrong" way first in games. When I sense that a game is trying to usher me down a particular path, to get me to run from left to right or maybe to charge straight ahead, I need to satisfy my instinct to go against the grain, to explore, to see what the designers have put back the other way. Sometimes I find a 1-up or a collectible stashed away to reward me for my intrepid behavior. At other times, my explorations are rewarded only by the crushing disappointment of running up against an invisible wall. Whatever I find or don't find, my action is a manifestation of my desire to exert some independence, to make my own choices within a system that severely limits my options and encourages certain, specific behaviors.

In The Stanley Parable, you control Stanley, aka employee #427, a cog in a machine, an employee in a system that offers him no options and demands certain, specific behaviors. He sits in his drab, tiny office, waiting for orders to appear on his screen telling him which buttons to push, and then pushing those buttons. Then, one day, the orders stop coming, and he is confronted with freedom, or at least the illusion of it. You take control of Stanley and walk down a hallway as a haughty narrator comments on what Stanley is thinking and feeling about this strange new circumstance in which he finds himself. Then, you come to a room with two open doors.

Behold, one of the most exciting choices in the history of games. No, really.
Behold, one of the most exciting choices in the history of games. No, really.

"When Stanley came to a set of two open doors," the narrator says, "he entered the door on his left."

It's a choice. A real choice, made all the more fascinating by the fact that the game, via the narrator, explicitly communicates its expectations to you. Do you cooperate with the narrator, letting the story he wants to tell play out? Or do you go the "wrong" way, seeing what awaits down the hallway on the right? No matter what you do, here, as in most games, exerting true independence is impossible. You are operating within a severely limiting system that others have created. You can play into its expectations or attempt to defy them, but either way, you are engaging in behavior that the system allows, moving through environments that others have constructed with you, the player, in mind. No matter which way you go in The Stanley Parable, you are confronted with choices again and again. And again and again, the narrator communicates his expectations to you. When the narrator tells you that Stanley walks straight ahead into the room marked Mind Control Facility, do you follow his narrative lead, or branch off to the left, down the hallway marked "ESCAPE"?

It's an experience that makes you reflect on the nature of choice in games, on how games that purport to offer choice almost always offer only an illusion of choice. You might find the narrator commenting that you made a choice that you shouldn't, by design, have been able to make, or you might make your way to an area that the narrator claims you were never meant to see. But of course, the very fact that there's recorded dialogue commenting on these circumstances makes it clear that these are situations that the designers planned for and wanted you to discover.

The Stanley Parable feels alive in its responsiveness to your choices and its desire to subvert your expectations and keep you on your toes.

But it's not the fact that The Stanley Parable makes you think about the nature of choice in games that makes it extraordinary. It's the fact that it does so while simultaneously managing to be a wildly entertaining, hilarious, and surprising experience that satisfies your yearning to go off the beaten path and to make impactful choices even as it makes you question how much freedom you ever really have in a game.

As you make your choices, going along with the narrator's expectations or defying them, his commentary constantly has you in stitches. It's particularly amusing to listen to him as he insults Stanley (or just as often, you, the defiant player) when you don't follow his instructions. Spend a bit of time dawdling in a broom closet that offers you nothing to interact with, for instance, and the narrator eventually becomes so exasperated with your seemingly pointless behavior that he eventually concludes that you, the player, must have died. He then calls out to anyone near your computer, asking for your body to be taken away and a new player to be found, one who (unlike you) understands basic first-person video game mechanics and the history of narrative tropes in games "so that the irony and insightful commentary of this game is not lost on them."

I'm not very good at The Stanley Parable.
I'm not very good at The Stanley Parable.

