Right, so this is another one of my very rare non-anime related posts and yes it is on a game. If you don’t know about this game stick around and maybe I’ll convince you to check it out (even non-gamers can find something to love here).
This is more of an interactive story where you play as the unseen Stanley and begin when he is in his office waiting for instructions that never come. At that point you have to start making choices. The thing is, the narrator will tell you what Stanley should be doing as you walk around and then you determine whether or not you follow that path or veer off. The narration then addresses your choice and leads you to the next fork in the road. That’s really all there is to this story. You walk, look, and listen, and come to one of several end points, all of which force you to question the choices you have made.
I’m going to address the negative first and that way we’ll get it out of the way for when I start telling you why this game is amazing.
The biggest issue is the run time and how little replay value there is. When I played it, I completed every story path that I could find on my own (and then I googled to make sure I hadn’t missed any – even after finding the room that has all the story paths mapped out) and I’ve let friends walk a path or two on my Steam account just so they could experience it and I’ve still only got 5 hours sunk into this game. Compared with most games I buy (where I tend to sink 100 hours minimum into them) this is pretty short entertainment. With that said it probably means the asking price on Steam of $15 is something you need to seriously consider. Though I did get more time out of it than a movie and the price of going to the movies is comparative so maybe it’s all worked out.
The second issue I have with this game is that some of the endings kind of don’t let you know that you’ve reached the end of the road. You have but it isn’t clear and your left wondering if you need to restart or if there is another twist coming if you just wait and stare at the sparkling lights for a bit longer. Clarity that you had in fact reached the end would be a good thing.
Onto the positives.
There is some really clever writing in the narration of this game. Okay, it’s snide and snarky, but the script is beautifully adapted to the different choices you make and it always gives you just enough information to know what you ‘should’ be doing as well as give you some sort of hint about what other possibilities might exist.
The choices are always clear and you are instantly rewarded for making a different choice by getting a very new bit of narration. The only issue with this is that some choices are further down the line so you have to replay previous choices to get to them so some of those earlier bits of narration get replayed a few too many times.
There’s surprising depth to this story. It’s a story about free will but exercising free will in the game doesn’t necessarily lead you to any better conclusion.The very nature of who or what the narrator is, who Stanley is, what the company is; all of these are explored but never defined leaving you thinking long after playing. Despite saying there is surprising depth, there isn’t anything that we haven’t seen before. It’s just that they’ve managed to pack a lot of thought provoking ideas into a game that an average run through of one storyline will only take a few minutes. It’s impressive, really.
And still on the storylines, the endings are incredibly diverse. Everything from the morbid, the hopeful, the thought provoking, to the just plain strange. Each ending gives you something new to think about while pointing you in a new direction to go next time you play.
It’s a game that works best when you know someone else who has played it or is playing it. The question of ‘did you try to save the baby’ and the why and why not argument could go on for a long time and asking someone if they ever just tried not answering the phone can lead to that frozen expression of someone who has just realised that there is a whole other possibility that they never even considered.
I thoroughly recommend this game and even the non-gamers out there can find something to love in the amusing script and strange journeys that The Stanley Parable will take you on.