Manos - The Hands of Fate [$1.99] is a retro adaptation of the 1966 film that involves a family that accidentally stumbles upon a lodge run by a mind-controlling, polygamous pagan cult.

Confused? Stick with me, my story gets better.

Upon loading Manos - The Hands of Fate, you are greeted with a splash screen that is reminiscent of NES box art. Dig deeper and you’ll find an aesthetic that screams “Bad Movie Tie-In Game From The Late 80s”. But that is all part of the plan.

Indeed, when I consulted the scrolls after my first play through, it turned out that Manos was inspired by games like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. A solid horror movie foundation for sure. Unfortunately, those two games were awful, absolutely awful- And any feeling of nostalgia is quickly washed away by the sins of their gameplay.

So, for those of you keeping score, we have a platforming game:

  • Done in the NES style.
  • Based on a movie that only a few people have seen.
  • Inspired by some of the worst NES games.

How is it, you ask? How do you think it is?

Wait, that’s not fair, let's see if we can’t clear up some of the storyline confusion.

As far as I can tell, there is no untouched version of Manos - The Hands of Fate available for streaming. There is also no video rental location within 20 miles of my house, and I am incredibly lazy. Was I doomed to be confused forever? Luckily, no.

Amazon Prime does have the MST3K version of Manos - The Hands of Fate, so I was able to settle in and get a little knowledge on the game’s source material. One might worry that the MST3King process might sully the experience, on the contrary, it may be the only thing that kept me sane.

There is no way to sugarcoat it, the movie is awful. Shots go on for minutes longer than they should. Not because they serve a purpose, but because the script was only 8 pages long and something had to be on screen for the other 45 minutes. One wonders if they even bothered with a script, deciding instead to just ad-lib the story based on a premise. “Happy family of three stumble across cult in the middle of no where. Manos ensues.” Who is Manos? What are the hands of fate? The movie doesn’t bother to answer those questions; instead choosing to pose more. In the end, the movie managed to give me only a vague understanding of the game’s fiction, but that’s when things started to click.

It’s a funny sensation when the game’s non-sequiturs start making sense, and that sensation’s intensity grows with every passing level. The level doesn’t make sense, but recognizing things from the movie (the couple in the car, the statue, Torgo’s hand) lend a somewhat dreamlike understanding to them. I wish I could say that this second vision trip was enough to make the game enjoyable, but it is not. Understanding the fiction is not the only thing preventing one from enjoying this game.

It’s become passé to complain about virtual controls, but Manos’ gets special mention. I’d forgive a little looseness (not everyone can be League of Evil 2 [$1.99]) but they are overlaid right onto the gameplay area, and that is unforgivable. Things are fine if you are moving to the right, but forget about it if you have to go to the left. Your thumb sits right on top of the movement plane, meaning you have no time to react to anything that appears from underneath it. This problem is mitigated somewhat by playing on the iPad, but the other problems with virtual controls are only magnified by the larger screen- And the problems don’t stop there.

Nostalgia is a quick burning fuel. It can get you moving, but you then have to either keep the tank topped off, or introduce another fuel before your motor seizes. Some games, like Saturday Morning RPG [Free], have such an excess of nostalgia that it doesn’t matter how ho-hum the gameplay is, the tank stays full. Manos doesn’t just burn through it’s fuel, it does so with incredible speed.

It’s not hard to figure out why: the nostalgia fostered by the game is more pain than enjoyment. Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street were not good games. Unlike some of the classic NES titles (Mario, Zelda, Metroid, do I really need to name these?) you don’t go back to Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street to enjoy yourself, you go back to those games to remember how awful they were. It’s kind of like taking ipecac because you want to remember what it’s like to vomit.

Sure, there were moments when I would master a particularly difficult spot in Manos and feel a sense of accomplishment, but the only reason I had any motivation to master it was because I had to review the game. Had I come to that spot without that motivation, I would have swore at the game and deleted it off my phone. It’s a frustrating title, not in a good way, and certainly not in a “this is worth my time” way.

Now, I should note that if you are the type of gamer who plays hard games because they tap into the untouched portions of your advanced intelligence (or you just like telling people “Oh, it’s not that hard, you must not be good at games."), this game is right up your alley. But do not misunderstand, hard and well designed are not mutually exclusive. Manos - The Hands of Fate suffers not because it is hard, but because it isn’t well designed.

If you have Amazon Prime, you should check out the movie. The MST3K version is pretty entertaining. The game, however, is not.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarNoneNoneNone
  • thatguy87

    In the first few paragraphs, you condemn the game for being based on a notably-terrible cult film. Then in the last paragraph, you say that the movie is 'pretty entertaining'.

    More importantly, most of this review is spent complaining about finding the film and how bad the source material is. 17 paragraphs, and the game is talked about (in terms of how it plays, looks and feels) in 2 of them.

    Your final conclusion appears to be that the game falls apart as a hardcore retro platformer because it isn't well-designed. But there isn't any discussion on how the game plays, and why the design doesn't work, except that it's weird and doesn't make a lot of sense.
    Whether you liked the game or not is irrelevant: this review is completely devoid of any critical thought, a freshman attempt at bringing 'voice' into a review, through the use of some bullet points and meaningless metaphors ("nostalgia is like a quick burning fuel"), with an underhanded insult to gamers who like titles the average gamer might find frustrating or inaccessible.

