A review of The Beginner’s Guide is quite a difficult thing to write, in the context of not giving anything away.
The Beginner’s Guide is the sort-of-but-not-really follow-up to The Stanley Parable, the remake of a 2011 Valve Source Engine mod that explored – hell, it’s the same issue – I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m not actually going to tell you what The Stanley Parable is. If you already know, then great, but if you don’t then you should probably go and check it out. (Hint: It’s kind of a big deal.)
The Stanley Parable’s creator, Davey Wreden, is back to tell another off-kilter story with The Beginner’s Guide. Here’s the word from Davey’s studio, Everything Unlimited Ltd., on exactly what The Beginner’s Guide is:
The Beginner’s Guide is a narrative video game from Davey Wreden, the creator of The Stanley Parable. It lasts about an hour and a half and has no traditional mechanics, no goals or objectives. Instead, it tells the story of a person struggling to deal with something they do not understand.
That didn’t give anything away either, did it? Good stuff. So… what can I tell you…?
The Beginner’s Guide is an extremely loosely structured first-person ‘adventure’ with no real objectives or points of completion. You just walk around, exploring environments, while Davey himself gives you a museum headset-esque voice-over tour of what’s going on. You’re in the flow of a stream – with Davey’s narration the cool, babbling waters around you – and eventually the flow will take you from one end to the other. That’s literally it.
The Beginner’s Guide tells a story, from a period in Wreden’s life, through the lens of game development. At times it’s a very moving story – often it doesn’t make a lot of apparent sense – and it can be pretty uncomfortable to experience in places. Sometimes, The Beginner’s Guide is just plain painful, a real emotional gut punch. But it is worth experiencing.
I can honestly say, I don’t know if the uncomfortably moving story is true or not. It may be entirely one-hundred percent accurate; it may be embellished to a certain degree; or, it may be entirely made up, a complete fabrication created solely for narrative purposes.
We thought about contacting the man himself to ask, but that’s not the point.
We realised, upon reflection, it doesn’t diminish the experience to not know this particular truth, but it could seriously harm what you take away from The Beginner’s Guide if you did know the truth (and it wasn’t the one you wanted).
In the case of The Beginner’s Guide, this epistemic possibility is just as important as avoiding spoilers.