The Stanley Parable - Recensione
"Ah! The Droste effect! ". My game with The Stanley Parable began like this, with a smile on your face, while on the display there were the typical main menu options that accompany all PC games from genesis to today, superimposed on a glimpse of Stanley's desk. An average serious table, with its beautiful document holder, its PC and its monitor, which in turn showed the main menu of the game and that exact same glimpse of the desk, with a lot of movement of my mouse that replicated itself endlessly everything smaller and smaller until it becomes indistinguishable in the fourth or fifth repetition of the image-in-image.
I approached The Stanley Parable knowing very little about it, also because honestly, going to read about it, you understand very little about what the true nature of the Galactic Cafe's work is ... the only thing unanimously confirmed, is that it seems be an unmissable masterpiece. Well, it will be a trifle, I am aware of it, but a game capable of surprising and all in all having fun with an absolutely simple idea already from the main menu, after not even a couple of seconds from the start, is already in itself something rather rare. Especially because with a cold mind, having put the game aside after exploring its innermost depths, that nice menu turns out to be a much more than brilliant and subtle declaration of intent. Except that the player can't even imagine it at first.
Stanley is a mild employee with an absolutely eventless life.
After more or less ten minutes I reached the epilogue of the game. A rather absurd but still satisfying ending, consistent with what was told, at the same time, by the Narrator. The fact is that the Narrator himself, at that point, let out - let's say - that OK, yes, the end, but practically all the mysteries of the plot, those that made us move in the first place, were left unsolved. Black screen, loading. A step back: I'm in Stanley's office, the mild employee who, just a few seconds earlier, led me personally to the last screen of his short adventure. As the Narrator pointed out earlier, the computer is still broken and the colleagues are still missing without a reason. Not even the time to set foot outside the room to start the search for a solution, which the Narrator pursues again, repeating word for word the story of a few minutes ago ... on the other hand, he is telling what I am doing, in the role of Stanley to get to the solution of the mystery, right?
Not really: arrived (or returned, you do) at the first crossroads I decide to change direction, since the voice continues to direct me towards the inconclusive road already traveled, even after the decision has been made and the door has closed to mine shoulders. The serenity with which this change of program is also described destabilizes me, but never as much as noting how, as the story goes on, the Narrator begins to make less and less subtle jokes about the figure of Stanley, in a breakthrough of the fourth wall that increasingly feeds a rather alienating doubt, leading to wonder who I am really playing, if Stanley, the Narrator, myself as a video player or, even, the game itself.
Would you give yourself an achievement for clicking on a door five times?
Continuing with a different path from the one indicated, in fact, it will happen to find yourself enmeshing the Narrator to such an extent as to lead him to arbitrarily decide what is the most correct destiny for the story, making him show a carelessness towards the expectations of the player worthy of the most successful of the Dungeons & Dragons masters dealing with too exuberant adventurers. Paradoxical corridors that seem to come out of (Stanley) Kubrick's Shining, environments and circumstances that change at will, catastrophic situations ... the Narrator, from the height of his omnipotence, teases the player in an absolutely new way, and does not fail to do it as soon as he is presents the opportunity. A delusion of total omnipotence which, after all, is not a delusion, given that the Narrator - and Galactic Cafe through him - manages to deliver to the player also reasonings on the nature of the video game in a sublime as well as brutal way, leaving it further kidnapped and fascinated by the sagacity with which they are expressed. A way that, although it may seem all too didactic for some, for others it is simply the only way to understand certain arguments.
Never make a storyteller angry.
On the other hand, the transversal nature of the Narrator is also able to convince us of his reasons in unexpected, almost sweet and poetic ways, through the dualism formed between Stanley and the player himself. In the same way with which it talks about its medium of belonging and its fundamental aspects, The Stanley Parable manages to talk about people and humanity in an absolutely fresh and extremely profound way for the videogame, making the player think as - if not more - what does not happen with a book, a film or a record. Among other things, if with the concepts on the video game we opted for a more obvious form, the human parable of Stanley manages to penetrate above all thanks to a narration if possible even higher than its standards, staging only the essentials but arriving with an absolutely touching and unprecedented force for the medium.
Reflect on life on a good sofa, perhaps with a cup of hot chocolate.
The Stanley Parable, however, is not only the quintessence of writing applied to video games, but it is also an almost perfect example of indestructible game. Its layered nature, from game-in-game Droste, leaves the player at the mercy of an absolutely unquantifiable number of variables, easter eggs and completely crazy and hilarious moments, so much so that when you think of something to "break" the experience, trying to exploit bugs and glitches in search of the damned solution to the mysteries of Stanley, the Narrator will not fail to make you present, with yet another game-in-the-game and a further dissolution of the fourth wall that no, you were not the first to think about that thing and therefore no, that's not a way to break the game. No, not even that. Ahah, no, not even that, come on. Even in the microscopic technical details, The Stanley Parable is absolutely superfine and amazing, so as to overshadow its origins as a Half-Life 2 mod and the consequent level of detail which, it goes without saying, is not striking, but it is certainly unimportant for experience.
