Press X to Breathe: Manual Samuel Is Helpless Without You

Manual Samuel HERO image

We love it when indie game developers try some new, crazy, unique, or bizarre. It’s what makes so many of the awesome ID@Xbox games really stand out. Manual Samuel is one of those games. The weirdest little title to come out of this year’s Game Developers Conference, Manual Samuel gamifies the very notion of living.

The premise is a bit twisted. Samuel, a spoiled young rich guy, “tragically” dies and meets up with Death. He persuades Death to give him a second chance, wagering that he can survive 24 hours while executing every one of his bodily functions manually. In other words, everything – from breathing to simply standing up – requires constant, active thought and effort on Samuel’s part, or else he’ll die.

As gameplay mechanics go, this translates into sort of a QWOP-meets-rhythm-game-meets-adventure-game scenario. Press A to blink, X to breathe out, Y to breathe in. The triggers control Samuel’s legs, the bumpers control his arms, and the D-pad controls his spine. Using these controls, you have to try to get Samuel showered, dressed, and out into the world… without tripping, choking, or otherwise killing him.

It’s just as weird as it sounds. As Samuel maneuvers through his house and job, a disembodied voice narrates the procedure in real time, with very humorous changes depending on how well you’re doing. Many aspects in Samuel’s life can be failed, and the game trudges on. Failing to drink coffee doesn’t kill you, but it does cause Samuel to throw scalding hot fluids in his own face.

From a distance, Manual Samuel looks simple – but when you’re playing it, the game requires a lot of concentration. We found ourselves getting sucked in, especially as we started to settled into a rhythm. The developers did a great job of pacing out new challenges; as soon as we started to get the hang of something, another new obstacle (like stairs) presented themselves.

The hilarious characters and humorous background elements – like the skater dude-ish Death accompanying you on your journey – make Manual Samuel as entertaining to watch as it is to play. We can’t wait to see where Samuel’s misadventures take him when Manual Samuel releases for Xbox One later this year.