Briefiew – Manual Samuel

I knew when I was getting this game that this wasn’t my kind of game. Games that are usually made for the laughs, aren’t really my thing. I enjoy humour in games but only when they’re attached to a solid gameplay foundation like in Portal 2. However I gave this game a chance because the trailer was very funny but, more importantly, because it was on sale for a very cheap price.
Could it be this game the one to change my mind about this youtube-bait type of games? Read the review to find out.

Trying to categorize Manual Samuel into a classic video game genre would be very hard. If I were to compare it to any other game the closest I can think of would be octodad but even that game I wouldn’t know which genre is it. For this kind of games I think the most sensible thing to do is use a movie genre instead and simply call it a comedy.

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The story of this game revolves around Samuel, a rich young man, son of a very wealthy businessman. All of his life has been a walk in the park, he didn’t have to work nor achieve anything by himself so… he’s pretty selfish and overall useless. One day he gets ran over by a truck and he ends up in hell. There he meets death who proposes him a deal. He’ll be given 24 hours where he’ll have to do everything by himself “manually”. If he survives the whole day, he won’t have to go to hell.
The story of this game is pretty wacky but it’s nothing compared with the characters in it. Samuel is a pretty quiet guy but Death, who will be accompanying him during the day, is a very funny character. Always trying to pull out a kickflip in order to impress War, who he has a crush on. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory but the story really goes to very absurd extents but it’s all played out for the laughs, so it’s great.

Now, you’re probably wondering what did Death mean saying that Samuel would have to do everything manually. You see, in most games, when you have to walk somewhere you just push the analog stick in one direction and your character starts walking over there. In Manual Samuel you have to manually push the Dualshock’s triggers for each leg to advance one step at a time. Also, in most videogames you don’t have to inhale and exhale manually or make your character blink every few seconds so his eyes don’t get red and blurry.
During the course of the game you’ll be thrown different challenges to accomplish, it starts quite simple by making you dress up and have breakfast as you get ready for work or then making you drive your car, which obviously has been turned into a manual by Death. But as the game progresses, those challenges that are supposed to be just part of the daily life of Samuel, turn into something more over-the-top and absurd. I won’t spoil the surprises for you though.

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The game’s graphics are very colorful and cartoony. The game works mostly on a 2D plain so this decision seems quite fitting. The design of the characters is well done and adds to the humour of the game as watching Samuel’s eyes go red and his face turn blue when you forget to attend to his vital functions is pretty funny itself. The animation of the different characters however looks a little cheap. It’s looks like one of those flash animations with very distinctive joint parts moving in an artificial way but, it can be argued that it actually helps the look of the game be more funny.
As for the sound department, what’s probably my favourite part of the whole game is the voiceover. I’ve talked plenty about Death already but what made me chuckle most times was the spot-on narrator.

Things I liked

  • Funny: I’ve mentioned this already during the review. The game is very humourous and I’m sure it’ll actually make you chuckle several times during the playthrough.
  • Coop: The game can be played with a second player in couch coop. It makes the game even more tricky to play but also more hilarious.

Things I didn’t

  • Shallow: This is the very definition of a one-trick pony. It’s all about trying to get around multitasking with these “manual” controls for each activity you’re asked to do. The formula is very clever but by the end of the game it will have run out of novelty.

 

Things that eh…

  • Tricky Controls: It’s the name of the game. It all revolves around making easy stuff be hard to do. It’s the reason why you’re playing the game so it should be a positive but, as the difficulty rises by the end of the game, it also gets a little frustrating.
  • Lifespan: This game is very short so it should be a negative but I also mentioned how the game is kinda shallow so it’s not like I wanted it to be any longer than it was.

Who’d like this?
This is certainly not my kind of game and it didn’t manage to change my mind on that. I’ve had some laughs, spent a few hours with it and now I’ll delete it from my console and move to something else.
If you’re a youtuber that makes its living out of funny let’s plays, this is a must have. For anyone else, if you want to have some laughs, get it on a sale when it’s very cheap.

 

<This review was based on the PS4 version of this title but Manual Samuel is also available on other platforms>

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