    Glad to see this review had a short run at the top spot, absent of coherency, or really any kind of intelligent critical thought on any level.

  • Brandon Pollet

    I absolutely disagree with this review. I picked up Manos last Thursday and had a blast playing it. Once I hit level 5 and finally got the Game Over screen I looked up to see that I'd been playing for over 20 minutes and really enjoyed myself.

    Obviously, to each his own, but if you enjoyed playing Action platformers back in the NES days I think you'll enjoy this game. I had a lot more fun playing Manos than I do playing 'how fast can you swipe the screen' games like Infinity Blade.

    • http://www.facebook.com/donald.ronald.754 Donald Ronald

      I enjoyed playing platformers back in the NES days and now, and this game is absolutely nothing like any platformers I've ever played. Kudos to the dev for effort, but the execution wasn't there.

      • Brandon Pollet

        Out of curiosity, did you play it on the iPhone or iPad? I've only played it on an iPad 3 and I thought it played great.

        However, I did notice that if I mirrored my display to my AppleTV it would lag the controls on the iPad and make the game extremely difficult. If people are seeing that same kind of lag on the phone then I can understand the criticism.

      • pocketmego

        I agree with Donald. As both an old school Platformers fan and a fan of B-movies...I felt Manos really delivered.

        I thought the controls were just fine and the game play was fun. The lack of continues was annoying, but less so when high scores are based on speed of completion. I certainly didn't find it overly difficult or all that badly designed. Plays he nods to other Cult B-Movies were great. I loved seeing Tom Servo, Ro-Man and the Giant Claw make appearances.

        Plus the ideas used to make it a game were pretty clever. Using the ugly-ass sculpture that was in the couples room for a boss fight borders on something close to genius.

        Plus to say it plays like Friday the 13th (not a plat former) and Nightmare on Elm Street is just basically wrong. It plays like those games the same way it plays like Super Mario Bros. meaning it's only similarity is being a plat former. If I was to make any comparison at all, it would be to Castlevania, which I think it takes the bulk of its inspiration from. Appspy gave it a 3out5 normally and a 4out5 if you got the joke. I think in this rare case I'll stick with that review.

    • paulf58

      Agreed. I think the reviewer expected something else. Honestly I don't really care about the source material. I think that's part of the charm and the joke- being a "crappy tie in" to a move no one saw. The NES days had tons of these

  • http://www.facebook.com/donald.ronald.754 Donald Ronald

    Manos - The Hands of Fate suffers not because it is hard, but because it isn’t well designed.

    This is all that the review really needs. It's pretty much my feelings after playing. The design is horrible and it creates an artificial difficulty that isn't fun. Good review guys.

  • InfectiousRed

    This game is fun.

  • paulf58

    A tad harsh isn't it? I found it to be a pretty fun throwback to the NES days. The controls aren't the best but they work well enough.

    Im enjoying it as a cheap nostalgic platformer, wasn't expecting something high end.

  • slamraman

    Sh*t - I really like Manos. Had a proper blast playing it.I didn't realise I had such bad taste. Each to their own I suppose.

    • Leukotriene

      Agreed! I loved the game. I don't understand how the controls are bad at all, these are the best controls I've experienced on iOS, with League of Justice a close second.

      I've racked up at least 7 or 8 hours playing this game since I bought it last week. Just like an old fun NES game.

  • http://twitter.com/TomateDiseno Tomate Diseño

    Shame - I'm quite a fan of the movie - or at least they mythos and reasoning behind it. And for those who may be interested http://www.manosinhd.com

  • Schnapple

    I dunno, I kinda dig it. Besides the whole campy-tenuous-tie-in feel, it really bugs me that there's no good side scrollers on the iPhone. Most of them are short levels to get three stars in, like they're Angry Birds or something. It was nice to see someone try a more MetroidVania approach. 

  • TheJesusFish

    I want to say that I love you all and I'm sorry we have different opinions about Manos. At least we can all agree that Prometheus was the best film of the summer. Am I right or am I right?

  • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash BulkSlash

    I hated the game on my first play through on my iPhone 4, it wasn't until I played it on my iPad 3 that I started to really enjoy it. It's either a bit unresponsive on the iPhone or the buttons have been shrunk a bit too much to stop them blocking the screen, causing them to be easily missed.

    I thought it was more based on the Famicom game Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti given the way they both spoof various horror films, have similar shotgun power-ups and can level-up your health. Either way, the NES retro look is really awesome and I would love to see more games like this as I really enjoyed it. It does have some difficulty spikes that make it a bit unwelcoming on the first few plays, especially the insta-kill flying level but I think it's going to be on my iPad for quite a while!

  • http://twitter.com/spoonshiro Spoony Spoonicus

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  • Rothgarr

    Personally, I'm enjoying this game...

  • bigred447uk

    This review is super harsh to my mind. I'm really enjoying the game.

