The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration game. You will play as Stanley and you will not play as Stanley. You will follow a story, you will not follow a story. You will have a choice, you will have no choice. The game will end, the game will never end. Contradiction follows contradiction, the rules of how games should work are broken, then broken again. This world was not made for you to understand.
The above is the official description of The Stanley Parable provided by the developers themselves. And this is actually the best description of the game, making all other descriptions redundant. Explaining it further would mean to ruin it. The Stanley Parable is most effective when players know little to nothing about it. But then how do you proceed to write a review for this game? Honestly, I haven’t figured it out yet, so I’ll just keep typing and see what comes out. And if you haven’t played it yet, just stop reading right now and go play it. Seriously. You’re welcome. Oh, and play the demo as well. It’s basically a completely separate game.
I suppose the only relevant thing to say about The Stanley Parable is that it’s absolutely brilliant in just about everything it sets out to do. The writing is intelligent in its relentless satire of gaming conventions and the game design complements it impeccably. In fact, The Stanley Parable melds game design and narrative in a way unseen in video games, there is literally no distinction between the two. This is heightened even further by the fantastic voice acting.
The Stanley Parable is uncompromisingly witty, modern and relevant. It will react to just about everything you do and you will find yourself second guessing both the game itself and your actions. And just when you think you figured it out, it will turn everything on its head. It’s an irreverent piece of art and social commentary. A revelatory work exposing both game designers and game players. Sort of a gaming equivalent of a Charlie Kaufman film.
The Stanley Parable is not only an absolutely brilliant comedy, but a game worthy of study. It may come off as simple, but upon reflection, it makes you contemplate so much. That might be its greatest achievement. It’s a game that will make you think and contemplate not only The Stanley Parable itself, but other games, gaming as a whole and your role in it. It’s basically an elaborate social experiment for gamers.
I’m running out of superlatives here. So again, just drop whatever you’re doing and play it. It’s just incredible.