Galactic Café, Oct 2013, PC

You know what modding is right? It’s that thing those magical PC wizards do that allows you to turn GTA IV into a zombie filled apocalyptic wasteland, or to let Steve get his hands on an AK-47 to gun down those pesky Minecraft Creepers. No-one really knows how it works, but it makes a user’s gaming experience so much more enjoyable. That’s right folks, modding is the jam inside of the gaming world’s doughnut.

So let’s imagine for a second that a person creates a mod so popular, so entertaining, so vast that it breaks away from the base game it was created on and becomes what is known as a “Standalone” game. Well by now you’ve probably heard of Day-Z, the apple that fell from the ARMA 2 tree and quickly rolled its way down the grassy hill of “Oh my god looking how much money we’re making”. Yet, waiting in the side-lines for its moment of fully deserved recognition is another Standalone, created on Valve’s “Source” engine, known as The Stanley Parable.

To say this game is rather unique would be an understatement. You take the reins of a man known only as Stanley. A man locked in the doldrums and repetition of everyday life in the office. That is until one day, everybody disappears. You decide to stand up from your desk, and with nothing more than the company of your omniscient narrator to “guide” you, you step out of your cubicle and begin the quest for answers.

Hhhhhmmm strange glowing substance in an otherwise unsuspecting office… I’m sure it’ll be fine.

The name of the game here is exploration, a plunge into the world of interactive fiction where the only real enemy is yourself. For example, one of the first things that happens in the game is you approach a set of doors. The narrator explains how in the story, Stanley should take the door on the left if he wishes to reach his desired conclusion. But what’s to stop him from taking the door on the right? What would become of Stanley if he were to ignore the Narrator’s words and take a wrong turn? Or open a door that he shouldn’t have opened? The range of choice here is huge, the plotlines for each combination of choices enthralling and well written, yet overshadowed by one of the games key features. The Narrator himself.

Whilst obviously attempting to do his best Stephen Fry impression, the Narrator doesn’t only steal the show, he re-names the show after himself, turns it into a one man production, writes the theme tune, sings the theme tune, signs autographed pictures of himself and not a single person then sells them forward online. Kevin Brighting has done such an incredible job, one moment playing the happy-go-lucky narrator, following Stanley on his sporadic journey, guiding him with his warming tones, and the next moment turning into a downright frightening, sinister, threatening character…….depending on the route you decide to take through the game of course.

It’s visually stunning, mentally stimulating, easily accessible, incredibly well written, and takes precedent as my choice for indie game of the year 2013. If you want to lose yourself in a brilliant story for a few hours, taking a break from your Battlefields and your GTAVs, this is the game for you. This is the game for pretty much everyone.