Monday, October 17, 2016

Manual Samuel Review (XONE)

Games like QWOP or Xbox 360 Indie Games hidden gem Mount Your Friends task you with controlling individual limbs of a character separately in order to move them around.  You have to really concentrate and just staying upright is a challenge, but they’re fun games because they’re so different.  What would happen if you also had to manually make your character blink their eyes and breathe along with everything else, though?  Why, ridiculous hilarity mixed with mild annoyance, of course!  The new Xbox One and PS4 indie game Manual Samuel challenges you with keeping the main character alive for 24-hours by manually doing everything for him and it is one of the most hilariously funny games of the year.  See our full review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Curve Digital   
  • Developer: Perfectly Paranormal
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: Action(?)
  • Pros: Genuinely funny; fresh and unique gameplay; nice presentation; co-op
  • Cons: Repeated one-liners; can be frustrating
  • MSRP: $10

Samuel, the star of Manual Samuel, is a spoiled rich jerk who, upon his untimely passing, makes a deal with Death to get a second chance at life provided he can complete whatever task Death gives him.  The task – Samuel has to survive for 24-hours while having to manually do everything people normally take for granted as being automatic such as breathing in and out, blinking his eyes, moving his arms and legs separately, and keeping his spine straight. 

You play as Samuel so, naturally, keeping him alive becomes your responsibility.  If you don’t press the “A” button to blink, his eyes dry out and turn red and his vision gets blurry.  If you don’t press the “X” button to breathe in, and the “B” button to breathe out, Sam’s face turns blue and he passes out.  You also have to move his legs with the triggers, his hands with the bumpers, and occasionally press up on the d-pad to straighten his spine out so he can stand normally.

Your mastery of these controls is put to the test as you lead Sam through a typical day.  Things start out fairly simply by having you take a shower and get dressed, but eventually you’ll be driving a car, working in a robot factory, and more.  Walking around is usually simple enough, but driving a car – a manual transmission with a clutch, because Death is a dick – is one of the most frantic and funny moments I’ve spent with a videogame in quite a while.  The game only takes about 90-minutes or so to finish, but it is filled with seemingly everyday and simple tasks that turn out to be pretty hilarious because you have to manually do every single little stupid thing.  Just remember, keep breathing.  And blink.

As fun and funny as the game can genuinely be, it can also be a huge pain in the ass sometimes as you might expect.  You never really “fail”, but some of the tasks have tight time limits so you have to do the same thing – like opening a door, walking across a room, grabbing a robot part, and walking back across a room before the door closes – over and over and over again until you get it right and it starts getting more frustrating than fun.  The objectives get increasingly more demanding as the game goes on, too, and it can really grind your gears by the end.

Thankfully, though, the game doesn’t overstay its welcome.  As I mentioned, it is only about 90-minutes long so as long as you don’t get too frustrated you’ll see the end.  It is also priced at just $10, which is a perfect price for a little bite-sized chunk of game that actually has fairly decent replay value simply because it is so fun to show off to other people.  The game even has a co-op mode where keeping Sam alive is shared between two players that can be really funny too. 

Manual Samuel is a really funny game in general, though the sense of humor might not appeal to everyone.  A sarcastic narrator talks about everything you make Sam do and Death is a wannabe skater punk, or something, so he constantly tries (and fails) to do kickflips and says mostly dumb weird stuff.  I thought it was all funny, but it won’t be for everyone.  At the very least, watching Sam flop around when you screw up making him walk should be funny to most people, and the other situations you get yourself into can be so crazy that anyone should laugh.  Death’s repeated one-lines do get old, especially when you have to do the same section over and over again, but it kept me entertained.

The presentation in Manual Samuel is well done across the board.  The art style is sort of cartoony and Penny Arcade-looking and works perfectly here. 

All in all, Manual Samuel is a unique and funny game where enjoyment comes both from playing it yourself as well as showing it off to new people that haven’t seen it before.  It is wild and crazy and just really, genuinely funny.  There are some annoyances, but the short run time means it doesn’t overstay its welcome and the decent replay value and fun of showing it off means you won’t regret the $10 price tag.  Manual Samuel is absolutely worth a look.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.