The advantage of playing relatively short games is that it’s perfectly possible to complete several within a short space of time. As was the case with my most recently completed titles, ‘Light’ and ‘The Beginners Guide’. Unlike Light however, I knew exactly what The Beginners Guide was and was eagerly looking forward to playing it since I first purchased it.
For the uninitiated, The Beginners Guide is the latest game by Davey Wreden, creator of 2013’s ‘The Stanley Parable’. Although released in 2013 I actually only discovered the Stanley parable quite recently and it was absolutely brilliant. It, along with Dear Esther pioneered the walking simulator, a genre which has led to some superb, innovative titles and some absolute tosh. Whilst Dear Esther didn’t do a lot for me, the dry and dark sense of humour of the Stanley Parable, the clever concept and the great number of possible outcomes really appealed to me and I thoroughly enjoyed playing it.
When I heard that Davey Wreden had released a new game, out of nowhere, I was immediately interested. I resisted it once, twice in a sale but on the third time of asking I took the plunge. Having completed it recently however I find I’m still digesting the content.
Without giving too much away, The Beginners Guide is once again narrated, this time by Wreden himself, lending the game a documentary type feeling. It initially has a simple enough concept, exploring the process of level design and game creation by looking at the work of a ‘friend’ name Coda. This however expands to explore creative struggles and themes such as depression, loneliness and anxiety through a number of not so subtle metaphors.
Its a truly interesting game and a very personal one, really feeling like you are exploring the complexities of Davey Wreden’s mind rather than playing a game as such. At times I found the narrative to be a little too much, whilst the constant walking, waiting and repetition led to some boredom in the latter stages of the game. At this point I longed for the unusual, bizarre and more entertaining world which was visited in the Stanley Parable. However, this isn’t the Stanley Parable, it’s something entirely different and Wreden should be commended for that.
The Beginners Guide isn’t for everyone, maybe not even for me (I’m still undecided), but a great many will find something they will truly enjoy here and most others will appreciate the ride. In a medium increasingly dominated by tedious, overbearing open world games (more on that some other time) it’s refreshing to see another independent PC developer trying to do something so wildly different to so many others.