Game Review: ‘Manos: The Hands of Fate’


There have been some unexpected movie franchises resurrected as games over the last few years, with everything from Ghostbusters to Jurassic Park being pulled out of the mothballs for a new interactive experience.  However, if you had told me that the infamous Manos: The Hands of Fate, arguably one of the worst films of all time, would have its own game based off of it, I would probably tell you that you were out of your goddamn mind. 

Except you wouldn’t be out of your goddamn mind, as a developer by the name of FreakZone has decided to return to Valley Lodge for the appropriately-titled Manos: The Hands of Fate for iOS.  FreakZone has taken the (oddly maligned) nostalgia for Manos and taken it to a whole new level of strangeness, styling the game after the notoriously awful NES licensed games of the 80’s, complete with fragmented plot points, questionable enemies, and punishing platform mechanics.

The game’s levels follow the events of the movie pretty accurately, at least as far as chronology goes, with the doomed Mike and his clan searching for and finding the lodge, meeting up with the satyr Torgo, and confronting the polygamous Master and his wives.  Except, in true NES-era fashion, there are dozens of inexplicable enemies populating the game’s levels, fluffing up a movie plot not known for its combat.  I may have forgotten the scene where Mike has to face off against a giant buzzard-boss in the original film, but it’s there in all its 8-bit glory in the game.

Unfortunately, much like its 8-bit forebears, Manos is viciously difficult, and its difficulty is made even more brutal by the onscreen virtual controls.  The iPhone and iPad naturally lack any sort of physical buttons for gameplay, so the game relies on a set of onscreen buttons for player control, but these buttons have such poor placement, set in an even horizontal row on the bottom of the screen, that missing a jump or a shot more commonplace than it has any right to be.  Exacerbating the poor controls are the omnipresence of random things that are all-to-willing to kill you.  The first level alone will kill you multiple times with a barrage of bottles flung from the couple necking in their parked car (remember them?), and it only gets worse at later levels where you will be greeted with a bitter reminder of your youth: a game over screen.  While grizzled old bastards like me remember, sometimes even welcome a stiff challenge, broken controls are not appreciated.

While the notoriety of Manos: The Hands of Fate allows for a certain degree of MST3K-fuelled nostalgia for the film, that luxury is not extended to its interactive counterpart.  Bad cinema can be a 90-minute diversion, enjoyed with a couple of friends and a few drinks.  Bad gaming, unfortunately, cannot be enjoyed for any reason.

Manos: The Hand of Fate is available now from the iTunes App Store.