One of the more prolific indie game publishers out the folks over at Curve Digital. They have brought many different and unique indie games to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One over the past few years such as Proteus, The Swapper, Thomas Was Alone, and many more. They have an eye for spotting “different” kinds of games out there in the world and helping them get noticed by more gamers. Their most recent offering is a game by the folks at Perfectly Paranormal called Manual Samuel and it is indeed “different” from most anything else you have probably played this year.
Manual Samuel is a game about a man name Samuel (big surprise) who isn’t exactly the nicest guy around. He’s rich, mean to his girlfriend and ultimately ends up dying one day leaving to world with one less idiot in it. Well that is until a grim reaper like character name Death shows up and grants Samuel a chance to regain his life. The catch is that for 24 hours Samuel has to do everything manually thus you have your game title. This proves to be quite the challenge both for Samuel and for you the player as the controls in this game are challenging. Let me just say that if you are easily frustrated by bad controls in a game like Surgeon Simulator or others than this might not be the game for you. On the Dualshock 4 controller, L2 and R2 are used to walk, X is used to blink and Square and Circle are used to breathing. Things aren’t as simple as that may sound as you have to use all of these controls in unison to avoid frustration. For instance if you don’t breath correctly Samuel can pass out or if you end up walking a little too fast you’re going to fall over on your face. The controls took me a good while to get comfortable with but I still think they could have been improved to relieve some frustration. They really are a big part of this game and what could ultimately turn a lot of people away from playing it.
It’s far more than just simple stuff like walking and blinking. You’ll be challenged by things that we all find simple in our daily lives such as driving, peeing, and bathing. One of the best things about the game is the sheer amount of different activities that you’ll engage in. You really don’t spend a lot of time doing the same thing over and over and it helps keep the game fresh. The game also takes it time letting you get used to doing different things so that you aren’t overwhelmed by having to learn too much too quickly. Now while sometimes the way Samuel flops around can be funny the real funny part about this game is the writing. This is by far one of the funniest games I’ve played and Perfectly Paranormal deserves huge credit here for this. The art style used here is pretty great too as they went with a colorful, cartoony aesthetic that is sharp and clean and will probably remind you of something you would see on Adult Swim.
The game only took me around five to six hours to get through but there is some features that will encourage you to go back and play some more. First of all there is a full trophy set including a Platinum that you can attempt to unlock although prepare for a challenge. There is also a time attack mode that you can engage in and replay levels to get the best time possible. You’ll be rewarded with up to a Gold medal depending on how fast you are. If you have a friend in the same room there is a co op mode as well where each of you control different parts of Samuel. If you thought the base game was a challenge just try playing this with a friend.
While the controls are a HUGE barrier of entry to enjoying Manual Samuel in my opinion I was happy I stuck with it. The narrative and characters here are some of the funniest of any recent game I’ve played and the challenge of having to perform all of these normal day to day routines in a new and innovative way was fun as well. If you’ve played and enjoyed other games with challenging and different control schemes such as Octodad or others then you will feel right at home playing Manual Samuel.
*Review code provided by the publisher