The Stanley Parable has gained quite the cult following in the years following its first release in 2013 on the PC. If you have never heard of it, you would probably never guess what the game entails. It is as unique a game as you are likely to come across. What we have here is a sort of re-release / re-imagining, with extra added components to make it an even better experience than it was almost 10 years ago.
A review for this game is quite a difficult task, as much of the uniqueness I alluded to comes from having no prior knowledge beforehand. So having said that, this review will be as spoiler free as possible and I won’t go over anything that is said. It really needs to be experienced first-hand, rather than reading about what happens online.
The premise of the story is simple; you play as Stanley, whose job is as an office worker from room number 427. He is tasked every shift to input a number of rather simple commands on his console (we have all had these kinds of mundane jobs during our lives). One day, he receives no new instructions on his screen, which is completely abnormal, so Stanley decides to go exploring to see if he can find out what has happened. Stanley finds that the office is now completely empty and all of the workers that were once there, are no longer to be found. Thus, setting up the ventures ahead of him (and you).
Stanley is not entirely alone during this adventure, however, as there is one character that accompanies him throughout the entirety of the game and that is the Narrator. The interplay between the two is where a lot of the unique aspects of the game start to unravel. It’s the range of conversations that can occur that truly make The Stanley Parable stand out from the crowd. The majority of the writing here is designed to be funny and make you chuckle. Therefore, there are many moments that in essence, make you feel like the game does not take itself seriously whatsoever. However, there are sections whereby it can get a bit deeper and a boatload of a lot of genuinely clever moments where you will be taken aback.
The general gameplay is very simple. When you consider when this game originally came out, it seemed like for a few years, all the rage at that time were ‘walking simulators.’ Dear Esther is the one that seemingly kicked it all off, along with others such as Journey and Gone Home that were released within that same period of time. The Stanley Parable is very much in this bracket of the game. You walk around and interact with various objects littered around the environment and by doing so, the interplay between you and the narrator comes into full focus.
It seems that no matter what you as the player tries to do, the game’s narration changes to suit the actions taken. It really is a clever system in place. There might be two doors and you choose the one on the right, but the narrator tells you to take the door on the left. While there are right and wrong answers, you are of course never truly sure, so it is entirely up to the player which option you take.
It’s these decisions that open up the seemingly endless amount of endings that you can have. It’s the kind of game that you can play in short bursts and still make enough progress to leave you satisfied. You can (and will) see many different endings within a short period of time. The gameplay loop here is you see an ending, then replay, alter one (or many) decisions, and come out with entirely different outcomes. In this version of the game, the extra content offers entirely new dialogue and entirely new outcomes.
In terms of the looks, the graphics are nothing to write home about, but that’s okay. It was a game released nearly 10 years ago and even at the time, it wasn’t known for its looks. On top of that, this is the Switch we’re talking about. It isn’t exactly known for its fantastic-looking third-party titles. Having said that, I don’t think it suffers in the slightest from its visuals. After all, the main selling point here is the story and the narrative, and it excels more than most games in this regard.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is a good update to an already great game. If you have never played this before, now is your chance to experience a truly unique and brilliantly clever game. If you have played the original version before, there is enough new content here to keep you entertained. Just don’t read too much about it before heading in.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Crows Crows Crows