It doesn't take long to arrive at any one of The Stanley Parable's many endings, but it's exciting to play again and again, because the choices you make can take you down such wildly different paths, and because the narrator's commentary is so smartly written and its delivery so hilarious that finding ways to trigger new bits of it is as rewarding as discovering a secret area containing precious treasures in a great adventure game. You're simultaneously questioning whether or not any of your choices really mean anything and enjoying the inventive ways in which The Stanley Parable rewards you for the choices you make. And often, just when you think your understanding of The Stanley Parable is nearing completion, it throws you for a loop; the starting area might suddenly be different for no apparent reason, or doing the same thing you've done before might result in a different (and delightful) response from the narrator. The Stanley Parable feels alive in its responsiveness to your choices and its desire to subvert your expectations and keep you on your toes.

I think of The Stanley Parable as a sort of video game analogue for Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze's brilliant film Adaptation, which gently mocked the ways in which so many films manipulate audiences with formulaic plot twists and situations in which characters learn huge life lessons, while simultaneously moving me with its formulaic plot twists and situations in which characters learned huge life lessons. The Stanley Parable is both a richly stimulating commentary on the nature of choice in games (and in other systems, too, like our workplaces and our families) and a game that offers some of the most enjoyable, surprising, and rewarding choices I've ever been confronted with in a game. Going the wrong way has never felt so right.

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    The Good
    Spectacularly funny
    Packed with meaningful choices that offer delightfully surprising results
    Simultaneously incredibly smart and wickedly entertaining
    The Bad
    9
    Superb
    About GameSpot's Reviews

    About the Author

    Carolyn likes to venture off the beaten path in life as well as in games, but unfortunately, the narrator in her head isn't nearly as witty as the one in The Stanley Parable.
    302 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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    Avatar image for illmatic87
    illmatic87

    8/8

    Avatar image for phbz
    phbz

    Bought this game yesterday. Superb!

    Avatar image for mohamedmounem
    mohamedmounem

    nice game with innovational elements but it don't deserve 9 out of 10

    Avatar image for linkinparkrox11
    linkinparkrox11

    was fun for the first 3 hours but once you realize that you're just doing the same thing everytime but with different endings it's completely ruined. here's why the SP sucks http://guardianlv.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/The-Stanley-Parable-endings-tree-chart.png if i had bought it for a dollar i wouldn't have been disappointed.

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    @linkinparkrox11 Isn't the fact that there are so many different endings prove that you're NOT doing the same thing?

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    Avatar image for 06053kma
    06053kma

    minecraft and portal...

    I like it!!!

    Avatar image for cxxal
    CXXAL

    I wish they update this game frequently, or do they?

    Avatar image for vrajitorugaoz
    vrajitorugaoz

    This game tries to send a very interesting message about our daily lives which I'm not sure many people that actually played it understood. It is funny because it is true!

    Avatar image for Qixote
    Qixote

    I think the game is a tad bit overrated. It's good for an hour or two for a nice chuckle. The more you play after that, the less impressive it becomes. It's like climbing a tree over and over, each time you take a different branch and discover something new and amusing. But eventually you find you can't reach any more new branches, so you just climb the ones you already did again. They do toss in some irrelevant random changes, like objects in rooms being slightly rearranged, or rooms themselves being a mirror image from before. But it doesn't take long for the novelty of to wear off.

    Avatar image for Qixote
    Qixote

    @RedWave247 @sabretooth2066 No, it is pretty linear. It's just linearity in disguise. A nonlinear game should not play out the same way more than once. Stanley has a preset number of ways all the different scenarios will play out. Eventually, you can play them all out, and replaying them will be exactly the same.

    Avatar image for Zevvion
    Zevvion

    This was pretty fun for me to play through. I've played it about two hours. I felt like I saw every different ending, but it seems I haven't. It's a unique experience. I couldn't help but think about Antichamber when playing this. Also a great game. I prefer that one over this, but this is still pretty good.

    Avatar image for rosen22
    rosen22

    @Zevvion yeah i got the antichamber vibe too. Was great fun albeit saw everything in one evening

    Avatar image for pavvy20012003
    pavvy20012003

    I thought the orange sign said pork in progress

    Avatar image for KingofgamersX
    KingofgamersX

    this game was amazing

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    The broom closet ending was my favourite ending!

