Manos: The Hands of Fate, PC

Now this is a game I never thought I’d ever get to play… A game based on arguably the worst film of all time. A film called Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), and a film that is so bad that it has been known to reduce grown men to tears… And – believe it or not – I’ve sat though it twice. Yes: twice. Anyone who’s seen Manos: The Hands of Fate might want to congratulate me on that feat since sitting through the film twice requires a special kind of skill… Thankfully – as a lover and connoisseur of bad films – I have developed an immunity to [most of] them over the years, and it was with some excitement that I purchased this game on Steam and installed it…

Manos: The Hands of Fate (the film) – as bad as it is – does have a wonderful, naive charm to it that only old movies shot on film have. It also has a strange, almost nonsensical story and plot, about a family who become lost in the desert and stumble upon a sinister Paganistic cult – led by The Master.

This “naive charm” is replicated in the game, using simple sprites and 8-bit style graphics. In many ways it looks like an NES game, which I believe was the intention of the developers. Gameplay is mostly platform-based, although you do have weapons at your disposal and can even upgrade them as you go. The basic aim is to jump your way to the end of a level. Some levels scroll continuously, and other don’t. With each life you have a limited number of hearts. Hitting enemies depletes them. Falling into pits kills you instantaneously. If I had to pigeonhole Manos I would probably call it a ‘run and gun’ game because you can’t really complete the levels without shooting.

All the major characters in the film are represented in the game – including the almost legendary Torgo; The Master’s ‘Satyr’ (ie. servant). In the film Torgo is played by the tragic John Reynolds. I call him “tragic” because… well, Reynolds sadly killed himself not long after the film was completed, due to depression. And it has been well-documented that Reynolds was high on acid when they shot all of his scenes, which goes some way to explaining just how weird they are. The film; the story behind the making of the film; the film’s life now, in the modern age – all these things I believe inform the game in some way…

I wouldn’t call Manos a ‘must-have’ game – unless you’ve seen the original film. If you have seen the original film: I would definitely recommend it. It does have some surprisingly good moments (including tributes to other famous ‘bad’ films), as well as some extremely annoying ones too!

Note: these grabs are from the so-called Director’s Cut, which has enhanced lighting effects (that have the adverse effect of making some of the levels ten times harder!), and is also much more difficult than earlier versions. If you look on YouTube you’ll see play-throughs of both versions.

More: Manos: The Hands of Fate on Wikipedia
Steam: MANOS on Steam

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