With the Ultra Deluxe version of The Stanley Parable, Amazing Princess Sarah, Mr. Prepper and Divination, we’re checking out four titles that were previously released and just found their way towards new platforms.
The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe review (PS5)
The original version of The Stanley Parable was released in a different time, at least for indie games. Back in 2011, most games you’d hear about were still being released on disc through large publishers, and it’d be rare for an indie game to stand out from the crowd – let alone one that was conceived as a free modification for Half-Life 2. Yet, even a decade later, it ranks among some of indie gaming’s cult classics, right alongside games like Cave Story and Braid. Now, it’s been brought to a new generation thanks to an Ultra Deluxe Edition of the game – which also adds new content into the mix.
This is such a narrative- and experience-driven game that it’s hard to go into too much detail about it without spoiling it, but it’s safe to say The Stanley Parable is a game of two halves. One of those, the narrative aspect, has aged gracefully, and is something all gamers should play through at some point. The other half, the technical portion, doesn’t fare as well, clearly showing its age and origins as a Source engine production made a decade ago. The Ultra Deluxe edition tackles both areas, with mixed success.
There’s no denying that this new version, which now runs through the Unity engine, looks a lot better than the old game ever did, but at the same time we’ve seen the industry move on as well, with almost photorealistic graphics in games like Martha is Dead that makes games like The Stanley Parable look somewhat dated in comparison. It’s a major step up from the old game, but don’t expect to be blown away either.
The story, however, was what really surprised us. We expected to play through the same game with slightly better visuals, but the shiniest layer of polish that was applied to the Ultra Deluxe version lies with the gameplay itself. There are new avenues to explore, new locations to visit and there’s additional narrator content as well. And throughout all of it, the quality of the writing is just as good as it ever was. That makes this the definitive version for anyone who hasn’t played it yet, while at the same time being a delight for those who fondly remember playing the original all those years ago. The Stanley Parable’s fourth wall-breaking journey is as essential today as it was when it first launched.
Amazing Princess Sarah review (PS4)
This one’s definitely an oldie that we weren’t expecting, as Amazing Princess Sarah launched back in 2014 in Steam. It also received a console version when an Xbox port came out back in 2016, so we certainly weren’t expecting a PlayStation 4 port in 2022, even though the previous versions were well-received. Luckily, Red Art Games is here to prove us wrong, because not only are they bringing the game (originally developed by Haruneko Entertainment) to more digital storefronts, they’re also coming out with a physical release for PlayStation players.
Amazing Princess Sarah looks like a typical retro-inspired platformer at first sight, but it’s a well-designed one. As per the norm there’s little in the way of story development (though Sarah is looking to rescue her kidnapped father), but there’s an interesting twist to the gameplay that we haven’t seen before: every enemy you kill leaves a corpse behind, and that corpse can be picked up and thrown at the remaining enemies as a weapon. And while in some cases the impact is enough to seriously harm them, different corpse types also combust in different ways to deal additional damage.
Of course this is just on top of the normal jumping and sword attack mechanics, and Sarah’s stats can be boosted over time as well. New enemies and surface types make the gameplay ever-changing and challenging, but progression has been designed very well to make sure it’s never frustrating thanks to well-placed checkpoints and Sarah’s continuously growing skill level. It may look a tad generic with its pixel visuals, but good controls and well designed gameplay make this one stand out from the crowd.
Once you get past the boss fights and beat the game you’ll activate a new game+ option where you can select from a few gameplay toggles, but other than being pathways to a few missing trophies you’re still playing the same game – even if Sarah moves a little differently because of a setting you tweaked. For a budget priced game you get a nice 4 hour long campaign though, and if you feel like doing some additional playthroughs you can get even more value out of it. Definitely recommended for fans of retro platformers.
Mr. Prepper review (PS4)
When Mr. Prepper from developer Rejected Games launched on Steam last year, we were still in the middle of a near-global lockdown scenario, so its premise of a doomsday-like scenario in which you stick to your home and build bunkers to overcome and escape disaster seemed tragically fitting. Now, about a year later, it’s been ported to the PlayStation 4 after an earlier conversion for Xbox.
Plot-wise, Mr. Prepper actually has very little to do with a global pandemic, and more about a government that oppresses him and forces a way of life on him that makes him want to escape it all. Cue the desire to prepare an escape while under the watchful eye of the “agency”, who will come to check on you regularly while you go underground and construct bunkers below what otherwise looks like a perfectly normal house in “Murricaville” (getit?). And we’re not just talking regular bunkers, we’re talking multi-storey, multi-room bunkers, possible even with a rocket bay to help you escape in a rather radical way.
Gameplay-wise, Mr. Prepper is about resource management and survival, with a good bit of crafting in order to build out your underground bunker. It’s a bit more linear than most other games in those genres though, because of fairly set goals that you’re chasing and more of less fixed ways of getting these. It comes with having a narrative though, which we actually consider to be a plus when compared to crafting titles that don’t have this – though we realize it hurts replay value.
Above ground, everything you have and do should seem normal, so even though you have a workbench your more ambitious endeavours take place underground. You’ll need resources as well though – both for building and to nourish yourself – which you can acquire by either heading out for a quick field trip or ordering them for delivery. You’ll also need to rest, balancing your health, exhaustion and ‘preparedness’ levels constantly. It’s a pretty easy to grasp and addictive loop, which regularly gets interrupted by agency visits – which are the equivalent of sweeping everything under the rug before you open the door.
Audiovisually, Mr. Prepper makes the conversion from its PC original just fine, though it’s far from the most taxing title on the platform despite a pleasant art style. The control scheme can feel overly fiddly, and you can tell it was originally conceived for mouse and keyboard controls on a PC. Sometimes it can be awkward to move things in the right place, and it feels like you don’t have the precision required – nor the right auto-placement tools that would have helped. Perhaps it’s also the somewhat linear game design though, which isn’t as ‘sandboxy’ as genre purists might like. More casual fans who enjoy the premise and narrative will have fun with it though.
Divination review (PS4)
Eastasiasoft is a well-known publisher in our porting specials, and Divination from developer Mojiken is their latest console port of a game that originally appeared on Steam back at the tail end of 2019. It’s a visual novel, and with its mix sci-fi, AI and cyberpunk, it feels like a short story for those who enjoy Philip K. Dick’s work and films like Minority Report.
In Divination, a powerful AI called Mother decided to pull its own plug three years ago, and because mankind had grown very dependent on this AI, things aren’t looking great for the society it left behind. This certainly isn’t a story of hope and joy, and more and more people who can’t cope resort to suicide.
You’re somewhat of a unique creature in this one – not human, but consisting of limbs and with the power of precognition. You provide this as a service to the people who come to visit you, and the only payment you desire is information on the dreams they’ve been having. It’s a very interesting premise that raises all sorts of philosophical questions, and if you’re a fan of off-beat dystopian stories then Divination has one that’s worth telling.
Several visitors allow you to, through the questions you ask them, find out more about what goes on in their lives, but while it’s an interesting tale it’s also a short one – a playthrough shouldn’t last more than an hour even without a guide to help you. Not that you’ll need one, because the game provides you with an in-game flowchart to help guide you towards different story branches and the desired outcomes. Small textual/grammatical errors detract a bit from an otherwise very engaging story, but fans of the genre should definitely check Divination out – it has a price tag that makes it well worth it.