The Stanley Parable began life as a Half Life 2 Mod and has been developed into a game in it’s own right. You know how most games have a big story and a few Easter Eggs? Not so The Stanley Parable. The core ‘game’ is very short and the majority of it is finding Easter Eggs.
You are an office worker named Stanley who ventures outside his office to unravel the mystery of why all his co-workers have disappeared. The narrator helpfully guides you through ‘The Story’ which you will finish in a few minutes and probably think there is not very much to this game. Or maybe you don’t follow the story, maybe you do your best to break The Story and annoy the narrator just to hear the entertaining dialogue. If you do so it’s entirely possible you may have an existential crisis.
The Stanley Parable is a forth-wall-breaking, self-aware game that you have an uncanny feeling is playing you. If anything it’s purpose is to destroy the illusion of choice in video gaming; the experience is not unlike banging your head against a brick wall or being trapped in a recurring nightmare at times. You will try to get to places, achieve things only to think that perhaps you are getting somewhere then watch your options gradually narrow until there is only one. In the case of disobedience this will often be unavoidable character death or a forced game restart.
This game demands replaying; you might think you have mapped it out completely only to start a new game and suddenly go “What the Hell?!” because things have changed unexpectedly. Some changes are subtle: a rearrangement of the boxes and memos in the office whilst others are more dramatic.
In order to get some of the achievements you must hack the game and not play it for 5 years, respectively. In many ways The Stanley Parable is making fun of gamers, but hopefully you will laugh with it. It is very funny largely because of the witty narrator dialogue. It may also be a philosophical exploration of gaming. Either way, experienced gamers who will recognise the mechanics and tropes it is subverting will probably appreciate The Stanley Parable the most.
I will not say too much as the majority of the fun is discovering ‘secrets’ so it would be unfair to give spoilers. Theoretically the creators could keep subtly updating the game with more secrets but I have no idea whether it is their intention to do so. Even the most dedicated explorer is probably going to spend less then 5 hours actively playing it until they have exhausted every possibility, but with a low price tag you can buy with confidence knowing you are going to have a unique experience.