iPad App Review: “Manos,” The Hands of Fate
(Available in the iTunes App Store for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Requires iOS 5.1 or later. Price: $1.99)
Ever since my cousin introduced me to Mystery Science Theater 3000 one December evening, I have been a fan of the show. Over the years, I’ve seen almost all of the films they have reviewed, with some that were downright hilarious…and others that were downright painful.
Several films that the group on the Satellite of Love endured, received a second life due to their appearance. One that gained notoriety due to the show, was Manos: The Hands of Fate. The story followed a small family attempting to find The Valley Lodge, and instead, end up at a strange house overseen by a shaky, large-legged fellow named Torgo. Though Torgo advises the family to go away, the father of the family claims they should stay the night, much to Torgo’s claims that “The Master will not approve.”
Many have taken fandom of the strange film to heart, but one of the most impressive from a pop-culture standpoint, has been the 8-bit inspired game created by FreakZone Games. Unlike the film that seems to plod along at a slow and boring pace, there’s more than enough to keep you wide awake as you attempt to make it through the game.
Taking on the role of the family patriarch in the film named Mike, it’s up to you to make it through the game’s eight levels, armed with jumping skills, and a handy revolver. You can also find shotguns throughout the game, but I guarantee that you won’t have one in your possession for very long.
What makes this 8-bit game so much fun, is that its developers remembered numerous 8-bit games from the 1980’s that were film adaptations and thought: “Wow! They really put alot of stuff in those games that weren’t in those movies!”
I myself have memories of such games, notably Back to the Future and The Goonies II. Yes, The Goonies never got a movie sequel, but a Nintendo game sequel that for some reason, turned Kerri Green’s character Andy into a mermaid, which Mikey and his friends need to find in a mind-numbing series of caverns. You encounter everything a frozen cavern, lob molotov cocktails around (I’m not making that up!), and find several strange persons that make one wonder just what they are doing in the nearby caverns of Astoria, Oregon.
The developers of Manos took all that they experienced, and poured those memories into this game. There’s enough of the film’s ‘plot’ throughout, along with numerous situation and character references. However, the film would make for a very boring video game, so they’ve spiced it up with plenty of annoying obstacles, and several cameos from other films that appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
A few choice cameos from those films include:
Remember when you played 8-bit games as a kid, and some levels or bosses would be so frustrating, that you’d throw a fit? Yelling out loud, pounding on the controller, wondering why after 48 tries you still couldn’t beat that specific boss? Well, Manos recreates those feelings and much, much more! This ain’t a cake walk, folks. If you want to make it through the Valley Lodge, you’re gonna suffer in a way that only old-school 8-bit can provide. I swear, by the end of the game, you’ll never want to look at another couple in a car drinking and necking again.
However, several of the levels give one the ability to level-up their health with some hidden ‘crystal hands’ laying around. If you collect them all, you’re treated to a special ending…if you can last that long.
The creators of the game also have a little fun with the design of some levels. Several allow you to go left and right, while others will have you at the mercy of the game as the screen moves along, and you try to keep up. The designers even have fun with one level, whose stylings look eerily similar to a game released in 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
If there’s one fly in the ointment for this i-based games, it’s in the controls. I played my copy on an iPad2, and found my left thumb fumbling a few times attempting to hit the directional arrows. I can only wonder what these controls are like on an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Some may even find sheer terror in the fact that the game has no save or password feature. Better shut yourself off from the kids, your girlfriend, or that home improvement project that’s almost finished. My first play-through took about 60 minutes, but after playing it several times, I was able to make it through the game in 20 minutes.
When it comes to making purchases on Apple’s Appstore, I’m still somewhat of a cheapskate. However, I have to say I don’t regret the $1.99 that I dropped on this game. It really is a fun little time-waster, and I was more than happy to support such a whimsical homage to one of television’s greatest series, and one of the biggest ‘stinkburgers’ of a film they had to sit through. I’ve made sure not to reveal too much, as some areas will have you laughing out loud, and others going: “…WHAT THE-!?”