Released in October of 2013, The Stanley Parable is a game that almost defies genre. It sees you playing as Stanley, a man also known as Employee 427. Stanley works for a company where his job is to sit at a desk and push a button on a keyboard as the command to do so appears on his monitor. As the opening narration explains, Stanley does this every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year. One day, something extraordinary happens. No commands come in to Stanley’s workstation. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the building at all.
This is where the game kicks in. Generally, one would expect the narrator to disappear after the opening setup. Not so. The narrator is intricate to the game. He will tell the story and react to what Stanley does. That is where the breathtaking originality and genuine fun of The Stanley Parable begin to take form. There are seemingly infinite branches to the story arc, all depending on your choices. While Stanley himself never speaks, the Narrator does a more than ample job of covering it.
The main jumping point of the story arc is dependent on choosing one of two doors to go through. At the beginning of the game, the Narrator declares that Stanley will go to see if his coworkers are in the conference room. You follow a path and come to two doors. The Narrator declares that Stanley will go through the door on the left. You can choose to do this and the story will continue until your next choice or you can choose the right door. This is where the humorous and captivating narrator begins to come out as he now will seemingly be changing his narration on the fly.
The Narrator will convey everything from anger at your obvious disapproval of his game, resulting in you being dropped into beautifully crafted reproduction of Minecraft and Portal to confusion at what to do with the story now to deception to even begging in one instance. The great genius in this game design is after the “end” of each 15-20 minute story play through, Stanley is transported back to the beginning to start the story all over without menus or opportunities to exit the game. This turns out to do an amazing job of keeping the player playing the game, wondering what ending they would get if they took a different door, or maybe actually listened to what the Narrator dictated for the entire play through.
Overall this is an outstanding Indie game. It is unlike any other game available right now and provides countless hours of replay value as the player tries over and over to unlock each unique story branch. The humor, wit, and charm of the Narrator makes each run through the story enjoyable and pleasant and some of the things that happen along the way will have you laughing out loud. The Stanley Parable currently retails for $14.99 on Steam with a free demo available but be warned, once you pick it up, is extremely difficult to put back down.