Manual Samuel – Curve Digital – Perfectly Paranormal – Out Now on Steam, Xbox One & PS4 (version played)
After making a deal with Death, newly deceased Sam, has to survive a day back in the living, however everything he does is manually controlled, from walking to breathing, even posture. Sam has different buttons for different limbs, as well as the occasional spinal positioning correction. Not to mention the fact you have to control his breathing and blinking too. This is down to Sam being a lazy, spoiled, rich twit, who has never had to do anything for himself and has the money to do anything he wants. To begin with its quite an amusing, and original concept. However, after spending ages trying to get from one side of the screen to the other, be it from collapsing on the floor because you’ve moved the right leg forward one too many times, or Sam’s lost control over his spine again, literally anything is a chore. And that’s just the walking sections. You have to drive a manual (of course) transmission car at one point, including operating the clutch, gas and brakes, with the car driving towards the screen. During this particular scene, you happen to rendezvous with War, one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Only War has no horse so catches a ride in what can only be described as one of the dullest sections in videogame history. Start the car, stop the car, War shoots someone, rinse, repeat until your eyeballs roll so far in to the back of your head you can see behind you.
Visually, Manual Samuel is brilliant. Its art style is great, harking back to the vivid point and clicks of the 90s or quite possibly a number of contemporary Cartoon Network shows. Despite Samuel being all but mute, we have a whimsically stiff upper lipped narrator, as well as a street wise Death acting as guide throughout the game. Death can grate somewhat, with his choice of words making him sound like a low level henchman in a straight to dvd action movie. A running gag throughout the game is the use of the word feces, in lieu of the much more satisfying ‘shit’. It was funny once. The other 999 times, not so much. Although it does seem to be the set up for a play on words later in the game, albeit somewhat throwaway.
What starts out as a fun premise, soon becomes tiresome and laborious as the game really fights against you making any progress, and although for the most part it’s as simple as walking from A to B, some sections become extremely repetitive and all the more frustrating as a result. Pleasing aesthetic aside, it feels like the developers made this game with sole purpose of pissing the player off. It challenges your resolve and patience from the off, and only those wanting to punish themselves will probably get any enjoyment from this game. Its as if the developers thought originality would automatically mean fun.
For anyone out there wondering when they were finally going to gain control over not only a characters individual limbs, but their diaphragm too, this will be right up your street. For anyone else, avoid this like you do that guy you went to school with but don’t really like and occasionally see out when your shopping and you don’t want to speak to them so you pretend you haven’t noticed they’re there. It makes Weekend at Bernie’s, seem like a good idea.