The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PS5) Review: The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PS5) Review

Our review of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, developed by Galactic Cafe and Crows Crows Crows. Available Now for PS5 (reviewed), PS4, Xbox X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows, macOS, and Linux.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PS5) Review


A very cracked fourth wall.


It’s brilliant.


Gamers. Postmodernists.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PS5) Review


One of 2022’s most exciting new TV series has been Ben Stiller’s Severance. Alternatingly creepy and absurd, Severance is a pitch-black comedy about office workers who have had their minds altered such that, during working hours, they cannot remember their outside life, whereas when they clock out for the day, they instantly forget everything that occurred at the office. In effect, the “severed” have been split into two personas: the innie, whose only friendships are with colleagues, who do not know what the outside world looks like, and who have never experienced what it’s like to sleep in a bed, or go for a drive, or even cook a meal. The outie, on the other hand, gets to go home to families or pets, read a book (which are banned for innies), travel, date, and experience all that life has to offer outside working hours.

In theory, the “severance” procedure is a stress reliever for the outie, who quite literally never has to think about, let alone experience, the mundanity of office life. It’s the innie who gets the raw end of the deal. For this person, who is never “conscious” during off hours, their entire experience is limited to the stale, inhuman, corporate office where they work, and the handful of people they work with. An endless, fluorescently-lit existence where workplace culture is the only culture, and any attempts to escape the dreary bounds of office life are met with swift retribution.

I found myself thinking of Severance as I replayed The Stanley Parable, easily one of the funniest/strangest video games ever made, recently rereleased in “Ultra Deluxe” format. What appears to be the very definition of a walking simulator – you initially find yourself restricted to a mundane office environment, wandering office to office – soon reveals itself to be a sly meditation on the very act of gaming itself. All it asks is that, like the protagonists of Severance, you try to break free.


The Stanley Parable is extremely difficult to write about without spoiling the experience.

However, it helps to understand how it works. The first time you launch The Stanley Parable, you’re introduced to the player-character, Stanley, aka Employee #427. Stanley’s job is simple: he sits at his desk in Room 427, and pushes buttons on a keyboard. As the narrator helpfully explains:

Orders came to him through a monitor on his desk telling him what buttons to push, how long to push them, and in what order. This is what Employee #427 did every day of every month of every year, and although others may have considered it soul rending, Stanley relished every moment that the orders came in, as though he had been made exactly for this job.

Then, you stand up from your desk – the game is played in first-person view – and start to explore. Moving from room to room, the narrator remains a constant, unseen companion, commenting on what you’re seeing, directing you where you’re supposed to head. “Stanley walked towards the break room”, “Stanley took the first door on the left”, “Stanley paused to admire the boardroom”, that sort of thing. But where The Stanley Parable gets interesting, and very self-aware, is the moment that you, the player, intervene. Sure, the narrator might say that Stanley took the door on the left… but what happens if you decide to go right?

That, in a nutshell, is The Stanley Parable experience. Exploring a virtual environment in which a narrator – voice actor Kevan Brighting, perhaps second only to Ellen “GlaDOS” McLain in the annals of video game voiceover – tells you to do one thing, and you decide whether or not you want to listen. There are no wrong choices – there are rewards for both obedience and disobedience – but the fun of The Stanley Parable is in seeing everything it has to offer. This door or that one, up or down, left or right.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PS5) Review


The Stanley Parable is, at its heart, a choose-your-own-adventure. The choice of left door or right, up or down, may seem minor, but one thing repeat Parable players will tell you is that every branch of the path matters, every choice matters. It’s not a spoiler to state that The Stanley Parable is aware of this as well. The fourth wall isn’t so much broken in this game, as it is repeatedly and amusingly shattered to smithereens – including, for the Ultra Deluxe edition, in dozens of inventive new ways, absent from the original. Indeed, many of the best moments in Ultra Deluxe play on the notion that this is a remaster, and that many players come to it with certain expectations from their time with the original. These are more than winks or nods, but fully developed new side stories or branching paths which make Ultra Deluxe worth it even for seasoned Parable veterans.

In all likelihood, by the time you have finished with The Stanley Parable, you will not have seen everything it has to offer. There are too many paths, too many choices, too many hidden locations that, absent a strategy guide, you would ever encounter all on your own. Paradoxically, however, a strategy guide is the very thing to spoil the experience. The Stanley Parable is about carving out your own path, testing the limits of the game, and, more often than not, delighting in how it adapts or reacts to your choices. If anything, it’s more of a toy box to play in, than something to be “beaten.” (Indeed, even its metagame “achievements” aren’t really meant to be completed.)

Just as the innies of Severance push and prod at the boundaries of their soulless corporate environment, making increasingly bizarre discoveries along the way, so too does The Stanley Parable reward the curious player with ever weirder (and funnier) aspects of its virtual world. It’s unlike pretty well anything else in gaming, and definitely worth the visit.

Stanley hit “publish” on the typewriter and stepped away from his computer.

Final score: 10/10.

Visit the official website for The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe here.