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    Avatar image for Sl4cka
    Sl4cka

    @RedWave247 spoilers ahoy

    Avatar image for Zevvion
    Zevvion

    @RedWave247 My broom closet was nailed shut because I entered it every time.

    Avatar image for cousinmerl
    cousinmerl

    @RedWave247 I like the ending where the room unfolds to reveal a giant floating head that's been observing everything you've been doing from above. :)

    Avatar image for theslovakian38
    theslovakian38

    how much you wanna bet there is going to be an "other take" review giving this game a 4 and complaining that these choices arent as impactful as beyond 2 souls.

    Avatar image for keech
    keech

    @theslovakian38

    I know I'm waiting for it. I'm sure the "other take" will also say that there's no actual gameplay either. That you just walk around randomly and stuff happens.

    Avatar image for sabretooth2066
    sabretooth2066

    Dont listen to RedWave247, he is probably one of the devs of the game...replying to negative articles but claiming to not even reading them if he does not like it, so in this case RedWave247 is as pathetic as "Wild Games Studio".

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    @sabretooth2066 Actually, I'm not. I'm just a fan of innovation and doing clever things with the medium. The whole game is a commentary on the fact that games are still just an illusion of choice because everything the player does is still in the hands of what the developer presents to them. It also has a number of clever ways of doing that, like the broom closet ending.

    Just because a game has a smaller budget, do you think that means they don't deserve a high rating for different reasons than triple A games?

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    sabretooth2066

    @RedWave247 You can rate game two ways, first ist to rate a game only based on your own grade of fun you had with it regardless of how other games are compared to it..therefor giving a small indie game a 9.5 rating making it one of the best games of ALL, second is to rate a game with keeping in mind how other games compare to it.....in the second way you just cant rate a small LINEAR indie game like this example here the same way like you rate an open world AAA title like GTA V, there for its just wrong to give such a high rating to a "game" like this here.

    there are also critics who rate "BEYOND TWO SOULS" with 9.5 or higher because its a great movie-game-expierience on its own, and there are critics who say that game is more movie than game so its actually a shitty game compared to the rest of "real" games out there.

    which ratings are in favor of gamers.....well....i prefer ratings keeping in mind other games compared to it and not only basing on ones own fun he has with the game and making certain games look like as if its the best game out there above all the rest even when the game consists of nothing else than running around in an empty house and opening doors and desk-drawers to read friggin notes

    Avatar image for sabretooth2066
    sabretooth2066

    @wizardboyus @babrukus

    there are a few more problems with certain reviews in general, it sometimes looks like 8+ ratings are given a little too fast without questioning it if the title really deserves it, at times i get the feeling that all what it takes for a game to get such high ratings is to be innovative and nothing else, in this case this fits for the game here or "gone home", just because they are innovative and original..in the mind of the reviewer...its obviously enough for the reviewer to throw around with 8 or 9er ratings.

    Avatar image for wizardboyus
    wizardboyus

    @babrukus @sabretooth2066 @RedWave247 that actually makes sense to me babrukus, well said.

    Avatar image for babrukus
    Babrukus

    @sabretooth2066 @RedWave247

    @sabretooth2066 @RedWave247

    I agree mostly with RedWave here but I'd like to put forward the idea that games should not be rated based on how much fun you as a person had with it or as compared to every game ever but rather how it compares to other games in it's category/genre. There are many many differences between The Stanly Parable and, one of my personal favorite games, Dark Souls, to the point where the very idea of comparing them in anyway seems simply ludicrous to me.

    How then can you look at the Metacritic score for Dark Souls, an 85 and the score for The Stanly Parable, an 89, and claim that The Stanly Parable is a better game when the two games have nothing in common beyond the fact that they are both games. That said if you compare Dark Souls to Dragon's Dogma they have many similarities so judging that Dark souls is a better game than Dragon's Dogma because it got an 85 and not a 78 makes much more sense seeing as the games are far more comparable.

