You will make a choice that does not matter.
You will follow a story that has no end.
You will play a game you cannot win.
Intrigued? So was I when I read the description for The Stanley Parable, a Half Life 2 mod by Cakebread. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll be as vague as possible without resorting to “play it!” over and over again. Although, it is worth playing multiple times (whoops! I guess I’ve already done it).
Before the first glimpse of the game, when the screen is still black, a narrator speaks: “This is the story of a man named Stanley.”
Whether this is the current trend in games or just a happy coincidence, like Bastion, The Stanley Parable features a clever narrator that interprets every movement, every decision with an almost uncanny precision. This helps immerse the player in the world, helping them feel that every action they take has a real, tangible outcome. The absorption runs deeper, too, as the narrator sports an incredible voice. The writing is also top-notch.
Turn up the volume and listen to the narrator.
A Short, Clever Story
The only way to see everything the game has to offer is to play it numerous times. But fret not! The game is quite short, depending on your actions, and each time you are guaranteed to see and experience something different. If, of course, you don’t make the exact same choices you made the last time.
One of the mistakes I almost made was playing through it only twice. I thought I had arrived at the proper ending, ignoring the fact that the developer clearly states that no such thing exists. However, curiosity got the better of me and I tried it once more…only to play again three more times. There’s plenty to see, despite the short length of the story. Surprises abound in The Stanley Parable, so pay attention.
Price of Admission: Free
The Stanly Parable, as mentioned above, is a Half Life 2 mod. Apparently, owning Half Life 2 isn’t even a requirement (unless you’re playing on a Mac, then you must own Half Life 2), as the Source SDK is offered for free by Valve. It’s just a matter of downloading the mod and following the Read Me, provided by the developer, to get the mod working.
It’s that easy.
There isn’t much more I can say about The Stanley Parable without spoiling any part of it, so I’ll leave it at this: you can download it here: The Stanley Parable, but be sure and come back and leave a comment, being careful not to spoil it for anyone else.