The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe Accessibility
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe brings a classic title to more players by including a great suite of new accessibility improvements. However, a mode for one handed control requires hold inputs, console versions don't have auto-walk functionality, and there are elements that could have done more. Despite these, their implementation, at the very least, are much welcomed.
Score8 out of 10
- Subtitles come with nice customizations
- One handed mode
- Simple controls
- Linear levels with few alternative paths
- Remapping for PC
- Content warnings
- One handed mode only for PC and requires hold input
- Time loops may be longwinded and confusing to keep track of
- No support for blind players
- No remapping for console
This is the story about a game about a man called Stanley. A game that was originally launched in 2013 and with bare-bones accessibility. Now, in 2022 we have The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, a re-release packed with new content and accessibility features. We’re here to pick up the bucket and carry it into our accessibility review on both PC and PS5.
The Stanley Parable is a game where a narrator narrates every choice you make. It’s a dialogue-heavy game and involves a lot of walking around a barren office complex. The narrative shifts with each choice you make and really, it’s an incredibly enjoyable game.
I played the original when it launched, and back then I wasn’t as attuned to inaccessibility as I am now. I just accepted I was struggling to play a game and thought nothing of it. Thankfully, I don’t have to relive all of that thanks to Crows Crows Crows taking note of accessibility and making The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe an incredibly comfortable experience.
Wake Up, Stanley
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe doesn’t necessarily launch with an accessibility menu. Instead, it offers the choice of enabling subtitles in the user’s desired language. Following that, a message states that players can change accessibility settings from the main menu.
The Settings menu is quite condensed given the simple aspect of the gameplay, but the options available to tinker with are nice. Crows Crows Crows actually posted a Twitter thread detailing all the features they included to allow more players to enjoy the title. There’s a live subtitle preview that shows how the final subtitle appearance will look, remapping is available, and there are some color and translation labels available.
You can find out more from our Menu Deep Dive here.
There is one thing that bothers me about The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe and that’s the non-skippable opening screens that appear every time I boot the game for a period of time. To explain, when the game has been opened, I’m made to read through a silent conversation between me and the…text entity. This cannot be skipped and requires me to interact with any elements that appear.
Initially, it starts off making you choose the time for a few boots, then after that, it progresses to longer conversations, with each line requiring inputs to progress. Then, sliders become involved, and so on.
While this is part of the fun charm of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, for accessibility it’s a nightmare. Having players forced to sit and click just to get through to the main menu every time they boot for a handful of times is just a kerfuffle. I’d much rather see either a skip option, or have a toggleable setting in the Settings to bypass these opening sequences entirely.
Navigating in This Branching Adventure
There’s no HUD, there aren’t any waypoints, and I’m largely unbothered by it because The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe doesn’t need them. The game doesn’t require me to pick up anything such as ammo or health, allowing me to just focus on taking in the Narrator’s dialogue.
Levels are meticulously linear, however, whenever I reach a fork in the road, so to speak, the Narrator will usually, always indicate the choices. The abstract nature of the narrative does mean that there are instances where things might change. Examples of this can be the Narrator vanishing, or a usual path warping and opening up new lines. Despite this, the game ensures that I’m —most of the time— always moving forward.
What’s also fun is that the majority of instructions are usually designed directly into the level and will also have the Narrator calling attention to them. For example, in a scene that finds Stanley in his boss’s office, the Narrator calls my attention to a comically large keypad where he also tells me the combination code. There’s another scene where I’m instructed to press a large red button to activate a new feature the Narrator has designed.
It’s not always this way, however, as there are many unnarrated moments where you can stray from the path and activate alternative events. While the narration and guidance are enjoyable, there aren’t audio or vibrational cues to indicate the confirmation of highlighted selections.
Subtitles and Legibility
Audible dialogue in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe plays a major role throughout the game. There’s a lot of it. Thankfully, the subtitles are available throughout and they can be adjusted for background opacity and font size. While the Narrator is the primary speaking character, there are some instances where another voice takes over, but with no speaker labels, this isn’t conveyed clearly when it does happen.