    The Stanly Parable's score should not be compared with DaS's score but Gone Home's or Dear Ester's. Those are games it is similar to and as such the only ones worth comparing it to. comparing it to any other genera mostly comes down to preferences and subjective opinions that have no place in a professional review.
    Avatar image for sabretooth2066
    sabretooth2066

    @RedWave247 ....you anway read and reply to my long diatribes like a mindless puppet so it doesnt matters how good or bad my english is, that you rather focus on my grammar skills and sentence structures than on my opinion just shows that your ideas of how to counter my statements obviously ran empty and you have no clue what else to focus on, so please..lets continue to argue about my english skills to make you sleep better at night....

    Avatar image for deactivated-59e0c3e2b083b

    @sabretooth2066 @RedWave247

    " ....you anway read and reply to my long diatribes like a mindless puppet so it doesnt matters how good or bad my english is" - Mindless puppets don't reply a thing; they're just puppets. The rest has too many structural flaws based on the famous "don't blame me, English is not my mother language" to highlight any further.

    But anyway! You didn't come here looking for someone to teach you how to write or not to write, right? You just wanted to give your opinion (a personal opinion I respect), like mostly anybody else here at Gamespot.

    Take that into account, and add to the mix that your "2 ways" of rating games might as well be your personal opinion. For some people here it is CLEAR that Indie Games cannot be compared with AAA Monsters such as latest Rockstar gazillion-dollar-record-breaker GTAhemot. Few games in MAJOR HISTORY of games can't even compare with it, you're mentioning basically the most successful entertainment product (so far) of all time.

    So... does this mean that because there are things like the latest GTA, clever ideas done outside the AAA box (such as Her Story, Hotline Miami, Shovel Knight, etc) cannot receive a high score?
    So how should we rate, by using your system, the thousands of old games that earned high score numbers (and show their breed years later with a still solid performance, such as PSX's Vagrant Story, PS2's Final Fantasy XII, SNES's Chrono Trigger, N64's Mario Kart64, etc), when comparing it with recent, cutting-edge titles? 'cause these games were made and still exist. What majority of people chooses to play it's up to each to choose.

    Typically, for what you feel the game gives you, you pick a 1-to-10 nominal score system to come to terms with another human being. In my book, games like Braid, Machinarium, Rogue Legacy, Limbo, Hotline Miami, Ori and the blind Forest, etc. are solid 10/10 material...
    ...and when comparing it with yet-another-FPS-multiplayer-crap that has had probably 20 times the amounts of work (and money) to get any of the ut-supra mentioned games done, it's hard for me to give out no more than an 8 or a 9, at best... which in years to come will be even lower and lower when compared to unique experiences. Think about Call of Duty 2 (or 1, it's all the same), or any Medal of Honor, or the first Need for Speed.
    Get my point?

    It's the same reason why in 10 years people will still be playing Portal or games like The Stanley Parable. The evidence is all around there, and you think you're very clever yourself, so just do the math and we'll get to the same conclusions.
    But then again, it's my opinion. Just as how the missy up here has made and got paid for.

    Greetings from Argentina. Austria must be a lovely place.

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    @sabretooth2066 @RedWave247 Well, that's okay. In the future, then, show respect to people you want to read your long diatribes by at least using some decent grammar. I do so in order to show respect to someone who might be reading it. You would do well to do the same. Just because English isn't your first language doesn't excuse you from poor English. It just means you need to work a little harder in order to get it right.

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    Avatar image for sabretooth2066
    sabretooth2066

    @RedWave247 Wow! you just dedicated me one bigass article here.....do i even deserve such attention with my "nonsensical sentences" and "bad grammar" ?

    sorry redwave you just disqualified yourself as discussion partner here when you focused on my grammar skills first rather than on my opinion, so please just STFU and move on with your kewl superman avatar

    greetings from austria! (not australia, and no, we dont speak english here, so english isnt my motherlanguage)

    ..ich spreche deutsch, du dämlicher vollidiot, nun leck mich am arsch und halt deine verdammte fresse du kleines dreckschwein. ;-)

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    @sabretooth2066 @RedWave247 I'm going to respond to this in point form so it's easy to read. Which is more than I can say for your post. It was incredibly hard to read due to the extreme lack of punctuation and nonsensical "sentences." Your grammar and spelling is atrocious. If you want to be taken seriously in this argument, then perhaps you should work on your written communication skills.

