Dying Never Felt So Good
By Edwin Velez
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on October 13th, 2016 for Xbox One, also on PS4 and PC
Developer: Perfectly Paranormal Publisher: Curve Digital
We blink, we breathe, and do many other routine and mundane physical actions without ever giving them much thought. Rich people probably do a lot of things without much thought outside the realms of necessary bodily action. In Manual Samuel, you will find that manually doing these actions is one hell of a task. When rich snob Sam suddenly passes away and realizes that life in Hell is hard work, he strikes a deal with death to come back to the world of the living. The catch? He has to live manually for 24 hours to seal the deal. Players will guide Sam through this eventful day, taking every opportunity to breathe before passing out, blink before your eyes dry, and generally just staying upright to keep on going. Why does being rich have to be so hard?
Perfectly Paranormal, the team behind the game, has put together a fantastic, hilarious, and original adventure with Manual Samuel. It feels like a click and point style adventure, with little pointing and mostly clicking. Players literally have to make Sam breathe, walk, and blink using individual actions. The controllers back triggers help him walk, with the left trigger being attributed to the left leg, and the right trigger moving the right leg. Take two right steps and you will be doing the splits in no time. Breathing requires both inhaling and exhaling as it should, but be careful! Exhale too much and you’ll be blue in the face and surely pass out. The controls alone give way to how funny the games is. Falling and failing to successfully multitask easily lead to some laughs. The laughs are only stretched by the amazingly written and spoken scripts attached to the story.
As I mentioned before, Sam strikes a deal with Death. Gullible and looking to return to said lavish life, Sam eagerly (not really) takes him up on his offer. Post death, Sam will not be doing much speaking as it requires a lot of concentration and effort (though there are some segments where you painfully whip up a few words together). Most of the dialogue is brought to you by one of two narrative voices, as well as Death himself, who is with you for the duration of your day. Now this is not your typical rendition of Death, with a deadly gaze and scythe to match. This is more of a douchebag Death, who speaks with slang, poses as a skateboarder when he can’t even kick flip, and wants little more than the shreds of life in your pocket (these shreds are currency in Hell). Death has a lot of shortcomings with his life in Hell, and since Sam has so many shreds of life because of his lavish upbringing, he is looking to make his biggest score in centuries. Death brings much humor to the game by way of constantly messing things up to the point where he is scared that Satan will have to get involved. He also decides to follow Sam around to ensure his failure at surviving the 24 hours, getting to keep all his shreds and not having to fulfill his deal in the process. His lines, as well as the narrator’s, are exceptionally written. They are full of wit, often dark, and just generally put the punch in punch-line. The game is truly charming as a whole.
Featuring 10 short chapters, the title is not all that long. The story, however, is paced well and has plenty of laugh out loud moments that keep you interested. I had not anticipated that I would be fighting enemies at any point. Come to find out chapters later, I am in a huge mech suit shooting at some robots that have gone on the fritz. Across my adventure I also learned to drive stick shift, drink without choking, sword fight, and even pee while staying balanced. The game is highly interactive and rewards you for exploring these interactions. Using a clever hashtag system, the game alerts you with hilarious hashtags each time you stumble upon a hidden interaction. Some of these interactions have effects on the story later on. A lot of the game has foreshadowing, which I noticed the second time around. It makes jokes land a second time, when you realize that the game is written that well to the point where you notice something new each time around.
In addition to the single player story, there is also a co-op mode as well as a time trial mode. The co-op mode features the same story, except that this time around Sam’s bodily functions are being performed simultaneously by two players. You can pick and choose what body parts to take control of and it adds another hilarious way to experience the game. Time trial mode lets you replay six of the eight chapters in a race to the finish. It requires a lot of practice and patience to master Sam’s movements in order to get the coveted gold medal, but it will really polish your skills! The game as a whole is a delightful experience. You really can’t beat well written humor and a surprising amount of engagement. The concept is just flat out awesome and Perfectly Paranormal has created quite a gem of an adventure. Fans of Octodad and QWOP alike would be remiss to sleep on this one, but the gaming community in general should really look into it if you even have just a hair of a sense of humor. Manual Samuel will have you on your back with laughter, and surely leave you in stitches.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 9/10
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