I haven't chuckled this hard at a game since… well. I honestly can't remember the last time I had a really good laugh over a game. But Perfectly Paranormal's Manual Samuel? It really cheered me up at the end of a busy first day of GDC.
As you can probably already tell by the screenshots, it looks like a stylized cartoon – something you might watch on Adult Swim late of an eve. It stars Samuel, a particularly rich fellow who apparently has it all. Girls. Moolah. The works. He doesn't have to lift a finger to do anything.
However, one fine day he loses an argument with a septic tank truck, meets Death, and subsequently attempts to bargain for his life. Death, in this game wearing a baseball cap and hoodie combo, thinks for a minute and has a proposition. If Samuel can live "manually" for 24 hours, Death will spare him. Of course, Samuel agrees to this, and this is where you, the player comes in – as the person responsible for helping Samuel live through his "manual" day.
Turns out that Sam is utterly incapable of doing anything himself. Even breathing. This you learn fairly quickly after discovering Sam lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. He starts turning blue until you press X on the joypad to take a breath in, and hit B to breathe out. Remember those buttons, because you'll be pressing those a lot. If you don't, Samuel will turn blue and keel over. And yes, I'm being serious. Throughout playing the game, you have to make Sam breathe. Oh, and blink too. That's important as well, because if you don't – and I forgot to blink a lot – the screen starts to fade out and blur until you can barely see anything.
Rounding out the fundamentals is pressing up on the D-pad to maintain Samuel's posture. If you don’t do that at regular intervals, he'll slump over and won't be able to walk properly. Speaking of which, walking is done using the trigger buttons, with left moving the left leg, and right moving the right. Timing is particularly critical to make Samuel walk, otherwise he looses his footing and falls to the ground. And you don't want to do that, if only because getting up requires you to press up, and then move the correct foot forward to stop yourself from accidentally doing the splits, which is surprisingly easy.
At this point, you might be wondering what the hell kind of game this is, and all I can say is that it's a damn funny one. Trying to get Samuel to move around sounds like a chore, but it's a real laugh. Getting the cadence right on his walking is just fun, and remembering to blink and breathe is just utterly ridiculous, but strangely absorbing. And we haven't even gotten to the game proper, yet.
In the short GDC demo I played, Samuel had to take a shower (using the bumper buttons to coordinate his hands to scrub his body correctly), empty his bladder (using the bumper buttons to help him pee straight – I failed and had to take another shower), put on some clothes (a nightmare QTE-type game of complicated button presses), eat some food (another button-pressing mini-game), and drink some coffee (you know how it works by now). And all the while I had to remember to breathe, walk properly, blink, and stand upright.
I can only liken Manual Samuel to the video gaming equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. It starts out hard, but once you start concentrating, you get into a zone where you can do it. Now combine that with a really funny cartoon character who has slapstick reactions to doing things wrong, and add in some seriously sarcastic in-game messaging telling you helpful things like when you forget to breathe, and you have Manual Samuel, one of the strangest – and funniest – games I've played in years.
Parts of the game reminded me of QWOP (look it up if you've never heard of it), and it's also part QTE game, but done in a way that's just really clever (and I hate QTE games). I just loved playing it, and can't wait to give it another go. I'm just really intrigued to see how Samuel's day pans out – and what other crazy crap the game is going to have me do.
There's no current release date as of yet, but the game is expected to be out sometime this year.
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