The Stanley Parable, originally released back in 2013 (and starting out as a Half-Life 2 mod in 2011) was one of the most creative and clever gaming experiences I have ever had. Even though I didn’t get to play it a lot (a long story that I’m not going to bore you with now), what I did play was utterly fantastic. Developer and publisher Crows Crows Crows are back with an updated version called The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe.
“The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is an expanded re-imagining of 2013’s The Stanley Parable. You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley. You will make a choice, and you will become powerless. You are not here to win. The Stanley Parable is a game that plays you.”
I have been looking forward to playing The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe for quite some time now. As I said in the introduction up there, I did play the original 2013 release, but only for a short while. It was PC exclusive and so the audience for the game was a tad smaller than I thought it should be. But now? Now The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe has been released on everything. A lot more people are more likely to get a hold of this brilliant game that, well… I don’t actually want to review.
It’s not that I don’t think that the game deserves to be reviewed, it really does. It is more a case of, I don’t think anyone can review The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe and do it justice. In order to really get into this game, you have to spoil huge chunks of the story and narrative, and that is something that I’m not willing to do (I’ve even selected non spoiler screens shots). This really is a game that you should go into as blind as possible and just get engulfed in its genius and utter nonsense… but mainly genius.
The basics are that you play as the titular Stanley who finds himself at work, stuck in his very mundane ‘career’ of pressing keys on a keyboard. One day, Stanley discovers that all of his coworkers have disappeared and so, he sets out to learn what has happened. From there, you control Stanley via the direction of a narrator. You can follow this narrator’s words to the letter and an ending to the game relatively quickly. Or… you could ignore the narrator and go against his direction to experience a multitude of alternate routes, scenarios narratives and endings. I don’t mean the simple good or bad endings that games arbitrarily force on you. I mean a massive variety of endings that vary from good, bad, depressing, joyful, bizarre and so much more.
Let me see if I can explain how The Stanley Parable works, without spoiling. So, the first choice that you’ll have to make is between two doors. The narrator tells you to go through the left one. So you do. Just for the first run, I suggest that you follow the narrator’s directions to the letter. Go exactly where he tells you and do exactly what he says. You’ll reach the end of the game in a few minutes or so. It resets with Stanley back in his office. You reach those same two doors and the narrator tells you to go through the left one again. Now, you have an option. Go through the left door again or go through the right one. Even if you do go through the left one once more, there are other choices to make along the way that go against the narrator. Go through the right door this time and there are even more multiple choices beyond that one choice.
Each decision that you make leads to an in-depth branching system that is simply unparalleled in any other game ever. Each choice that you make will lead you to new areas and new pieces of the story that doesn’t so much break the fourth wall, more a case that they can completely obliterate it. Areas of the game that make a lot of sense and areas that make very little sense. You can even be put into [REDACTED TO AVOID SPOILERS]. Seriously, this is a hard game to review when you are actively avoiding spoilers. There is so much that I really want to say about The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe that I can’t because I really just think you should just experience it first hand.
The Stanley Parable is a mad scientist type of a game that really does continue to throw up surprises and keep you second guessing just what will happen. Even when things do happen the game will have you doubting what you have experienced or what you are currently experiencing. This is, to put it simply one of the most creative and imaginative games that you will ever play. Basically. a walking simulator, but with a narrative and structure that is utterly mind-bending and will have you feeling like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.
Everything is held together by the narrator, voiced by Kevan Brighting. Very British, very calm (mostly) and very trusting… or is he? This is what really sells The Stanley Parable because, effectively, it is just a game where you walk. Interactions are bare minimal (though, clicking on locked doors in the office…) and you follow a linear path (for the most part). All while the narrator tells you what is going on. It is up to you if you want to believe and trust him though. Jokes, satire, nonsense and even hard-hitting mental issues. This is a game that explores the idea of freedom of choice in gaming and handles it in a brilliantly unique way.
With some wonderfully witty and clever writing, scenarios and sequences that will really make you question how gaming works.
I have read through this review multiple times now, before publishing and I know that I’ve done a really bad job of describing just what this game is. Because you can not explain what The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is without ruining it for people who have never played the game. I’m not even sure if I could call this a game, this is art and you really do have to experience it to understand it. Don’t read spoiler reviews and don’t look up videos and playthroughs because that will destroy your enjoyment of the game. Just nab yourself a copy and enjoy. Take the world in and explore the seemingly linear environment. Read the messages scrawled on walls, stop and watch screens displaying videos. Most of all, pop on subtitles and pay attention to not just what is being said, but how it is written.
The difference between the original 2013 release and this new one is a load more content. More endings, more new areas to discover, with more brilliantly conceived and performed dead-pan narration. The graphics have been improved too and several accessibility options have been added. You even get the entirety of the original game’s content along with all of the new stuff. From what I’ve read, the new content is just as big (if not bigger) than what was in the original. I believe there were 19 endings in the original game. This has all of those and adds another 24 to the mix.
£20 is how much this is going to cost you? It’s probably the best £20 you’ll spend this year on a game. The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is immensely creative. So many variables here to discover, so many playthroughs and endings that will keep you coming back for more. You’ll laugh, be horrified, shocked and left scratching your head, only to get right back into this and do it all again, only differently. A massive recommendation from me. Currently available on PC and all of the consoles. Just get this bought and played now.