The choices! The tens of choices…(spoilerish)
As it is already known how limited choices can be in the gaming world, the Stanley Parable decides to put that, and many other video game tropes under a microscope, then project it onto the walls where everyone can see. Besides drawing on the obvious, the Stanley Parable may be more than just a collection of observations, but does it have enough to keep you there to see all of them?
Graphics: Ultimately a simple collection of innards in business building, the lighting and effects aren’t over the top, but they aren’t supposed to be. From the lighting, to the pale cream walls, drab cubicle holes, and full dusty warehouses, all ending in dream like endings and setups, the visuals all have specific purpose. This purpose is to drive choice. You want to explore every inch of every cubicle, every button, every drab door, if only to look for something different, maybe something flashy, or maybe something that drives a response from narrator…
Audio: Which brings me to my next play. The narrator. I cannot remember a single piece of audio from this game other than what the narrator does or says. I can’t remember the clicks of locks, the button typing of a keyboard, or sounds of mechanical objects in movement. I imagine they were all good, but remembering them would only distract for what made the game, and that is the narrator. He is supportive, kind, menacing, angry, sad, or whatever is called upon based on your decisions, and you want to find just how many ways you can test the limits of this person’s attitude.
Choices are a plenty in this game as shown in audio responses alone. There are times where I feel sympathetic to the narrator, and at times when I play that little S.o.B.’s game, it kicks me in the mouth, making me go right back to hating him. That screams of great voice acting (or my naivety) to where you can hang on to every word, letting it ride your emotional wave from one decision to the next. There were times where he decides to play music for you, and it is so motivating, like a “we’re going on an adventure” mood swings in and I feel like me and this voice have each others’ backs, and then there are sudden endings where he traps you, and narrates your character in such a negative light, that I am driven to find the ending that makes him cry.
Gameplay: Ultimately, you are limited to few choices when it comes to controls. You are running, jumping, clicking and backtracking, but that is all you need. This game is focused on one thing, and that is choice. These choices feel very natural and there is nothing abrupt in the decisions. After three hours (or as soon as an hour and half, by some standards), you will reach your end of choices without help, but you may resort to wikipedia for the rest. It is simple, clean, and as far as my experience, bug-free.
Story: You find yourself starting in a cubicle, wandering what adventure is outside of that door, but the story is more than that. While allowing the player a lot of choices, the game is poking fun at itself and the game genre itself. It addresses the gaming tropes of choice, and in one case lays it out as a virtual museum. This is all interesting and fun and naturally I read through all the material or looked at the virtual models in each room, but I just wanted to move on to the next room, and find more things to make the voice interact with me. I have already forgotten most of what I looked at in the multiple endings, I just felt compelled to find more things to click and what more choices to address, and I kept going back to find whatever choices I missed. You have over ten endings, and believe me when I say that this is worth the time and money put into it.
Final: When you need a game where choice matters and feels natural, I believe this game is it. It addresses the values of the day to day and not feeling of having much control, then flips that concept on its head with the great “what-if” you stepped out and the world was suddenly “gone” in a sense. Who honestly hasn’t daydreamed and asked, “what if it is just me?” With this, I didn’t have to sit there and weigh every choice with a extreme thought (like Mass Effect, Witcher 2, or The Walking Dead), but instead I just made a quick choice and came back to it later. The decisions are fun, not trying, and sometimes we just need that simplicity. Some choices don’t need a massive list of Pros and Cons, and that for this game, is a big PRO to me.