Dshea
From:Shea John Driscoll,  Digital Sub-Editor, ST, posted on 18 October at 12:29 AM
18 October at 12:29 AM

On choice, narration and the "art game": 3 things about The Stanley Parable

I don’t know what happened, but I like it

A few minutes into The Stanley Parable, you, Stanley, reach a room with two doors. The narrator, whose dulcet tones have so far been your only indicator of what you’re supposed to be doing, tells you that Stanley entered the door on the left. Note the tense.

Do you follow?

That’s the beating heart of the game - choice, and outcome. There are no buildings collapsing or large-scale shootouts here. You walk through corridors in an office building and occasionally you are presented with a choice - left, or right; red door, or blue. You see one of a few endings, and you start it again, making a different decision this time.

It’s a gleeful send up of the contrived moral choices that many story-based games make you dwell over these days. You don’t choose a squad member to send to die. In The Stanley Parable, you merely choose left, or right, to follow the prescribed story, or not.

Some of these outcomes don’t end up well for Stanley. Some do. Some go down bizarre rabbit holes that you absolutely have to see for yourself. There’s little indication where you’ll end up, when, for example, you descend into the bowels of the building instead of heading where you’re supposed to.

You could think that that’s unfair. That’s also the point, I think - that these choices don’t mean anything, and that they’re just a means to see more of the game.

I liked The Stanley Parable a lot. It is frequently bewildering, always clever and sometimes very, very funny.

Narrator is superb

The real joy, for me, comes not in any dissection of the game’s message, but in prodding around every branch of this game’s narrative.

The narration, provided by Kevan Brighting, is superb throughout. It swings viciously from a level tone to pure menace, it pleads, shows concern, depending on which ending you’re on the path to.

The genuine feeling that you don’t know what you’re going to get at any point in The Stanley Parable, makes it worth the frequent restarts. And the narration, which changes slightly depending on what you’ve done, is a huge part of that.

Interactivity key to “art game”

There’s been a recent trend of “art game” games which almost exclusively consist of you strolling around in an environment, listening to or discovering a story.

Standouts like Dear Esther and Proteus have attracted bouquets and brickbats in equal measure. The criticism claims that these are not games, and that the lack of any meaningful gameplay or interaction, beyond moving, renders them inferior to games in traditional genres.

I don’t know about those, but if interactivity is key, surely The Stanley Parable qualifies. You make the choice of where you go, and therefore, what you see. It’s an experience that wouldn’t have worked in any other medium.

The Stanley Parable is out on Steam for US$14.99 (S$19). Click here to see the game's store page. Review code was provided by the developer. 

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