Ever have one of those dreams? The one that you wake up from, only to find that you've not actually awoken? Meet "The Stanley Parable". Originally released by Davey Wreden as a mod for Half-Life 2 in 2011, the game was praised for it's experimental take on how games work. The program operates in first-person, using limited interactions with the environment. By taking, or refusing, cues from an audible narrator (superbly voiced by Kevan Brighting) - the player is able to advance the story in new directions every time they start a new playthrough.
In 2012 with the help of William Pugh, Wreden created all new assets and environments - expanding the world of The Stanley Parable, and giving it six additional endings. The developers toyed with the idea of making the project a "pay what you will" system, but later relied on Steam's Greenlight service, to bring their project to life. In October, 2013, the finished product was released, again gaining accolades from critics and community-goers alike.
I became privy to The Stanley Parable, a month ago while browsing Steam. I'd heard that the demo was entertaining, so I downloaded it before work with the intention of playing once I got home. After my first experience with the demo, I wasn't exactly impressed. I didn't get what the developers were going for, and I felt confused. So I played again, my outcome, though not drastically, was different than the first playthrough. What had happened? What did I do to change the pace? I wasn't sure, but it was enough for me to purchase the full game and see how many branches the tree had.
Possibly the most appealing aspect of the game, is the humor involved. The narrator, attempting to steer you in the right direction, is often dismayed at the choices you eventually make. There is no "right" way to play the game, but no one told that to the voice in your head. I was able to find the majority of the endings on my own, but a few were exceptionally tricky. Some were so intricate, that I wasn't sure how anyone had figured them out. That's part of the fun of The Stanley Parable, the game rewards you for trying to break it intentionally. The more you push and pull at it's mechanics, the greater reward you might see. I will say, that you will find yourself going down the same hallways a handful of times, taking the right path instead of the left (or up instead of down). Repeated areas offer faster progress by adding quick loading screens that push you closer to decision points in the game.
The Stanley Parable is a trip that you can certainly make in a day, if you have ample sitting time. However, I recommend that you spend your time wisely, taking in all that there is to see and hear within the environment. It is very easy to miss something, and when you do - it is occasionally an experience that is hard to replicate. Push all the buttons, try all the doors, take the right passage. It's all here for you, Stanley.
The Stanley Parable is available for purchase on Steam, for $14.99 USD.