Developer: Crows Crows Crows
Publisher: Crows Crows Crows
Platforms: Xbox Series X , Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: 27 April 2022
Price: $24.99 USD – Available Here
This might be my first time reviewing The Stanley Parable, but it’s actually the third time that I’m playing it. The game first came out as a mod for Half-Life 2 back in 2011 and my understanding of it was…….all over the place, to be fair. Mainly because my level of English was just average at best so I had serious trouble following the story and the basic premise of the game. Got one ending and called it a day. Then in 2013, the mod evolved in to a standalone game with its official Steam release. And almost a decade later, we got something called The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe. It promises new endings, choices, and secrets to discover so let’s see what’s it all about.
And here is our first hurdle. Describing the game and the story of it while trying not to go all-in with spoilers is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to reviews. But what to say when the whole game is misleading by design? When the initial presentation of the game is fundamentally different from the actual game? You have to find a way and convey something while saying nothing at all (which, to some extent, is what The Stanley Parable is trying to achieve).
But let’s start from the basics. The story is about Stanley, an employee 427 in an office building. He has a cushy government job consisting of pressing keys on the keyboard every now and then while monitoring data coming from the computer screen. One day, his screen goes blank, he leaves his room for help and discovers that the whole building is abandoned. And this is where our story starts taking shape. Almost every action of his is being described by the game narrator, who often breaks the 4th wall and scolds Stanley (aka you) when taking the “wrong” path. With that premise explained, it would be easy to describe the game as your average walking simulator but The Stanley Parable has always been so much more. It is a game and a meta-commentary on the games in general and a somewhat satirical dissertation on the video game industry and a cynical jab at the achievement system in video games. It pokes fun at everything and it also manages to take itself seriously as well.
If I could focus on one selling point of the game, it’s that there is no wrong way to play it. Seriously, they thought of everything. To illustrate the point, here is some relevant info: the original mod had six different endings, the first Steam release from 2013 added 10 more and I managed to discover 8 new ones so far in The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe. One time, I wanted to peek more into one room that is usually closed on more than one occasion so I used the good old sv_cheats 1 approach and then firing up noclip command (the veterans of Source will know).
And guess what? There is an ending for that too. There is an ending if you die on purpose, an ending that’s unlocked if you do everything opposite of what the narrator says, there is also one for standing still and not doing anything at all, and let’s not forget the ending that you get if you keep doing one ending over and over again. The Stanley Parable has always been a game of discovery, introspection, satire, and futility.
Besides new endings and easter eggs, another thing you might notice is the significant visual overhaul. The game now looks more polished, with clearer textures and better lighting. Furthermore, every seemingly unimportant action might have a significant impact on visuals down the road. On your 45th playthrough, you might finally check out that blinking light on the answering machine in one of the office cubicles. Answer it, approve the order and on your next playthrough, almost every room and corridor will be filled with dozens and dozens of cardboard boxes. That was all your doing.
It is almost impossible to talk about this game without mentioning the life of the party. The narrator. He is funny, reliable, insane, angry, unpredictable, disappointed, and all the other things I have yet to discover with each new playthrough. At the same time, he is presented as this omnipotent being that knows Stanley to his core and a few minutes later he can be genuinely unprepared for some of your actions and one end is specifically made to show you how he loses his sanity without you. You two are inseparable. The is no Stanley without the narrator and no narrator without Stanley.
I pretty much manage to explain what is the game about while saying nothing much of substance (somewhat mirroring the game even) but there is one more important question left. The one that is not exclusive to this game really. Who is The Stanley Parable for? For a niche audience or does it dare to shoot for something bigger? I thought about this a lot and I finally have the answer.
One day, a friend might ask you for a game recommendation. He will say “I want to play something different. It has to be unique and I want to be surprised. It doesn’t have to be what I usually play but I want it to be something good. Do you have that kind of game for me?” And that will be your cue. You will then say “I sure do! Have you heard about lord and savior The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe?” And they will certainly say “I have not but something tells me this will be a start of a beautiful friendship”. Roll credits.
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