Review: Manual Samuel

It is nice being Sam. He is rich, without doing anything worthwhile or productive ever in his life. There are no worries and no responsibilities on Sam’s horizon. Everything is going great for Sam… or at least, until the moment when a septic tank went right into Sam, sending him straight to hell. Upon his arrival, Sam learns that in hell everyone has to work, which is something Sam diligently avoided all his life. This makes him not like hell very much. That’s when Sam meets Death, wearing a baseball cap and holding skate board. Death strikes a deal with Sam; if he manages to survive 24 hours doing everything by himself, manually, Death will give him his life. They shake on it.

Developer: Perfectly Paranormal
Publisher: Curve Digital
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also Available On: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 11th of October on PlayStation 4, 14th of October on Xbox One and Steam


Previously, I was invited by Curve Digital, the publisher, to preview the game and I had a little write-up about my experience on this very website. I’m happy to confirm that I’m enamoured with the whole game just as much as I was with the first 30 minutes of the demo that I played before.

Manual Samuel is a game that will make you laugh just as much as it will make you scream in frustration at your TV screen. The game’s humour is what undeniably makes it stand out. It takes a poke at clichés or puts its own spin on them. The laughs come from the dialogue, which is well written throughout, but also from the gameplay itself: when the game says ‘live manually’, it absolutely means it. Prepare to press buttons to do everything. Sometimes for things you would expect – open doors, pick up items – and sometimes for things you don’t – breathe in and out, or blink. Sounds easy enough at first, but then try to driving a car, switching gears, breathing and blinking at the same time. Also, while you are doing that, remember, there are a lot of grannies crossing the road! Don’t run them over; it is not their time yet!


As Sam progresses through his day, from waking from death at home, getting showered, dressed, getting in the car and eventually – oh, the horror! – going to work, new mechanics, moves and abilities are unlocked. At the beginning I had trouble even walking; forgetting which leg was the leading one and consequently making Sam do painful looking splits on the floor. Several levels in, however, walking came almost naturally.

While overall the game is fairly easy to get through, there are some challenging or infuriating (underline as applicable) levels. The first one that really tested my controller-at-the-wall throwing skills was a timed segment. I had to perform a sequence of fairly simple actions and get pass an automatic door, before it shuts. However, ‘simple actions’ do not exist where Sam in concerned. You think you have everything on track? Then his back collapses. Or you get overexcited, and press the button for the same leg twice, leaving Sam in the splits. Or you drop something. Or… the list of things that can go wrong is a lengthy one. Further on, there are several boss battles (the vague reference is due to their spoilerific nature), that were equally angering and resulted in a few all caps messages to poor by-standing friends offering support in my challenging times. When you do encounter a particularly challenging area, I think, it is best to have someone with you, watching you play. They at least can defuse the situation by laughing at your miserable attempts. When you are on your own, you do end up feeling slightly – or in my case, very – angry at Sam, the game, stupid controller, the World, the Universe.


As I have alluded to before, Manual Samuel has a lovely story, which, I think, should be experienced without any spoilers. I will only add, that I love little details, like the narrator noticing when you skip the cutscene, that added humour and made the narrative more adaptable to how you are playing the game. Similarly, whenever you complete an action you unlock a hashtag related to what Sam has just mastered. Sam gets punched by his girlfriend for being a total ass? #FracturedJawbone. Make sure you do stay for the credits and post credits bits. They are definitely worth your while.

Developer Perfectly Paranormal didn’t think that operating Sam would be punishing enough, so they also added a local co-op mode. There, you can divide actions between two controllers and try to co-ordinate not only Sam himself, but also with the person next to you who, say, is operating Sam’s right leg.  It is all fun, until a frying pan mysteriously appears from the kitchen and somehow collides with your friend’s forehead. All by accident, of course. That aside, I can see this feature being very popular when playing with friends, at parties or gatherings and I am excited to try it out on the stream with my streaming partner as well. If you would like to push yourself even further, you could do both single player and co-op modes in time attack, trying to complete different levels as fast as possible.


My overall experience with the game was very smooth. However, the last level was where I encountered most difficulties. The hints (which I really needed on that level!) either didn’t pop up for me or there weren’t enough of them there. The check-pointing on that level wasn’t great either, even though I found it great throughout the rest of the game. I also encountered a few crashes on the last level, but I managed to get pass them and finish the game, nonetheless.

Humour! It’s HILARIOUS!
Detail in narration
Local co-op takes the game to the next level
There are a few levels that are really frustrating
Last level has its hits and misses

Manual Samuel is a great little game. It can be frustrating, even infuriating at times, but you can’t help but laugh while playing it. I suggest getting a few friends around, firing up the game and seeing what good old Sam is up to.

Review copy provided by Premier
Official Game Site

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