Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you had to do everything manually? Blinking, breathing, walking: what if your body just decided it wouldn't do them automatically anymore. Well, in Manual Samuel you are tasked with keeping Samuel alive for a whole 24 hours by completing automatic bodily functions manually.
You begin the game as Samuel, an ungrateful, spoilt son of a b...billionaire, who has never lifted a finger in his life. One day, however, his life takes a turn for the worst when he is hit by a truck and killed. Going straight to Hell, he is then forced into a deal with Death, a snapback wearing skeleton that has always dreamt of landing a kick flip on a skateboard. A deal is struck between the two and Samuel will come back to life as long as he can survive a day while being manually handled by you.
The game is a linear 2D sidescroller that lasts about three hours to complete and is broken up into sizeable sections of a typical day: waking up and getting ready, driving to work, working, and so on. The main gameplay and basic controls are what make this game very quirky in comparison to other titles, as you use the triggers (L2 and R2) to move each leg forward one step at a time; if the wrong one is pressed Samuel will fall into the splits position and you'll have to recover. Also, while walking, you have to use X to blink when Samuel's eyes start to go red or the screen goes blurry; square to breathe in and circle to breathe out when Samuel's face starts to change to a blue or purple colour. If that's not enough, then on occasion your back will give way, and you'll collapse to the floor and have to pick yourself up using the d-pad.
Once you've got a grasp of the controls you'll then have to get washed, brush your teeth, get dressed, and eat before heading out to work. The game then continues to throw more elements at you, like driving a car, in manual of course with a clutch and a gearstick to change up. The added elements keep the game intriguing and give it a sense of depth that it is otherwise lacking. We really enjoyed our first hour with the game as the controls felt challenging and interesting to work with, however after an hour they began to become taxing and frustratingly repetitive, especially keeping Samuel breathing and blinking for hours on end.
The whole game's story is voiced over by a sarcastic narrator who constantly makes quite controversial jokes about the situations Sam gets himself into with his disabilities, and, although some are hilariously funny, we couldn't help but feel bad laughing at them as in reality people actually suffer from similar disabilities. For instance, should Samuel stumble down a set of stairs, the narrator quips: "Samuel decided to hurl himself down the stairs." The humour is very controversial throughout the game, and although it may seem silly and harmless, it is rather insensitive and offensive to those people that suffer from these conditions or similar ones.
Manual Samuel is a short but interesting title, however its gameplay gets very repetitive and infuriating quickly with the constant blinking and breathing. The game's controversial approach to humour also dampens the experience and makes it difficult to enjoy the best bits without feeling guilty for laughing at something you feel like you really shouldn't.