How do you improve on perfection?
Where do I even begin with this? You can’t review The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe like a normal game — no, not even close. Sure, you can call it an open-ended walking sim with multiple endings, but while that may be true, it doesn’t even come close to doing the experience of playing it justice. The Stanley Parable is what every other video game that claims to be art should aspire to, because it is able to so effectively convey its thesis while at the same time entertaining you to all hell.
Nine years ago, we reviewed The Stanley Parable when it originally came out, and James Stephanie Sterling’s sentiment was that to give anything away to ruin the game’s whole appeal, and the same goes for The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. So much of what makes this game special is the surprise and the discovery of it all, so in order to maintain the spirit of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, all I can tell you is that this is a must-play. Not just as one of the best games of the year, mind you, but as one of the best games period.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PC [Reviewed]Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S)
Developer: Crows Crows Crows
Publisher: Crows Crows Crows
Released: April 27, 2022
I’ve written pages and pages of notes trying to piece this review together, trying my best to convey why I think this game truly is genius (a word I use sparingly in any part of my life, let alone when discussing video games). I like to think I’m a tough critic, especially when it comes to narrative games, but The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe has a way of immediately disarming me every time I boot it up.
For all of its commentary and cynicism, at its heart, it has so much charm, and so much love for the medium it’s so dedicated to deconstructing. With any other game, I have to stop and pick apart every little mechanic or how it feels to play or how the UI looks, but at risk of sounding hyperbolic, speaking about The Stanley Parable in that way would feel sacrilegious.
When you’re in the business of thinking about thinking about and writing about thinking about video games, there’s nothing more refreshing than a game that just takes you on a journey, and The Stanley Parable does just that. There’s never a moment where you’re hoping the game is going to present you with something engaging — it just does it, it does so masterfully, and it escalates to places you weren’t expecting, but you’re so glad it did. I will say that if this kind of game isn’t your thing, you’re not going to enjoy it because the Ultra Deluxe content leans even harder into absurdism. But if you’re willing to let go of any preconceived notions of what a game is supposed to be and roll with it, you’re going to have an amazing time.