Manual Samuel Review
Updated: Jan 19
Manual Samuel is one of those games that are just so strange and absurd that you can't help but love it despite its annoying flaws. Manual Samuel puts players in the role of Samuel, a rich, spoiled brat who has never had an ounce of responsibly. He is rude, selfish, neglects his girlfriend, awful at his job and still lives off his daddy's dime. So when he suddenly gets hit by a truck and dies it no surprise he ends up in hell. Upon entering hell he meets Death, a skateboarding punk who offers Samuel a deal. Death will return Sam to the land of the living but he must survive a whole day manually controlling his bodily functions.
Manuel Samuel's main focus is its kooky narrative. The story is well written but unfortunately not as funny as it tries to be. Sam barely speaks throughout the game so most of the game's dialogue comes from Death and this is where the games humor kind of falls flat. Death is just not as endearing of a character he's portrayed to be. Often, he comes off a bit annoying and is just never that funny. Thankfully the predicaments Sam finds himself in are hysterical so that more than makes up for it.
The humor of the game lies in the really strange and hysterical situations Sam finds himself in. The scenarios start out pretty mundane like simply trying to get ready for work but quickly escalates into absurdity, playing taxi for an apocalyptic horseman as she kills people or jumping in a giant mech in hopes to save an orphanage.
Gameplay consists of controlling different body parts and certain bodily functions of Sam as he navigates simple puzzles and some combat scenarios. The controls are simple enough and never get too confusing and messing up will often result in something funny. The puzzles are never too difficult and getting through them never felt like a chore but the combat, on the other hand, can become downright frustrating at times. Thankfully the game has no fail state because I found myself constantly screwing up fights and starting over. Fighting is done in real-time through a combination of various mechanics you learn throughout the game. In theory, it's clever but I often found myself tripping up and failing, which might be the point but unfortunately was not that fun. Though I still appreciated the variety and attempt at something different.
The visual design of the game is also an obvious standout. Though not quite at the level of Tim Schafer's work or Cuphead, the hand-drawn, cartoony art style is really nice and gives the game a ton of personality. Sam's character animations are awesome and varied and I always loved seeing how he would get thrown around.
Manual Samuel is short, like really short, clocking in at about an hour and a half but I think it's the perfect length for this type of game. It never overstayed its welcome and throws enough variety at you so that you are constantly engaged. Although certain aspects of the game could definitely be refined, Manuel Samuel's over the top scenarios and weirdness make this a game worth checking out.