My goal for this review is to make you want to play The Stanley Parable without giving away any essential information about the game. Which means that, really, the review ought to end here. But that wouldn't satisfy you now would it? No, you want details, critique, screenshots with funny captions, and a score that will help you justify the money you'll be spending on this game. Who am I kidding, you'll probably wait until the game goes on sale anyway, won't you Stanley?
Ha. Ha. Ha...
Erhm erhm! Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. Let's start over, shall we? The Stanley Parable is a first person choice simulator that revolves around the titular Stanley and the choices he (that is, you, dear reader) can make. And these are real choices too! You're not just deciding whether to save the galaxy or let it rot; whether to spare some bad guy or widow his wife; or, indeed, whether to use a grenade or a machine gun to clear out the next room. No, we're talking choices like going directly to the meeting room, or detouring through the employee lounge first, or whether to make the elevator go up or down!
Okay, so if that sounds pretty boring, then congratulations! You're normal! But The Stanley Parable manages to make these choices relevant (and thankfully features more exciting choices as well) by looking deep inside the mind of every person who has ever played a game from a first person perspective. It's really not so much a game as it is an attempt to screw with your head, and it is incredibly effective. But this also means it's important to go in with the right expectations. The game features next to no direct gameplay, but justifies its existence through amazing presentation; this game is all about exploring and interacting with the story.
"the end is loading"
The stars of the show are the excellent writing and voice acting. The graphics are fine and serve their purpose well, but they really aren't a stand-out part of the experience. And while the soundtrack is quite sparse, it's used very effectively when it does come into play. The Stanley Parable is also not a very long game; you can play it for an hour or two, and have your experience in gaming turned upside down, but you'll need a little more time to experience the whole thing. And I definitely recommend that you do so, but the game will start to show a few of its seams here and there as you explore some of the areas you've already been to in order to get to new ones.
The Stanley Parable doesn't convince 100% in what it does, but it gets very close, and it becomes something extraordinary in the process. While it doesn't score highly in terms of play time versus price, or indeed in terms of actual gameplay, these end up feeling like unimportant considerations. The Stanley Parable is simply incredibly well thought out satire that looks inside the minds of gamers and game creators alike; it will frustrate you and make you laugh, just because you know everything it shows you is true.
This review is based on a digital copy of The Stanley Parable for the PC