The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Originally released as a Half-Life 2 mod back in 2011, The
Stanley Parable is best described as an experiment in interactive storytelling.
Through the simplest of first-person control schemes, players respond to a
variety of choices laid out before them by a disembodied, all-knowing narrator.
While your interaction with the world doesn't evolve beyond wandering around an
empty office opening doors and pushing buttons, the clever scenarios and amusing
narration entertain for dozens of playthroughs.
You play as the titular Stanley, a white-collar button-pusher
who finds himself mysteriously alone in his office one day. As you investigate
the building, the narrator shepherds you from room to room, describing your
actions before you actually take them. Whether you follow his guidance or
stumble off the beaten path is your choice, but each playthrough only takes a few
minutes, and no matter what ending you come to, the story restarts. The result
is a Groundhog's Day-like loop of you
making your way through the changing office building, employing different
choices to obtain different outcomes.
Much of the enjoyment comes from your interactions with The
Stanley Parable's wry narrator, voiced by British actor Kevan Brighting. Every
choice you're presented with offers a new opportunity to obey or defy your
handler, who responds in unpredictable and amusing ways. Go through the wrong
doorway, and he may give you the benefit of the doubt, bending the story to
accommodate your errant action. Continually disregard his directions and he may
call you out in an angry diatribe or magically alter the environment to force
you into following his lead. As you challenge the narrator's expectations, the
game challenges your own, dropping you into odd situations that defy the
lessons you've learned from countless games, with hallways that double back on
themselves, buttons that do nothing, and no-win scenarios you're simply meant
to experience, not solve.
Galactic Cafe's creativity keeps the basic gameplay loop
interesting. Each narrative twist and humorous soliloquy inspired me to test
every branching path in hopes of uncovering new endings, of which there are
many. Some are throwaway gags that made me chuckle (I never thought standing in
a broom closet could be so amusing). Other times, the narrator's musings made
me stop and think; the developer isn't afraid to break the fourth wall,
questioning traditional game design, the value of player choice, and many other
conventions we don't think twice about.
The Stanley Parable is built upon a single, simple premise,
and only offers a few hours of entertainment. That said, those few hours were unlike any I've experienced playing games before. If you're a fan of
experimental indie projects or just in the mood for a fun detour from your
typical gaming adventure, look no further.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.