One thing I would have liked to see was more parenthesis included with the subtitles for dialogue. Having the frustration and sarcasm of the Narrator’s spoken lines presented would help with understanding his tone and how he’s reacting to the choices I’m making. Particularly if I’m playing with no audio. Captions are available for certain sounds sometimes, such as the Narrator rustling papers, but this isn’t frequent and doesn’t carry to any in-world sounds.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe has also improved how in-world text is presented by having them as meshes so that they’re crisper to read. However, from a distance, the in-world text is understandably small, given that it’s at a distance. Moving closer comes with some issues though, I found. Firstly, the field of view I felt comfortable with made the text warped. Secondly, the perspective of reading text from a low angle also warped text.
What would have been nice would be to have had the Translation Labels feature apply to these areas as well. As it stands, this feature only works for a select number of what the studio deems critical text, such as room signs, and instructions. Having this appear for more less-critical segments of text would have helped with legibility and ensured more players can comfortably read those throwaway bits of lore.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is, as already stated, a pretty linear game. Most of the time I found myself just walking forward reading subtitles, and frequently stopping as I wait for the next section to open up. It’s largely a case of simple movement and one button to activate things. Although no remapping is available for the console, on PC I can remap a good bunch of inputs.
The One-Handed Mode is especially useful to have available on PC, allowing navigation and interactions to be done entirely by the mouse. This isn’t perfect though. To walk forward, I have to hold both the left and right mouse buttons.
What could have been useful would be to allow a toggle walk that requires a tap to start, and a tap to stop. This would have also opened up the option for console versions to have the feature, removing the need for constantly holding the analog stick up.
Additionally, there is an option for simple controls which, on PS5, basically opens up the interaction button to extend past the Cross input. With it enabled, the Cross, Square, Triangle, and Circle buttons all act as an interaction input. On that note, there are some moments where there may be repeated button presses, but these all feel largely optional.
For example, there’s a moment where the Narrator asks me to press a button for nine hours or so, but then that’s obviously not going to be doable. Otherwise, the majority of the game feels like all major choices aren’t locked behind inaccessible input methods, at least not in the runs that I did which is good to think.
Screen Shaking, Screen Flashing, Content Warnings
There’s actually not a whole lot of concern from me regarding flashing light patterns. There are some scenes such as one with a pulsating and rotating red light, some may flash a white light once, and sometimes there are sparks from electricals.
There is one specific moment I wanted to highlight though, which is during a Mind Control Facility area. When a timer comes on the screen following Stanley pressing the “on” button, the last…I think it was 34 seconds of that scene violently shaking. This may be disorientating to some players.
In the Settings, a Content Warning option can be turned on. Throughout the game, there may be some topics brought up that may be triggering for players, and so this feature offers a way to skip them.
Keeping Track of Your Timelines
There’s no inventory to manage and I can’t just pick things up willy-nilly so that’s a bonus for those wanting a game that doesn’t include gathering. Spoiler ahead: There is a feature later on where you can find collectibles, but this isn’t entirely daunting and there are hints available in a certain room containing a PowerPoint.
The main confusion can come with keeping track of the timelines. While some loops will find new paths opening, other loops can just repeat themselves if I don’t specifically change my way of playing. This can be frustrating at times when having to listen to the same dialogue sections over and over. Sometimes there are specific choices that aren’t obvious that drastically change the story. Although, if I don’t explore and experiment, or accidentally mimic a previous loop, I just play through the same scenes again and again.
The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe has wonderfully improved the overall accessibility from its initial 2013 launch, making it an enjoyable experience. Those who may have found the original game from 2013 somewhat inaccessible may find better luck here. However, it doesn’t come without its issues.
The mentioned control scheme for one-hand control requiring holding can be fatiguing for some, and it’s currently a feature only available on PC. The warping of some in-world text can be hard to read and it would have been nice to have a Translation Label-like feature carried through.
On the topic of reading, no screen reader support built-in means that text-heavy sections without the in-game narration are being missed. And on that note, the lack of feedback to confirm you’re targeting something interactive would have been beneficial for those who require that tactile or audible confirmation.
A review copy of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe was provided by the developer / publisher.