07th Sep2018

‘Manual Samuel’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

Manual-Samuel-header

Almost everything about Manual Samuel is great, the visuals, audio, narration and setup are all of a high quality but sadly the main conceit of the game doesn’t hold up for the short duration it takes to complete.

The game begins with the rich, vain Samuel arguing with his fiancé and getting hit and killed (for the first time) by a passing vehicle. Upon ending up in Hell, Death (sporting a skater ‘tude and look) allows him to have a second chance at life if he can survive twenty-four hours completing every movement and action manually, breathing, blinking, staying upright and walking (a whole lot of walking)…it’s all done by the player via button presses and prompts on the Switch controller.

The game takes a couple of hours to complete but I really struggled to keep my interest up even at that running time. The joke didn’t last for me although I really liked the intro and general presentation of the game, the jaunty music, voice work and angular, cartoonish visuals were all right up my strasse but I found the setup and jokes tiring after a few minutes, especially Death’s constant banter which came off, to me at least as irritating and repetitive as opposed to amusing. The levels are short and split into distinct sections such as getting cleaned up and dressed, driving to work etc. (including some boss sections which use the skills picked up to that particular point in the game) and although each part has its own challenges and differences, I didn’t particularly find any of them especially enjoyable and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just moving from one scene to the next. It’s not helped by the ever so slight delay when playing wirelessly through the Switch controller (something that also affected the recent game Behind The Screen) which made the latter rhythm stages harder that they should have been, as is the case here.

The game is well-implemented on screen in the 2D realm that it inhabits, the slow blur that ebbs in if you forget to blink for a few seconds and the loose movements, flopping motions and random collapses that happen when a rhythm is broken (such as walking) are all amusing at first but I felt like I had taken what I could from the game after thirty minutes or so. There is a co-op mode include as well as time reial modes that extend the value and amusement factor of the game when played with friends and I feel that it’s these stages that will get the most laughs as opposed to the single player mode.

Manual-Samuel-screen

Ever since Surgeon Simulator there has been a niche market for comedic games in which purposefully awkward controls or design is the gimmick that acts as the main selling point of the title. The best of these was last year’s Genital Jousting and others such as Octodad and Stick Fight are also fun games to play through for varying lengths of time. At its budget price, Manual Samuel is worth a look if you are attracted to these sorts of games or if you fancy a quick laugh with some friends but as a single player game the joke wears thin too quickly. As mentioned above, the presentation of the game is really of a high quality and there’s a sense of talent in the development team behind each facet but I almost felt like I’d rather watch the game being played than play it myself. That said, due to the clear skills of the team behind it, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Manual Samuel is available on the Nintendo eShop now.

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