    1) The Stanley Parable is NOT a linear game - nor is Gone Home. A linear game is where you go from Point A to Point B with no choice in the matter. For example, the old Mario games have you going from World 1-1 to 1-2, etc. That is linear. Linear means a straight line. If you played The Stanley Parable, you would understand that the whole point of the game is its complete LACK of linearity. A linear game would only have one ending where as this has at least - at LEAST - a dozen. Gone Home gives you the open choice to explore the detailed house in whatever manner you want. That is also not the definition of linear.

    2) Everyone comes into a gaming experience differently because not everyone has the same background in games. I'm old enough to say that I grew up on games from the Atari console to today. That includes a lot of PC gaming, especially adventure games. So what I think might be a great game would differ from others. The same applies for Carolyn, who I imagine wants something more out of gaming than what triple A games provide. So her opinion means a different score than what you might want. And speaking of which...

    3) Scores are irrelevant. They're just a number. There are far too many personal factors that go into entertainment to assign it a number that everyone will agree on. And because of that, yes, even a small indie game has the right to be rated just as high as others. Do you think Super Meat Boy deserved such a high score? If not, then that's fine because that's your personal, individualized opinion. Look, I'm going to give you a new score to think of. I'm giving The Stanley Parable the following score:

    Banana and a half out of three apples.

    Why did I choose a banana and not another fruit? Or maybe vegetables? How many bananas worth are in an apple? IT DOESN'T MATTER. Because review scores are so pointless that the number doesn't matter. What the reviewer or critic has to SAY about the game, however, is different .And again, all that comes from their own personal experiences which you are welcome to disagree with. But that doesn't mean that one game is better or worse than another because some silly number.

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    Avatar image for flexy456
    flexy456

    I played this game for, maybe, 60mins now and had several different endings...and all I can see is....WTF?!

    "WTF?!" <--- is really all that's needed to sum up this game.

    I am not sure whether it's pure genius or absurdly annoying...in fact I am not sure about anything anymore after playing this game. And of course the game is "linear" since the number of choices does not matter if an outcome is already defined by your actions. At this point I am not even sure whether the game actually "has a point"..I guess I need to re-play a few more times. Maybe the point of the game is that it does, in fact, not have a point. As I said above...a biiiiiig WTF.


    Avatar image for VisualPendulum
    VisualPendulum

    @PhantomPowerz @VisualPendulum @RedWave247 My mistake. Please disregard my comments.

    Avatar image for PhantomPowerz
    PhantomPowerz

    @VisualPendulum @RedWave247 Except the standard price is still only $15, not $25.

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    @VisualPendulum Given that the game is only $14 (and currently 20% off, at $11.99), that's good!

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    Avatar image for sabretooth2066
    sabretooth2066

    I am not saying that this game is actually bad, but........I am sick and tired of short, linear and in some way "useless" games as either "Gone Home" or this one now, getting an unbelievable exaggerated rating like 9,

    is MrMs Petit even aware of what 9 actually means for a game ? Not alone with that, this game here obviously has no "minuses" so its completely free of flaws and must be one of the most perfect games out there (?)

    I mean...seriously now....i dont have a problem with MrMs Petit rating GTA V with 9 "only", the problem is she rates "such" games as this one here or "Gone Home" with 9 as well or even higher, THAT IS the exact problem here.

