Manual Samuel Review

One moment, I’m down in the splits because I couldn’t walk forward using my legs in the proper order, and the next I’m choking to death because I accidentally inhaled and swallowed water at the same time. No, I’m not talking about that time I got sloshed at my cousin’s wedding, I’m talking about Manual Samuel: the game that makes every bodily action a conscious and ridiculous challenge.

Nearly two years after its initial release, Manual Samuel has hit the eShop, giving all Nintendo Switch players the chance to spend a day in the life of a billionaire … on his worst day imaginable. Our “hero” is Samuel: a douchey, self-centered white boy who gets hit by a truck and finds himself waiting in line at the gates of Hell. In order to get his life back, he strikes a deal with Death, who offers to give him redemption if he can survive an entire day manually: meaning he must breathe, blink, walk, and hold his spine upright (among other things) intentionally for 24 hours.

Living Life Manually

We are given control of Sam’s limbs, eyelids, and lungs, and each body part or action is mapped to a different button. The object of the game is to juggle all of his needs by mastering and timing the controls while simultaneously completing different tasks to make it through his absurd day.

We inhale and exhale by using the Y and A buttons respectively, walk forward using legs mapped to the ZL and ZR triggers, and blink using B. Every so often, Sam’s back will hinge forward and we will have to straighten his spine using the D-pad up button. If he does not blink often enough, the display will cloud up. If he tries to walk putting the same leg forward twice, he will fall clumsily into the splits. There are no real consequences to making errors, as the game never kills you and forces you to start over again should you choose not to breathe or blink, but it’s challenging enough to control him without significant setbacks. Manual Samuel is a hilarious dance of remembering all the controls and coordinating them smoothly, and it’s bound to frustrate the crap out of most people.

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Mechanically, the game has been adapted perfectly to the Switch. The Joy-Cons are mapped seamlessly for co-op mode and the experience is clean and flawless. While there is a minuscule delay between controller input and in-game response that is somewhat apparent during boss battles or quick time events, this seems to be more of an issue with the game on all platforms over the years rather than with the Switch itself.

While I definitely enjoyed my playthrough of Manual Samuel, I will say that its tediousness is not meant for everybody. The final boss battle was so clunky and frustrating that I had to walk away from it for days before being able to muster up the patience to pick it up again. The co-op mode is far more challenging than single-player, and the synchronization it requires is a slippery slope to yelling at your partner and cursing them for not remembering to breathe or step forward at the right time. Still, the experience was much more worthwhile when playing with a friend than breezing through the game solo, and will provide you with a lot of laughs and a few solid hours of entertainment.

I love the concept and distinguished style of this game, and it’s disappointing that the replay value is virtually nonexistent. The scenes that Sam moves through are creative and well visualized, but controlling the every move of one character can only hold your interest to an extent. Without the game’s pervasive humor and cheeky narrator, it almost certainly would not hold up.

I would recommend this game for couples who want something quick and unique to play through — so long as their relationship could survive the unavoidable screaming matches when someone can’t keep their shit together — or for anyone looking to try something new in between bigger game investments. Manual Samuel will not be the pride and glory of anyone’s game collection, but it will be an entertaining and hilarious way to pass time nonetheless.

**Switch key provided by the publisher**