Manual Samuel (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 16.11.2016 2

Review for Manual Samuel on PlayStation 4

Every so often, a new game hits the console that adjusts the standard mechanics of gameplay. Originally released on Steam, Norwegian-based developer Perfectly Paranormal's latest 2D animated title takes an interesting gameplay mechanic involving the manual control of each of the main limbs on Samuel's body. After Samuel, a rich spoilt brat, is killed in a collision with a septic truck, he encounters the Grim Reaper himself in Hell, who lays down the gauntlet. If Samuel can survive 24 hours in the real world, with total manual controls for basic activities such as walking, then he will be given a second chance at life. Cubed3 recently took on the Xbox One edition of Manual Samuel, and now it's time to look at the game again, this time on PlayStation 4.

The game begins with the smarmy, good for nothing Samuel, seated opposite his girlfriend in a cafe. Forgetting her birthday yet again, he agitates her to the point of getting himself bottled by her. After coming to and tipping the cafe owner with all the cash in his wallet, he proceeds to exit the cafe and cross the road to his beloved other. At that moment, a septic truck floors it down the road and runs over poor Samuel. This ludicrous story continues when upon waking up in Hell, Sam encounters a baseball cap wearing, skater hooligan Grim Reaper who explains where the game is headed for the remainder of the playthrough. Oh, and Death spends the rest of the game trying to master the kick flip on a skateboard.

While it's intention is to be a fun ride through a not so serious story, with caricatured characters of various stereotypes, Manual Samuel is anything but. Later in the piece, as Death accompanies Samuel on his "quest" of sorts, they encounter a tattooed, gun-wielding War, who Death is infatuated by. She does nothing to add to the story, nor does Samuel come across as a likeable character to want to root for. The narrator tries to interact with the cast or influence decisions in a similar way to the George of the Jungle movie, however, it doesn't work quite as well. Instead, he is just annoying as he throws jibes and insults at Samuel whenever he struggles to perform a task successfully, which adds to the frustration of actually playing.

Screenshot for Manual Samuel on PlayStation 4

In addition to these is the interesting, but poorly executed, gameplay. Samuel must remember to breathe in and breathe out while also remembering to blink in order to prevent his eyes from watering and clouding his vision. These are three separate button prompts, which is consistently required over the course of the entire game, while the two shoulder buttons, L2 and R2, control Sam's left and right leg. Sam then begins his day by trying to brush his teeth, use the toilet, and then have a shower. What starts off as quite easy soon turns into a very hard-to-keep-up-with kind of affair, where Sam might, for instance, drop dead in the middle of the lounge simply because he forgot to exhale.

Later on, combat is introduced and Sam must maintain his breathing and blinking methods, while fighting off enemies. Sam has a tendency to fall over whenever he tries to take a step forward with the same leg twice, which adds to the frustration. The middle portion of the adventure sees Sam driving a manual car to work, thus, remembering to step on the clutch in order to get the car rolling, and then increasing the gears, while remembering to dodge old women crossing the road, all the while breathing in and out and blinking, can become a lot to try to balance. Basically, it is utter lunacy.

Just to compound the issue further, sometimes button presses are not recognised and, therefore, it leads to some extremely trying moments. Pressing the right leg button may cause Sam to fall because the game did not register that step before the left step forward has been made, or he might have to breathe out twice because the first one did not quite register, and because of this inconsistency, the entire control scheme just seems to want to agitate and torture for no other reason than for pure pleasure… and not in a satisfying way.

Of course, the previously mentioned combat also controls terribly. It's no surprise that Manual Samuel was not built to be a fighting game, therefore, trying to incorporate fight sections seems really disjointed and jerky. In addition, with the controls also sometimes requiring two presses in order for the game to register a strike at an enemy, the entire thing just feels cumbersome and tiring.

Screenshot for Manual Samuel on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Manual Samuel sounded great on paper, with the weird and wacky control scheme promising a tonne of potential for some fun gameplay elements. Unfortunately, the misses really drag down the overall tone. From the unresponsiveness of some button presses, to the cumbersome deaths caused by forgetting to breathe out while trying to control a manual car, to the humour-filled moments that seem to forget the humour - it just seems like a frustrating experience from beginning to end. The story is also weird, with each character playing a caricature of a usual stereotype found in other stories, but they do not seem to come together well at all. The only thing that does flow from scene to scene is the aggravating control scheme, coupled with the equally as annoying characters, and, as such, Manual Samuel is a tough game to sell.

Developer

Perfectly Paranormal

Publisher

Curve Digital

Genre

Adventure

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

This doesn't surprise me at all - even watching the concept trailer before release, it just looked overly complicated and...well...a bit too weird for its own good.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Yeah it got a tad bit complicated and tedious with having to remember to constantly blink and breathe among playing the game. However, upon watching the initial screens of the game, I was quite optimistic with how this game would turn out gameplay-wise, but it wasn't to be.

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