    I think the biggest problem MrMs Petit has is that she/he rates a game only based on his/her own grade of fun she/he has with it, not keeping in mind how the game stands compared to other games or how others might react to it, so if MsMr Petit would play "Pong" and enjoys it to the fullest with playing it day in day out, she/he would rate it higher than GTA V...but can such a rating/review be taken serious by readers/gamers ? in that case she would rate a "stupid dumb 2 color 2d arkanoid-alike game" better than a third person open world game with hours and hours of actual fun not to mention the missions and the story.....and of course the graphics as well.

    Avatar image for pip3dream
    pip3dream

    @sabretooth2066 you're an ass

    Avatar image for oriontyson
    oriontyson

    @sabretooth2066 Did you have to go out of your way to misgender her by calling her MrMs Petit? It comes across a personal attack on her transstatus.

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    @sabretooth2066 I stopped reading when you called this game linear. It's about the least linear game possible.

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    cousinmerl

    @RedWave247 .... I have to say it kinda is linear.. if you look at this flow chart that's the entire games logic!

    http://i.stack.imgur.com/LHrOq.png (SPOILERS)

    kinda wished it had another 10 endings.

    Avatar image for RedWave247
    RedWave247

    @cousinmerl Do you even understand what the word linear means? It means line, as in straight line. A straight, singular line.


    Does that chart look like a straight, singular line? No. THEN THE GAME IS NOT LINEAR.

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    TomSpander

    You're right, it's not linear. Not even the Adventure Line™ is. It's a line, but it's far from straight

    Avatar image for sabretooth2066
    sabretooth2066

    @RedWave247 @sabretooth2066 If you dont even read an article to the end, then dont even bother to reply to it, so in your case thanks for replying coz if you take all the time to reply to my article then you surely must have read it anyway.

    Avatar image for Zevvion
    Zevvion

    @sabretooth2066 @RedWave247 So you're admitting your outcry for attention?

    Avatar image for SoulScribe
    SoulScribe

    A game where you are trapped in linearity but gives you choices which gives the false impression of openness only to be lead to more linearity. I see the concept of it, but I can never justify spending cash on a game just to be preached to. This is a problem in the contemporary culture. We try so much to expand the medium that it falls into theory to justify its worth rather than its execution. Is it the same medium that you came to love? If we keep justifying these kinds things, games will evolve down the same path of contemporary art where high technically skilled art becomes cheaply executed art backed up by concept and theory.

    Avatar image for wgerardi
    wgerardi

    Was sadly kind of let down by this :/ Love these FPS games (minus the S) that are more story focused, but I found The Stanley Parable to be kind of aggravating. Also, cheeky British humor is extremely annoying to me, so that could also be the reason.... I even found myself getting a little annoyed with Stephen Merchant in Portal 2 :P

    Either way, great review as always, Carolyn!

    Avatar image for Javier
    Javier

    Amusing at best. If games were books this would be a colorful brochure that you read on a short bus ride and leave on the seat once you get down the bus.

    Avatar image for cousinmerl
    cousinmerl

    Well bought it out of interest, (first time to use steam too!) as a idea its very interesting, as a game that messes with your head. sadly it feels a little short once you find a number of endings and feel that you don't really have that many choices to alternate things. and you do find yourself going over things again and again......its like ground hog day!

    I'd give it a 7 that's 1 bellow a 8.

    but if you want to play the game DONT watch any of the videos as this'll give half the story away!.

    Avatar image for cuprashoe
    cuprashoe

    Just finished it....Sort of. And loved It! I agree it wont appeal to the run n gun FPS toss rag's but for anyone that wants a unique and very witty title that will keep you guessing It's top stuff. And for £7.99 in the sale a bargain to boot.

    The Stanley Parable More Info

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  • First Released Oct 17, 2013
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration game. and an updated version of the Half-Life 2 mode.
    7.7
    Average Rating315 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Stanley Parable
    Developed by:
    Galactic Cafe, Davey Wreden
    Published by:
    Galactic Cafe, IndieBox, Inc.
    Genre(s):
    First-Person, 3D, Adventure
    Theme(s):
    Modern