Critical Play: Walking Simulators

For my critical play, I played The Stanley Parable by Galactic Cafe on Steam. It’s a walking simulator combined with a “choose your adventure” type game and is targeted to players 9 and up. The game doesn’t rely on a single story or sequence of events that players need to linearly perform but rather, contains various endings that can be obtained by making different choices throughout the gameplay (players have choices between entering or not entering certain rooms, going up or down a staircase, etc.). Interestingly, there is no save option since each ending takes between 5-30 minutes to finish and is overall meant to be an endless game with no “official” end. One essential component of the game is the narrator who provides background or suggestions on each path and thus tries to influence the player’s decision making.

In all honesty, I did not have as much fun as I anticipated after playing the game for more than a couple hours but I still appreciate the creativity and execution of the game. The premise of an infinite and exploratory game is clever and I especially liked the creativity of the narration which was both witty and atmospheric. In terms of the walking mechanics, one aspect of the game that really impressed me was the game’s ability to load different parts of the map without using a loading screen. For example, there would be some paths that would repeat in a circular manner for a few minutes while the narrator would be speaking and then would return to a separate path within the same walk. I thought that this feature made the game feel really immersive and made it feel like I was in a dream. The walking experience in general was extremely pleasant and the visual style of the game (source engine aesthetic) matches well with the premise of the game. The walking mechanic is simple and you cannot speed up or slow down but you do not need more advanced mechanics for the game anyways.

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