I’m not crazy and you’re not reading this wrong. There’s a video game adaptation of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (yes, that film, the one that gives PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE a run for its money).
What’s even more bizarre is that it’s an 8 bit game not from 1985 but rather, 2015.
As strange as this might sound, it makes perfect sense. If good movies usually make for bad 8 bit gameplay, then perhaps bad films make for good 8 bit gameplay.
If you’ve ever played an old school platforming shooter, then you know exactly what to expect from MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE. It’s basically CASTLEVANIA (with some references to the series) meets MEGA MAN. But even if you’ve never played either of those series, the enemy patterns and attacks, decaying blocks, and platforming are straight out of the NES era. And even if you’ve never played a video game in your life, it’s simply moving left and right, as well as two other buttons (jumping and shooting), making it extremely easy to figure out.
One of my biggest apprehensions of this game was the difficulty. Now, I don’t mind a challenge, but it seems so many 8 bit styled games these days, from ANGRY VIDEO GAME NERD ADVENTURES to MEGA MAN 10 to the endless slew of rogue games, seem to imply that retro means making a game as difficult as possible. Again, I don’t mind a difficult game, even a frustrating one. But a lot of new retro games try to artificially inject frustrating difficulty with unfair design choices.
Most of this stems from the fact that there seems to be a growing myth that the NES library was impossibly difficult and thus, retro games must adhere to being tough as nails. And while a majority of the NES games were nearly (or actually) impossible to beat, most of the games from DOUBLE DRAGON to MEGA MAN II to SUPER MARIO BROS. were fairly easy throughout at least half of the game.
Fortunately, MANOS understands this and it’s refreshing to play a new retro game that doesn’t have you tearing your hair out. It’s as if the team was more concerned about making a well designed game than throwing as many obstacles and unfair challenges in the name of being “hardcore”.
In fact, one of MANOS‘ main weaknesses is that it’s in fact too easy. That’s not to say that there are some very difficult spots, mainly the airplane section and the last level. But veteran players will breeze through this game in no time (although there are harder difficulty settings). And while the levels managed to still keep my on my feet, the majority of the bosses were complete disappointments, consisting of jumping over them and avoiding obvious patterns.
While the retro gameplay is hit with a few misses, the style and presentation is A+.
Rather than being “indie retro”, a game that simply slaps some 2D pixels on with some quirky chip tunes and calls it retro, this one actually looks and sounds like it could’ve been a lost NES gem.
I can’t say for sure if the specs would match an 80s console (though looking at their 256 MB Ram requirement vs. NES’ 2KB of ram, the answer’s probably no), but it sure feels like it could’ve.
Colors and sprites are limited and like the better NES games, it uses it as a strength, rather than a weakness. Like CASTLEVANIA, every level oozes with atmosphere. And also like CASTLEVANIA, there’s a chock full of monster movie references.
I’m not just referring to MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE. Any devout fan of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND will spot plenty of nods to B and Z horror films, from THE GIANT CLAW to PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. And rather than feeling like some kind of cheap pandering to nostalgia, the references and crossovers are implemented well and with good care.
However, you can’t have an 8 bit throwback without some awesome tunes. And while MANOS is far from being in the pantheon of video game soundtracks, it does a fine job with some throwback tracks that have some catchy riffs and capture the right spirit.
But the real treat here is with the sound effects. While it’s not like they had to reinvent the wheel to go through some old effect archives, it’s nice to hear some authentic, 8 bit noises, from the text noise to the classic jump sound, that brings the game to life.
While MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE might not be the perfect game, it’s the perfect recommendation for any fan of FAMOUS MONSTERS. It’s got classic monsters, b/z-movie throwbacks, and plenty of nostalgia, both in gameplay and presentation. It’s a very quick game, clocking in at about forty minutes for a first playthrough (though it’s got a second play mode and plenty of extra goodies). However, at $2.99, it’s an offer that’s hard to refuse.
RELEASE DATE: July 30th, 2015
PUBLISHER: FreakZone Games
DEVELOPER: FreakZone Games
ESRB: N/A (K-A)