Over many years as an avid gamer I have encountered my fair share of weirdness. I’m all over it when it happens as well. I think it’s great when games surprise you or take you on a completely unexpected journey, and it’s refreshing when the brains behind the games aren’t afraid to embrace their weird side. As I said, I’ve encountered plenty of little oddities over the years, but, I can safely say, that it’s been a long time since I encountered anything quite as weird…and wonderful, as Manual Samuel.
Sitting down to play, I knew little about what the game entailed. I knew just that Manual Samuel involved controlling every action of our protagonist, including the blinking of his eyes, and his breathing, via some nifty nimble fingered controller play.
It sounded tricky, and a little uninspiring if I’m honest. Then something quite unique happened within the first few minutes of the game. This didn’t take place on the screen, but rather around it. As I ventured forth on my journey, my family had gathered around the TV.
“What is this!?” they asked, laughing as I stumbled my way across the screen, trying desperately to make Samuel walk via alternate pulls of the triggers, and instead making him do the splits before bum shuffling along the carpet of his home. My youngest fell about, everyone was laughing, including me, and I realised this game might just have something about it after all.
What Manual Samuel brings to the table reaches beyond the pull of flash graphics, big explosions, or deep and meaningful storylines. Manual Samuel brings fun. It delivers the essence of what gaming is intended to be about, or at least it used to be about. The great blend of real humour, cartoon violence and sheer ridiculous gameplay form a rock solid marriage that brings a smile to the face of everyone who plays the game, and even to those who watch it.
But let me backtrack a moment. Allow me to at least offer some semblance of storyline here. Basically, Samuel, is a self-centred rich kid who works for his Dad, treats his girlfriend like crap and generally lives life entirely on his own terms regardless of who he might trample in the process. Then, via some poor luck, he ends up dead. However, Death cuts him a deal. He gets another chance at life, but he has to learn to do everything from scratch. And this, is where we come in.
The basics of the game are about learning to do the day to day routine tasks that life throws our way. Every action Samuel can take is mapped to a button on the controller. Walking, breathing, blinking, lifting objects and even blowing on a cup of boiling hot coffee are all under our control. Make a wrong move and our hero might be mowing down grannies in his car, or throwing said hot coffee into his face. It sounds tedious, but, in reality it’s a real huge dollop of tricky fun that goes a little like this:
“Okay, walk, left trigger, right trigger, left trigger, righ…shit, breathe, in…out…in…shit, blink, now walk, left, right, breathe, blink, arrrgh, got to open the door!” cut to Samuel flat on the ground with blurred vision and a face that is rapidly turning a deeper shade of blue.
Over the course of play we get to take Samuel driving, during which Death has changed his car from automatic to manual, just for the laughs, we go to work, engage in some quick time button pressing conversations and generally have a great time doing so.
The game can be infuriating at times, trying to remember everything is mind melting on occasion, and the pace is a little slow in certain sections, but, thanks to the great humour peppered throughout, the joy from actually getting a rhythm going, and the vivid looks, Manual Samuel is a winner.
What we have is a game that is to be taken for exactly what it is. Pure, simple, fun. Nothing more and nothing less. You won’t lose hour upon hour here and you won’t be back once you’ve completed it, at least not very often. But while it lasts, Manual Samuel is a game that will light up the living room and the faces of everyone around it, and that is worth the entrance fee on its own.
Manual Samuel is available on Xbox One & Playstation 4 for £7.99.
Ridiculous, hilarious, infuriating, ridiculous again, and downright undiluted fun. A little gem of a game.