It’s been a long time since we first sat down and enjoyed the endless ingenuity and inventiveness of 2013 The Parable of Stanley and, to be fair, there hasn’t been another interactive story experience since it gripped us like this one. It was/is a superb game, a fantastic piece of art, and so we wonder if it’s really a good idea to return here to a modified version, to a version that has been tampered with, added and expanded? Wouldn’t it have been better to just leave well enough alone?
It’s a question this Ultra Deluxe edition dares to ask itself at certain points as you rise from your coffee-stained desk, slide back your stinky little swivel chair, and stroll through the stuffy office hallways to relive Stanley’s mind-boggling journey all over again. . Should we have come back here? Well, of course we have to.
If you’ve played The Stanley Parable before, if you’ve seen its many endings and enjoyed its many surprises, you may be wondering what exactly is in it for you if you choose to go back for a second time. to turn. Well, look, there’s no need to be like that to begin with and, to answer your rather sharp question, there’s a really big door here with “new content” on it. You can walk through this door (once you find it) and surprisingly you’ll find a lot of new content behind it. That’s probably why it says “new content”. This is what you’re looking for, isn’t it? It’s here. Maybe try to relax a little.
Where were we? Ah yes, as we said, our biggest concern in jumping back into Stanley’s ordeal was whether or not all of this was new content would somehow upset the balance, or detract from the wonderfully witty, surprising, funny, dark, self-referential rollercoaster that came before, but thankfully not. In fact, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe does nothing but enhance the original, it’s the epitome of an Ultra Deluxe version of something that wasn’t before. rather so ultra and/or deluxe. It gives you many more endings, doors to open, paths to wander down, and mistakes and choices to make as you start and start over and over, pressing and pulling and poking at every interactive element you can just see what is happening. Yes, in short, if you’re a returning player, there’s more than enough added here to justify your time and energy. OKAY? Good.
For new players we need to give a little more explanation. In the Stanley Parable, you play as Stanley, Employee #427, a tiny cog in a large, faceless machine who comes to work at his dingy desk one day only to discover that the endless orders from above have stopped. In addition, his terrible colleagues are all gone. Where did they go? What is going on? Where is everyone? Those kind of things. And so you wander the hideous little hallway that leads from your desk to the endless corridors beyond, in search of an answer, all the while accompanied by the voice of an all-powerful narrator (here played sublimely by Kevan Brighting).
What follows is an investigation, a rumination – maybe even something else that rhymes with these two words we can’t think of right now – about the nature of player agency, the relationship between the game and the gamer, the creator and the person who… let’s see… who wanders through their creation, innit. It also goes beyond this, it takes in the suffocating horror of big business, the meaning of choice, maybe even the meaning of life itself… it even manages to say something about the nature of game critique that, well, constantly on! *sweats* It’s all very clever, what we’re trying to say, but it’s never smug – even if it’s absolutely hugely smug – it’s hilarious, it’s disturbing and dark, it’s very, very creative and it even puts you thinking. Could you imagine?!
As you walk through endless corridors here, you will make choices… at least we think… they seem to be choices. You decide where you want to go, don’t you? You pick a door, there are two doors, pick one. The narrator tells you to take the one on the right, so you take that one. Or is it? Of course not! You are not told what to do, you go to the left. That’s the spirit! Oh. You are dead. Never mind. He told you that was the wrong way.
If you open doors and follow your own path or the narrator’s advice, or maybe even an unhealthy mix of the two, you’ll die, get lost, trip over things and stuff (things and things that we won’t spoil in this review because it would spoil the fun for you, dear reader) and situations that give you a lot of food for thought. Who’s in control here? Are your actions really your actions? By breaking the rules and ignoring the narrator’s instructions, are you actually following the narrator’s rules and instructions? What is this narrator’s game anyway? Where are we going?
You can see multiple endings in a very short time as you explore and die and start over, easily a handful in an hour or two from our experience, and the real joy here is in replaying and making different decisions, putting yourself in doubt and the narrator, or even repeatedly walk the same exact route to end up with a different result each time. There is depth and breadth to this game where rectilinear length is somewhat absent, and every decision you make (or think you make) leads to some delightful little surprise that will propel you, compel you to seek more and more endings, to explore your environment and push and poke and keep playing. It’s delicious stuff. And now there’s even more of it!
Of course, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is also the game’s first release on a console and it all translates very nicely, handles well, looks great and overall is a game we can’t really recommend enough. Yes, there may be some who don’t really”do you understand” – whatever it is – don’t find his kind of humor or nonsense compelling, and there’s no real way to beat the game in the traditional sense (an aspect the excellent performance here has a lot of fun with), you just keep walking around and it discovering more trinkets but what trinkets they are for those who like everything about it. If you have yet to experience this, now is the moment we think. If you return for more, you’ I’ll find a game that has been improved and expanded in just the right ways to make it more than worth another visit.It really is an ultra version of The Stanley Parable with several luxurious aspects added for the record.It is very good.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is an excellent extension of a bona fide classic interactive adventure. We have to admit that we were slightly concerned that returning to something so masterful, expanding and adding to such a carefully constructed experience might somehow dilute the magic, but we needn’t have worried. All the new content here just embellishes what came before, resulting in a beautiful piece of art that is now better, more ultra and, you might even say, more luxurious than ever before. Whether you come to this one for the first time or come back to see what has changed, you will be richly rewarded for your curiosity.