We tend to take for granted many of the things our bodies do automatically for us. It knows when to blink, when to take a breath, it is designed to survive. Imagine how fun it would be to have to control these things manually? That is the idea behind Manual Samuel.
Sam (Samuel) is a person who is more than just a little lazy. Instead of seeing the worth of doing a hard day’s work and getting the most out of life he tends to just play video games and live off his wealth provided to him by his father. When he gets knocked over and ends up in hell though, Death decides to give him another chance at life, IF he can survive for 24-hours controlling his body manually.
In terms of gameplay what this means is that you have to control Sam’s blinking, breathing, walking, and other functions of his body. At first this can feel slightly overwhelming as you blink crazy while trying to walk, and stop Sam from collapsing from lack of breathing. It does tend to become second nature though, and you’ll be making progress in no time.
Once you have these basic actions down, then comes the task to make progress in the game. What is impressive about Manual Samuel is the number of different tasks Sam has to do. This includes basic things such as dressing, to more complicated things such as driving a car and saving the world.
Where the game does tend to get annoying though is in the later stages where the level of difficulty tends to become a hindrance in making progress. I found many times it was better to take a break from the game rather than struggle on, but once you manage to make it past the latest challenge, the feeling of achievement is definitely there to push you further into the game.
Even when Manual Samuel is annoying you with the level of challenge, it also charms in equal measure. The cartoon style graphics and refreshing sense of humour goes a long way to keeping you invested in the game. Even if some of the boss challenges in the later parts of the game do make you feel like rage quitting (or had me feeling that way at least) there is still that need to keep playing the game to see if Sam can win.
It is fair to say that you do need a lot of patience to play Manual Samuel and as I have little patience at the best of times it really did test me. When taking over a person’s body, it comes as no surprise that a lot of the things you have to do are repetitive, but it is the story that wins out. Whether it is the kick-flipping Death, the shotgun wielding War, or even Satan himself, you can’t help but be charmed by the characters in the game. It is refreshing that Perfectly Paranormal have invested the time to really flesh the character’s out.
To liven things up a little there is also a two-player mode where players can share control of Sam, this is fun, and ends up in the usual chaos that is expected from this form of local co-op. To extend gameplay there is also a time-attack mode, forcing you to speed up your control of Sam, if you feel you are up to the challenge.
Manual Samuel is a game well worth playing, just be ready for your patience to be tested. Described as a “Dexterity-adventure” it can be annoying at times, and you will find yourself walking away from it to regain your composure. You’ll find yourself coming back though just to see if Sam can manage the seemingly impossible, and get a second chance at life.
Manual Samuel is out on PlayStation 4 now.