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Whaaat? You thought I was going to review the movie? Fuck no! Do I really need to point out everything wrong with one of the WORST MOVIES OF ALL TIME?
But if you don’t know anything about the movie, I’ll sum it up.
Manos: The Hands of Fate was a B-movie made in 1966 on a budget of $19,000. The movie was a result of its director, Harold Warren, making a bet with a screenwriter named Stirling Silliphant—known for writing Dirty Harry and also happened to be a student and close friend of Bruce Lee.
Warren himself was an insurance and fertilizer salesman but had taken a great interest in theater. With a phenomenally low budget and some help from local theater actors and models, he was able to stitch together a full movie.
And of course, the movie bombed big time. Supposedly, none of the actors got any compensation for their work and even Warren himself acknowledged that this may have well been the worst film ever made.
But sometime in 1993, almost thirty years later, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) featured an episode that brought the movie to a larger audience. And needless to say, the audience was just enthralled by how strangely put together the movie was and its infamous behind-the-scenes history.
And eventually, the prints for the movie were found and were remastered for a BluRay disc by the end of 2015. And the movie is now in public domain, kept as a historical record for all to witness the horror… of how bad it is.
It really falls into the “so bad it’s good” category of bad movies. It does leave quite an infamous legacy behind, but it is definitely one of those movies that is easy to make fun of.
And yeah, the title of the movie is literally Hands: The Hands of Fate. Or you can call it Manos: The Manos of Fate or Hands: The Manos of Fate. Because we are using a Spanish word for some reason!
And so, we get to our review of the day: the video game adaptation (and yes, it’s made by the same people who developed Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures).
It’s the Battleship Bird boss!
Yeah, this is as odd of an idea for a video game as it could get. It’s pretty rare for video games based on movies to do well. But this time, we have an infamously bad movie to base a game on. And it’s…!
Actually pretty fun. No, I’m serious.
The game is not only an homage to classic NES games, but also an homage to the MST3K TV show. For some, this may be a disservice because the game is not completely focused on the original movie. It’s more to service fans of MST3K and 8-bit video games.
Anyways, let’s give a breakdown.
The game starts off with a cutscene that faithfully represents the movie. Several of these cutscenes occur right before a level, often portraying some of the movie’s hilarious moments.
Some quick context of the story: on the way to a place called Valley Lodge, a family is forced to stay at a strange house where they encounter some bizarre cultists led by a man referred to as The Master. Things go to Hell real fast as the Master awakens from his slumber.
I aM tOrGo. I TaKe cArE oF ThE pLaCE wHIle tHe MAstEr iS aWay.
Yeah, the original story was pretty bad and hammy, but the game did capture some of its bizarre charm very well.
The gameplay is somewhat like Mega Man. You play as Mike, the male lead of the movie, as you jump on platforms, shoot at things with your revolver, and… yeah. That’s pretty much it.
Reach the end of the stage. Defeat the boss. Next level!
If you’re expecting a lot of variety, you’re not going to find it here. Whenever Mike uses his revolver, he comes to a dead stop before firing a shot. This requires you to time your shots before the enemy reaches you. Thankfully, jumping shots give you freedom of movement.
There is only one power-up and that is the shotgun. It has a spread shot and kills almost anything the bullets come in contact with. If you get hit, you lose the power-up.
You can also find one glowing Hand of Fate through each level, some of which are hidden though generally not hard to find. You will need to remember the location of each if you want to make it through the game in higher difficulty levels, especially Hardcore and Nightmare. Not only do they increase your max health, but they also fully heal you.
Overall, the gameplay is nothing special but still reasonably fun if you maintain low expectations.
But get this. One common complaint about this game is that it’s “frustrating.”
Something tells me those people have never played a NES game in their lives. Or I could be jumping the gun because I have apparently played the later release of the game, after some glitches of the older versions have been amended.
The complaint of “the game is bad because it’s hard” does get to me sometimes, because I felt that the challenge here was fair for the most part. This is coming from a guy who got his balls rocked by Ninja Gaiden at the age of 5.
Yeah, not to toot my own horn but I managed to complete the Nightmare difficulty after learning from how to get better at the game. I’ve played my share of games with cheap, unfair difficulty. And this is not one of them.
However, there is the one level based on Plan 9 from Outer Space, another legendary bad movie. Not only is it a pain in the ass to try to beat the level without dying once—with no checkpoints, shotgun powerups or health recovery—it’s a pain winning this boss battle. You are up against three enemies here, but you only need to defeat Zombie Clay and Zombie Vampire Lady since the UFO is indestructible. Avoiding any of them is barely possible, plus the two zombies inflict a lot of damage when you come in contact with them. It’s easily the most difficult boss fight in the game.
I also found myself at odds with the wonky hit detection. While it’s not terrible, it’s jarring at best and can really mess with your jumps.
The game’s imagery and soundtrack follow pretty closely to the movie. Even if you consider the actual movie’s music to be really cheesy, the chiptunes here are actually quite charming. I often find myself humming the first level’s track, which is based on the background music for the movie title slide.
And while the goofy scenes are still around, I actually find the game slightly creepier than the movie itself. It’s a weird sensation. I guess the film grain and the spotlight effects add a lot to the feel of the game.
Overall, is it a great game?
I probably wouldn’t go that far. It’s a very short game and admittedly it’s flawed. For you to really appreciate the game, you would have to either watch the movie or watch the MST3K episode of it to catch on to the various scenes and references to other movies.
Hell, there are even references to other video games.
That is definitely Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.
I enjoyed the game for what it is. It’s not spectacular; even for a video game adaptation of a horrible movie, it has garnered a respectable amount of positive feedback. So I guess we have a cult hit game of a cult hit movie?
I don’t know. But if you’re a fan of the movie, MST3K or just want something to satiate your retro gaming fix, give Manos: The Hands of Fate a try.
Manos: The Hands of Fate$2.99
- The run-and-gun gameplay is simple and straightforward.
- The cutscenes follow the movie pretty closely, capturing their glorious hamminess through an 8-bit lens.
- The look and sound design of the game do spectacularly well to capture the essence of the movie as well as other notoriously bad movies.
- Hardcore and Nightmare difficulties provide a good challenge for the more sadomasochistic players.
- Torgo Mode… just… Torgo Mode.
- The lack of gameplay variety may make the experience feel lacking and repetitive.
- The game is pretty short, taking around 30 minutes to complete Normal difficulty.
- The knockback effect is very abrupt, often leading to cheap deaths with little recovery.
- Some sounds (like the one made by the UFOs) are loud and annoying.