Just as fun (and painful) as the classics used to be
Ever go back and play some of your old favorite games from when you were young? It’s a satisfying and painful experience. First, the glorious glow of nostalgia envelops you, bringing you back to a time when control was fantastic, levels were thoughtful, and games were so carefully constructed. Then you get to “the hard part”, begin a flurry of curses that would make the devil himself blush, and go on a rant about how terrible your childhood’s games were.
If there’s any mobile title to perfectly capture this bipolar reaction, Manos: The Hands of Fate would be the one. Except for the fact that it’s brand new.
Built under the classic tradition of “this movie is popular so let’s make a game that is extremely loosely related to it”, Manos: The Hands of Fate is loosely based on the film of the same name. Considering that the film is widely regarded as one of the absolute worst films ever to see the light of day, this route was definitely for the best. In fact, Manos isn’t a bad game at all.
The adventure is so closely modeled after games of the NES era (from the NES-style App icon to the old-school sprites) that you might not even realize it isn’t a remake. As you carry Mike from stage to stage in search of the mysterious Master as you protect your family. In NES terms, you’re in for some good ol’ fashioned platformin’ and shootin’.“While the two-button game is one that clearly suits itself best to a physical controller, the virtual buttons really aren’t so bad. I found myself having little issue at all, and I was frequently able to make complex jumps and shots without much difficulty.
Stages are fairly straightforward, but have a couple of fun twists. While the game only presents you with a single weapon upgrade in the form of a shotgun, the real adventure comes in obtaining stage’s “hand of fate”. While gameplay is split up into episodic levels, each hand of fate awards you with an extension to your life meter for future levels, encouraging exploration and improvement of previous trials.
Being modeled after the NES classics meant that Manos was due for some frustrating difficulty, but a great deal of it is fair. The kanoodling car couple and heat-seaking eyeballs were particularly frustrating, but only in that perfect “man why am I so stupid?” kind of way.
“The bosses at the end of each stage, however, aren’t much to write home about. While classic bosses reward memorization and learning, most major enemies follow a randomly generated movement pattern. Because of this, I found myself having trouble with some bosses on my 10th playthrough that I had no trouble with over my first few.
My final complaint with Manos is in the demonically programmed stage 5. This stage, the only one where you move vertically and fire from an airplane, is absolutely dreadful. Despite accumulating hands of fate to increase your life bar, every hit on the airplane stage is instant death. Not only does this make the final boss encounter completely grueling, but it also creates a checkpoint that will instantly kill you 90 percent of the time if you fall around halfway through the level. Playing a perfect game from stages 1-4 and accumulating 10 extra lives, only to have everything taken away by one foul checkpoint, leaves a pretty painful sting.
All problems aside, though, Manos was a pretty addicting experience. It felt just like a game out of my childhood, and continued to call me back for another playthrough after running out of lives. There might be a few device-shattering moments of frustration, but its accurately emulated retro style is plenty of fun. Get this, and pretend the movie never existed.