  • witedahlia

    What the heck?! All week Manos is 5 star. I check in today and it's down to 2 star. Then I understand: it got a big long bad review. Luckily I'm not the only one disturbed by this, and a lot of people have already defended the game. So I'll just throw in my 2 cents and say I bought it and I'm playing it and I love it. The artwork is great, the gameplay is great, and the controls are pretty good on my iPhone 4. And if you're a "fan" of the crappy cult movie, there's lots of hilarious references. 5 stars all the way IMO.

  • http://twitter.com/lanestp Lane Thompson

    Jeez, I'm loving this game. I thought the cheeky NES slaughtering of the movie's story was hilarious and the gameplay was spot on.

  • MrAlbum

    I do believe that the intent of the reviewer was to point out that just because a game has camp value, doesn't mean that it is good. "Campy" movies have been known to range all over the place in terms of actual quality, while they can still be immensely enjoyable (see: Troll 2). Games that are based on campy movies that have questionable quality have a tendency to deliberately be terrible, and/or have questionable design choices that mimic the bad/good quality of the film, in an effort for the game to be an accurate reflection of the source material... ideally, that is. Sometimes, a game just fails regardless of intent, but that is a tangent to my point.

    As far as I can tell, the reviewer's intent was to point out this fact. However, he did not qualify to its fullest extent just HOW MUCH this fact applies to the game he reviewed. If he had spent more time on the game itself, there would be far less negative feedback, since he would be judging the game more on its own merits rather than by a related, yet poorly connected and incompletely explained fact.

    The goal of the review was clear. However, we, the readers, didn't understand how the reviewer came to that goal, and why. Sometimes, reviewers slip, and that's okay. We're human. I would say for the reviewer to keep this in consideration when something similar crosses his plate again, mainly so he can give the game a more objective analysis.

    -Mr. Album

  • bacon-N-eggs

    Boo, this is a GREAT game!!!

    I think the reviewer was confused and reviewed the movie! Why so much on the movie?

    Anyways, I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this review is way off. :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SGBZOZI67JW2CJDAIBZ2PU7WX4 Jason

    Who the hell cares about the movie? This is one of the worst reviews I've read on TA.This game kicks butt and nails the NES-style perfectly. 

  • timmis6010

    Yeah, like many others here I think this game is pretty excellent. I'll just stick with user ratings.

  • ratsinheat

    Lots of duplicate IPs in these comments...

  • InfectiousRed

    I think I might have to watch out for reviews written by this guy from now on. It's just so... off.

  • Retro Nug

    Boy, I'm glad I decided to go with 10000000 this week! I almost got this instead.

  • http://twitter.com/Arcadelife JohnT321 Arcadelife

    fgh

  • DeInit

    And to look at an angle other commentators haven't yet, for crying out loud GET A BOOK. "Manos" is Spanish for "hands", you don't ask "Who is Manos?", unless you live in a cave without access to effin' Google.

    • Richenbaum Fotchenstein

      well...I'm guessing they've not only seen the movie, but know the difference between "who" and "what".

      Manos is not just a general reference to hands, it's the name of the deity the cultists worship, one that may very well be a giant hand (we don't know, as they never actually show Manos on screen), but knowing the literal translation of the word doesn't actually do anything to explain anything about the "character" or it's motivations.

      • DeInit

        First and foremost, it's the title that has been translated in the sub-title "Hands of fate", emphasis on "Hands".

      • Richenbaum Fotchenstein

        well no, that's not true. Manos and the hands of fate are two different things. might want to try watching the movie.

        and again, and more importantly, none of this has anything to do with the identity or motivation of the character Manos, which is what the guy asked about in the first place, not "what does Manos mean?"

  • http://twitter.com/XyNNN XyN

    2 Stars? SERIOUSLY? I aint gonna take a review by Brendan serious anymore since today. This game is great.

  • ItouchBrett

    So, I'm not reading a review by this guy anymore. 2 stars? Wow.

  • http://twitter.com/wulongti Christian Brock

    Is that Tom Servo in that first Screen shot? :D

    • http://twitter.com/XyNNN XyN

       Yes, should be, as far as I know!

  • http://twitter.com/MovieVigilante MovieViewer-Man

    You could easily mistake this for a review of the movie and not the game as more time seems to be spent on the former.

    As far as viewing an "untouched" version of the movie, the reviewer couldn't have searched very hard. One need only to search the Internet Archive for a copy. No "peanut gallery" jokes on this one, so you might want to prepare yourself for a painful viewing experience. I'm sure it's also on YouTube. Or you can wait for the HD version that Tomate Diseño linked to,  to come out and "clearly" see why it's a bad movie.

    As for the game, I haven't tried it yet. I'm waiting for a PC version.

  • witedahlia

    You can also search for the term "Manos" in the app store. The whole movie is there in an app for 99 cents. I found it by accident after reading this review! And yes, it's a very painful viewing experience without the MST3K commentary. As I have said several times already, the game is great. Yay developer :)

MANOS - The Hands of Fate Reviewed by Brendan Saricks on . Rating: 2