The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe Review: Between Conversion and Sequel

To talk about The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe it is necessary first of all to remember what The Stanley Parable represented (do you remember it? review by The Stanley Parable) at the time of its debut in 2013. An epochal work, capable like very few others of fixing itself in the collective memory of the entire sector, thanks to the genius with which Davey Wreden approached its creation and, through it, towards the videogame as a medium and language. On a cursory reading, The Stanley Parable is nothing more than a simple collection of gags, a matryoshka of ingenious ideas designed to subvert the expectations of gamers, born as a mod of Half Life 2 from which all the typical elements of the Valve shooter were systematically removed. No weapons, no shots, no objects: you could only walk and orient yourself in the space of an office.

A walking simulator, yes, yet different from any other product seen up to that moment, since every action was commented by a narrator who tried in every way to direct the player’s choices. In short, The Stanley Parable is a sort of “playable essay”, which aims to demonstrate the monotony of the video game with shrewd irony. (and it is no coincidence that this is linked to work)at the same time breaking the belief that users, while playing, can actually make choices.

Don’t call it porting

Having unmarked this fundamental premise aimed at summarizing the identity of the game, it’s time to ask yourself a question. Why wait even nine years to develop a port that would also expand the audience to console communities?

The answer, in reality, is simple and this new version demonstrates it with great agility: The Ultra Deluxe is not a conversion, and never wanted to be; instead, it is an expansion that comes nine years “late” only because it took nine years to design and add content that was worthy of the original game. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe is therefore not limited to opening up to a new audience, but adds content to the already very rich and brilliant starting offer. A shower of different endings, of always innovative approaches to the navigation of the office space that evolve into hallucinatory scenes, grotesque departures and philosophical reflections hidden behind never banal gags. To change everything, underlining once again the genius of Davey Wreden and William Pugh, is a door on which the word “New Content” stands out. Not satisfied with having played with users for nine years, The Stanley Parable puts another lure on the table. Behind what looks like a door like many others are hidden all the innovations designed for this new incarnation, and this is exactly where the beauty comes.

Much more than a video game

Assuming that, given its nature, The Stanley Parable is a really difficult (if not impossible) game to review, now is the time for a second question. What’s behind that door? There is The Stanley Parable 2, but not in the way you think it is.

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Beyond that virtual door there are nine years of waiting, a period in which the medium has evolved and The Stanley Parable has gone from representing a brilliant breath of fresh air to being “just” a relic of the past, and this Ultra Deluxe knows it very well. Behind that door is a sanctuary, a sort of museum dedicated to the impact that The Stanley Parable had on the video game, where prizes, memorabilia and, above all, reviews of the time are displayed. All, of course, commented on by the voice of the historical narrator / friend / antagonist of all time. It is surreal to be in front of the case in which James Stephanie Sterling’s review is contained, but it makes perfect sense, as well as to come across negative reviews from Steam users. It makes sense because it shows how Wreden and Pugh have long thought about the role of their workon what it meant at the time and on what it is necessary to communicate nowadays.

And it is precisely here that the circle closes and The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe drops the mask once and for all: we will not go into details to avoid anticipations, and it is enough to know that at a certain point the developers themselves decide to please the public, making a radical choice. It is a very strong stance, similar in some ways to that of Hideaki Anno in Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0, which is keen to strongly emphasize the importance of the author and authorship.

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The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe is perfectly aware of the fact that nine years have passed since 2013 which marked its rise, which is why the news is oriented towards the analysis of this time frame. Not a simple exercise in style, but the continuation of a sometimes ruthless reflection on the videogame mediumon the relationship of the work with the player and on how the user relates to the language of the video game.

The end is never again

Perhaps The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe’s ​​only weakness is that some of the more aggressive criticisms of the medium’s trends and public behavioral patterns are a little less incisive than in the past. Attention: this does not mean that they are not effective in the strict sense, but it is also true that in the last decade the sector has undergone considerable growth in terms of both its diffusion and its expressive maturity.

As effective as teasing the sequel concept within The Stanley Parable is, it’s also true that some of the ideas presented by Crows Crows Crows with The Ultra Deluxe are no longer unique but they are part of a decidedly more stratified discourse compared to that of nine years ago and are therefore slightly weaker than expected.

In any case, we must loudly reiterate that The Stanley Parable is still an essential video game todayone of those titles capable of leaving you speechless precisely because it is always able to stay two steps ahead of the player. It is still the game that leads the dances and plays with the userand this relationship of forces never really overturns, not even within the new contents designed specifically to frame what originally was to be only a port for all consoles.

We laugh, sometimes bitterly, and we are left speechless in front of the genius of the developers. All this, let us remember, in a video game in which the only activity to be carried out is only and exclusively walking. The End is Never. Again. Welcome back Stanley.

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The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe Review: Between Conversion and Sequel


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