The Stanley Parable
In Galactic Cafe's strange indie experimental unique adventure game The Stanley Parable you are Stanley. ... sort of. Stanley works happily day after day in his office pushing buttons in the order dictated to him by his faceless employers, never questioning, never worrying or wondering. To him, this is what he was made to do, even if to anyone else it might be soul-crushingly boring and unfulfilling. But one day, Stanley realises nobody has given him any new orders, and in fact, he hasn't seen a single soul all day. Venturing out and guided only by an unseen narrator who seems to know everything Stanley does (or should do) before he does it, Stanley finds only empty corridors, vacant offices, and a variety of novelty coffee mugs. Where is everyone? Should he just go back to his desk and wait? Or maybe it's time to make some decisions of his own for the very first time... no matter how small and inconsequential they seem.
Use [WASD] to move, click to interact, and use the mouse to look around, while [ESC] opens the pause menu. You can follow the directions and instructions given to you by the narrator... or not, as you see fit. Once you choose one path, however, the other usually closes itself off to you. If you die, something that is entirely possible as you explore and experiment with your freedom (or even follow directions), you'll be booted right back to Stanley's desk to start again. Don't worry. It won't take you long to get back to where you were... or perhaps to try something else and see what happens.
Analysis: If you need yet another example of why some of the best, most innovative and surprising games around can be found only in the indie community, you need to check this game out. The Stanley Parable is one of those games that's hard to review largely because to describe what, precisely, makes it so incredibly funny, mysterious, and even moving would spoil the entire thing. I can, of course, talk about the basics, like the excellent atmosphere, an odd blend of mystery and delight pulling you ever forward. The game's omnipresent narrator is, more often than not, very funny thanks to a dry, matter-of-fact delivery as he comments on your every action. Because, despite what you might think, this game is full of choices, surprises, and secrets, and finding all of them is a delight.
The tone can vary significantly depending on where you go and how you go about it, and just when you think you've got the game pinned down it reveals another layer the next time you do something differently. Finishing the game in one way or another even changes things you've previously experienced in subtle ways, encouraging the sort of replay value and exploration most games can only dream of. Being kicked back to the beginning does start to get old after a while depending on what order you do things, since some variations can occur much farther down the path than others. Players who prefer their adventures a little more "use item on thinger" will definitely want to try out the game's unique demo, which will give you a feel for the way The Stanley Parable plays, if not divulge its mysteries.
Though The Stanley Parable might not be for everyone, or at least what everyone expects, it is something that deserves to at least be tried because I believe that given half a chance, it will compel and impress more people than you may think. It's funny, smart, cheeky, inventive, and memorable, and has a lot to offer the imaginative gamer... no matter what you do, or don't, decide.