If satire was the language of the Gods, then Douglas Adams would be God and The Stanley Parable is the Holy Bible.
The Stanley Parable is a glorified walking simulator, which sounds boring on paper yet it’s marketing and tone is unlike any other game out there – its identity is in its abrasive and bizarre selling points that says just enough about itself and what it offers that it draws you in from its mystique.
Making games is essentially like a sandbox; you can do anything with it and make any sort of game you like. But what if you made a game that gives an interesting and dynamic relationship between the player and the creator? That’s what The Stanley Parable is.
There’s really not much worth explaining about the original Stanley Parable, if you’ve already played it. This “ultra deluxe” version, in terms of the original game, is essentially a port to Unity from the Source engine and as the steam page puts it “visually upgraded to reflect modern technology while faithfully preserving the tone of the original game.” While not necessarily a bad thing, I feel as though quite a few of its jokes were more dependent (and funnier) when it was on the Source engine.
However, it’s still incredible when a game that’s fundamentally the same as it was eleven years ago can still retain its ever-so marvelous and lovely comedic tone that made the game that endearing in the first place.
Even more so when the game has been re-made in an entirely different engine and disguises its’ newest “ultra deluxe” version as added-on content when it’s essentially a self-contained sequel within the original game. If you thought the game couldn’t get any more meta, it gets even more chaotic and reflects on the game that it was nine years ago, giving itself criticism and mocking those who didn’t “get” the game.
Kevan Brighting hasn’t missed a beat as the Narrator after all these years; he’s still the friendly not-friendly guide who revels in excitement in showing you around everything, but his story becomes more complex, more deep and more unsettling while still retaining that satiric aura that’s deeply rooted in his delivery and atmosphere around him.
Despite all the great parts of The Stanley Parable being The Stanley Parable, the “new content” falls flat very quickly and is really isn’t much in the grand scheme of things.
It starts out quite promising, the anticipation and build-up is great and the first hour or so is very much classic Stanley Parable stuff.
But then, the problem begins. (Spoiler warning)
A good chunk of the new content primarily revolves around a bucket – an idea which on paper sounds like a perfect idea for the way the Stanley Parable writes itself yet very quickly its inclusion becomes stale and worthless. In fact, a lot of the ideas in the new content are ones that in theory sound like they’d be really good in the game but they all fall flat – except for maybe the figurine hunting, which falls flat anyway.
Instead of focusing on making a wide range of new endings (there’s only six), a very large majority of them are just pre-existing endings from the original game but instead the dialogue or ending is slightly changed depending on whether or not you’re holding the bucket. It’s a funny gag at first having this useless bucket affect some of the endings, but when this takes up most of the new content, it starts to become unfunny, boring and pointless. I kept playing all these different endings thinking that it would lead to some satisfying conclusion or something more. Nope. They’re all just the original endings with buckets and beating them all does absolutely nothing.
One of the new endings is actually quite interesting (enter the vent with the bucket) and that too leads to nothing. The game takes interesting directions and doesn’t expand on them at all in any way. Sure, the original endings were silly gags – the difference is here the tone feels darker in these new endings (even against the suicide one) and it feels like it would lead to an overarching story except it never does and it’s just “an ending” with no significance.
It’s almost ironic that part of the new content talks about nostalgia and not living up to expectations because it feels applicable here. There’s so much time dedicated to trying to match the magic of the original remake from 2013 that it almost feels intentional that the rest of new content is abundantly not as good (gameplay wise) as the game its built upon. The “reassurance bucket” joke and endings become painfully unfunny after a few runs and any other content that doesn’t feature this bucket feels way too short and not what I was hoping to see in a new version of The Stanley Parable after three years since its announcement (granted, they did move to an entirely new engine).
The Stanley Parable once again excels at its humour and delivery yet there’s a huge part of me that was expecting more from the “new content” and not just overbearing jokes about a bucket put into the original endings that turn sour when you begin to realise it’s the main focus of the additional content.
It’s not a bad game by any means, don’t get me wrong, however as this review shows, it’s a whole load of “but…” moments where the new content could have been properly new content and not just focusing on re-hashing familiar endings to be slightly different. It’s a shame that it’s like this because what there is of new content is actually very good, but it’s sacrificed to make jokes and commentary about nostalgia and buckets.