Manos: The Hands of Fate review
Manos: The Hands of Fate has certainly left its mark on society. And I don’t mean in a good kind of way, but rather a “What in the blue hell is this?!” kind of way. The under-budgeted and poorly acted 1966 film came and went without a peep back in its heyday, but when it resurfaced as a pick for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 squad, it reached cult status and remains one of the best episodes of the show to date.
Now, with the Rifftrax team preparing to revisit this film for a live event on August 16, FreakZone Games has responded in kind with…an 8-bit video game? But if you’re worried that Manos: The Hands of Fate will be as hideous as its source material, relax. Like the MST crew, this team has made a bad thing good.
In the game, you play Michael, a guy who, along with a pair of stranded girls, needs to find a place to stay for the night as they’re stranded. After working his way through a creature-filled forest, he comes upon a strange house watched over by the twitchy Torgo, who insists they can’t come in because “the Master will be displeased.” Of course, in video game fashion, this leads to a boss battle, and, once victorious, Michael convinces Torgo to let them stay. And this is just the beginning of their problems.
The game is set up as an 8-bit classic along the same lines as the Mario and Mega Man games. You’ll jump across platforms and collect gems and coins, while also keeping an eye out for the mysterious Hands of Fate, which give you a point boost. You’ll also have to contend with a series of boss battles, including an enormous extending vulture head that’ll give you trouble, as well as…wait for it…the most evil fireplace in the world! They may seem like laughable situations, but these boss battles are just as much fun as the ones you’d find in 8-bit games of yore.
FreakZone has done a splendid job taking Manos and converting it into a great 8-bit action game. The graphics are definitely inspired by the likes of Faxandau and other RPG adventures, with their single-color backgrounds and cute little character animations. The music is good, too, with lots of fun little chiptunes, including one inspired by the original Manos theme that will leave fans grinning.
However, it’s the gameplay that’s a real surprise here. Despite needing to use the touch screen to perform your duties, the jumping and movement is handled with ideal precision in this game. You won’t be missing any jumps unless it’s something of your own doing, and your gun delivers enough of a punch to defeat most enemies – though you can also pick up a shotgun on occasion to get the point across. The game does get challenging in the later stages, so make sure you have your Mario skills ready to go by that point.
Perhaps the biggest problem Manos has is, like most 8-bit games of the past, you can’t save your progress as you go along. You’ll have to complete it in one shot – or die trying and go back to the start – which can pose a problem if you’re on the go and want to come back to it later. Still, it’s a decision FreakZone probably made keeping the retro audience in mind. They’re very loyal to this code. How loyal, you ask? They even added some traditional slowdown moments in certain parts of the game. It’s crazy.
Manos: The Hands of Fate is way more fun than it should’ve been. It takes a completely cruddy movie and turns it into a memorable 8-bit affair with excellent controls, strong presentation and an ideal $2 game price. It’s a must buy for fans of the classic MST 3K episode, or those of you who just need to scratch that retro gaming itch without the need to drag your NES out of the closet. The Master would approve.