“This is the story of a man named Stanley”. That’s sure to be a line you hear many, many times throughout your playthrough of The Stanley Parable; a game in which you play as Stanley, a humble employee in a large office building, happily clicking away at whichever buttons he’s told to push.
Ironically, those of us who enjoy filling our free time with video games are doing very much the same thing. Which is why having it pointed out to us can feel a bit unsettling. After all, video games are just pushing the right buttons, at the right times.
If this kind of fourth-wall breaking commentary isn’t your cup of tea, then I recommend ignoring the Stanley Parable in its entirety. For it is a game that is filled to the brim with meta jokes, dry humor, and a rather sassy narrator who will constantly remind you of your place in the game.
Now, the difficulty with reviewing The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is that the story is why you play the game. The twists and turns are what make the game so unique, so discussing them kind of defeats the purpose of playing the game for yourself. What I will reveal is that The Stanley Parable plays out in a series of “what if” scenarios.
What if Stanley walks down this hallway? What if Stanley goes through this door? What if Stanley clicks fifty times on this door?
The point being is it’s your job to find out. Every decision you make affects the outcome of each story; each ranges in length, but most are rather short. Most playthroughs will begin in a very similar way. Stanley starts off alone in his office and is unsure where everyone has gone. From here, it is your choice to determine Stanley’s fate.
To discuss the plot further would be a disservice to what The Stanley Parable is. Now I will say, the execution is amazing and the humor is phenomenal. Granted, I am a fan of rather dry humor and that constitutes the majority of what makes The Stanley Parable funny.
Now for those of you who might not be aware, this was a game originally released in 2013 for PC. This re-release has been dubbed the Ultra Deluxe edition and comes with new content to entice previous players to revisit the game. I have never played The Stanley Parable so all of the content is new to me and even though most of the new content is clearly distinct from the prior content, I still don’t think I can comment on whether or not prior players would be satisfied with what was added. I can say from my experience as a new player, that anyone who hasn’t played it before should expect at least five hours of incredibly entertaining narrative gameplay. For some this might fall on the short side, but quality over quantity, right?
It is a walking simulator, so your expectations should be tempered accordingly. The graphics are basic and the controls are simple, but this doesn’t detract from the experience – at least not for me. The biggest complaint I would have about the game is that certain endings seem like they can be influenced when they in fact cannot, and this leads to replaying some of the same endings pointlessly. In a game where you’re already playing through many of the same sequences over and over again, doing it unnecessarily does cause it to drag on a bit.
I will mention that The Stanley Parable is best enjoyed over the course of multiple play sessions. Starting up the game after playing it the first time will have some effects on things. The only reason I mention this is that The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe does not account for the Xbox Series X’s game suspension feature. If you don’t close the game manually on the home screen, you can completely miss this element of the game. It’s just something to keep in mind.
Overall, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe edition is a brilliant game. As a first time player of The Stanley Parable, I am incredibly grateful that it has made its way to Xbox and I wholeheartedly recommend it for any fan of choice-based narrative games. The graphics are nothing to write home about – it was a game originally released in 2013 – but I don’t think it really suffers from simplified visuals or controls. After all, the point is to explore the narrative threads.
But what will really win you over is the Narrator. It would be criminal to deprive him of his own personal shout out. I absolutely love the choice of voice actor for him and he really is the star of The Stanley Parable; the delivery and execution are phenomenal, and I knew from the first time I heard him speak that this was a game I wanted to try.
I’m glad to say, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe doesn’t disappoint and you will enjoy all the new content included! It is buckets of fun.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is on the Xbox Store