Precisely for this its being a stratified and rewarding experience, The Stanley Parable turns out to be as easy to use as it is almost impossible to analyze with a review that thoroughly examines facts and situations, without ruining the innumerable surprises for the reader. One thing, however, is certain: unlike the other video game experiences that preceded it, The Stanley Parable is perhaps the first to exploit its nature as a video game to the point of being not only unthinkable, but also unattainable by other means and others medium ... this too, after all, is a pretty good point of arrival.
Stefano Talarico purchased The Stanley Parable on Steam, finishing it (or maybe not) in about two hours on a PC with Windows 7 64bit whose features far exceed the minimum game requirements indicated on the Steam page, playing without problems with maximum details and without encounter bugs or technical problems. The game is completely voiced in English and subtitled in our language.
Andrea Minini Saldini bought his copy of the game from Steam and played it until 3 in the morning to understand if Stanley's is pure substance or just a splendid, well-packed illusion.
Marco Mottura purchased his copy of the game from Steam because he was too curious not to participate in the discussion.
As written in the opening, The Stanley Parable caused several reactions among the members of the editorial team that played it. Here they are all explained in this "multiple" version of our Verdict. It begins, of course, with Stefano, author of the text that you have just finished reading.
The Stanley Parable is, in no uncertain terms, a masterpiece. A masterpiece that manages to speak about itself, its medium and its users with disarming clarity, arriving loud and clear without ever showing off but, on the contrary, showing a class and a way that have rarely been seen in a video game. Why yes, The Stanley Parable is a video game, also and above all net of jumps and shootings. For all those who complain about its absence, there is always that 0.1 margin ... and a cup of excellent Droste chocolate, of course.
ANDREA MININI SALDINI
The Stanley Parable intrigues. For the halo that surrounds it, for that reputation of play "outside the box", of experimentation, for the many voices of commendation it has managed to arouse in recent months. In my opinion, it is not a game for everyone. Of course, games for everyone can be counted on the fingers of one hand, one could object. Never as in this case, however, do you need to approach a game experience with your mind free from expectations.
TSP starts with the protagonist in an office. Desert. He takes his first steps and a voice, that of the narrator, guides him. It is a non-intrusive guide, as far as the player has freedom to do (although he is often faced with a plethora of closed doors that cannot be opened), this freedom is not affected by the narrator. The narrator, however, comments, often, willingly, continuously. Comment on the player's actions, comment on the choices he is facing, comment on the structure of the game. He does it with a spot on acting, which justifies a praise for Kevan Brighting, the English actor chosen for the occasion.
As Stanley we can decide to follow the narrator's directions, as well as to ignore them. The narrator will continue undaunted in his work, always up to the situation. I find this, probably, the most successful aspect of TSP. Within the limits, many, which are imposed on the player, the consistency of the writing is impeccable.
On the other hand, what remains must be experienced firsthand in order to appreciate it. Or less. And here the donkey falls. TSP may like it, but it can also leave you very indifferent. The feeling is that, unlike other independent productions, it is a title that is unlikely to help trace routes to be pursued in future games. It's a good idea but a disposable idea. Used once, unlikely to use it again. I would recommend it without reservation only to those interested in video games beyond the aspects of pure entertainment, with particular attention to the indie scene. For others, as long as they know English well (voice and subtitles), it can be a tasty divertissement, perhaps waiting for some good occasion on Steam.
There is however another way, excellent in my opinion, to understand if it is a title that is right for you. The TSP demo is perfect from this point of view. If you are curious about trying it, the full game is unlikely to disappoint you.
In all honesty, I approached The Stanley Parable without substantially even knowing what it was, infected by the palpable enthusiasm expressed by the beautiful review of the national Nabbacchione. Intrigued, I looked for a trailer on YouTube, to try to understand even vaguely what it was actually about (since Stefano, as exemplary editor, avoided any spoilers). So I watched the video, devoting the right attention to it ... and I didn't understand properly.
I finally bought the game, completed it in a couple of hours and ... I still didn't understand, or at least not at all.
Because, in fact, it is difficult to frame and explain what more than a videogame in the classical sense seems to be a sort of provocative and experimental interactive reflection on the narrative possibilities offered by the videogame medium (and not).
Closer to a brilliant degree thesis than to a real indie gem such as those in vogue today, The Stanley Parable is without a doubt an intriguing experience, acute and widely recommended to anyone looking for something particular and indefinable . An unquestionably valid product, able to make you smile and maybe even think (also and above all thanks to the extraordinary performance in terms of writing and dubbing the narrator), which however has not been able to involve me and touch me to the point of enchanting my heart.
It will be that beyond the objectively unique divertissement I have not seen that core capable of kidnapping my soul, it will be that beneath this allegorical parable it seems to be constantly permeated by a deep sense of shrewd self-awareness, almost as if the game is self-complacent some of his own nature and of his being acute, clever, perhaps even ingenious (at the expense of the genuineness of the complex), yet the phantom spark between me and Stanley has not been completely triggered.
Although, I repeat, the pleasure of having met the dear old employee number 427 on my path as a player (and in person, since the experience is often lived beyond the fourth wall).