Growing up in the NES era, kids could be certain of one thing: every popular movie would eventually have a game adaptation. And almost always, with but a few exceptions, movie-based games were horrid, rushed cash-grabs that had virtually nothing in common with the movie they were supposedly honouring. MANOS: The Hands of Fate is the same concept turned on its head: it’s a good game from modern times based on a terrible movie, and it relishes every minute of it.
For those of you not in the know, the original MANOS: The Hands of Fate is a low-budget, independent horror flick from the 1960s which has earned the reputation of being one of the worst movies ever made. It gained notoriety by being featured in Mystery Science Theatre 3000, a show dedicated to parodying and deconstructing bad movies. The movie has since become a seminal example of “so-bad-it’s-good” pop culture and is an absolute blast to watch, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Why would anyone think of making a game based on such a notorious bad film? Well, why not?
The game styles itself as an 8-bit platformer in the mould of a long-lost classic from the NES era. Gameplay consists of jumping and shooting while collecting coins and navigating treacherous platforms. Music and sound effects are appropriately chip-tune-like and graphics consist of pixel art with simple sprites, though there are a few modern touches such as parallax backgrounds and a film grain effect throughout.
In keeping with the movie license theme, much of the game actually doesn’t have anything to do with MANOS. Other atrocious B-movies are parodied, such as The Giant Claw and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Games are also poked at, particularly the Castlevania series and there are even subtle references to Mystery Science Theatre. It’s a love letter to retro gamers, classic movie buffs and lovers of schlock everywhere.
Of course, it wouldn’t be worth a thing if there wasn’t a decent game backing it up, and fortunately, the folks from FreakZone Games deliver. It’s a perfect encapsulation of all the things that made NES platformers so endearing, but without the nigh-insurmountable difficulty. In fact, the game is very forgiving, with a fair number of checkpoints, a shotgun power-up for better firepower, the ability to increase hitpoints, and a liberal amount of extra lives. The experience isn’t very long, but there are several modes of difficultly, secret items, achievements and even an unlockable character to encourage multiple playthroughs.
It’s available on Android and iOS, with a “Director’s Cut” edition on Steam. As of this writing, the Steam version isn’t available in South African Rands yet, but we’re working on fixing that. In the meantime, have a peek at the trailer down yonder to see what it’s all about.