Interview: Perfectly Paranormal on Manual Samuel

Imagine a game in which your character doesn’t even know how to breathe by himself.

He doesn’t know how to stand, walk, put on pants, brush his teeth or even blink.

Well, meet Sam, the hero of Perfectly Paranormal’s Manual Samuel.

After being hit – and killed – by a truck, Sam ends up signing a deal with Death: if he is able to control every aspect of his body – even those he generally doesn’t even think about like breathing – for 24 hours, he will live.

In Manual Samuel, you will not be asked to fight demons or shoot soldiers in order to survive, but simply to take care of Sam’s bodily functions. And when you have to remember to press A to blink, X to breathe out or Y to breathe in, then being alive is not as simple as it appears.

This unusual idea came about when Ozen Dros, CEO and animator at Perfectly Paranormal, was playing survival-horror title Metro 2033.

There’s a riffle in the game that takes a lot of effort to reload and that’s were I got the idea because I was annoyed that I had to do a lot of stuff just to reload a riffle,” Dros explains.

I was like: ‘what’s next, do you want me to breathe and blink as well’? And then I think we just laughed at this idea before we decided to just make it a game.”

At Perfectly Paranormal, Ozen Dros is supported by a team of five, all friends he went to university with in Hamar (Norway). He met Manual Samuel’s programmer, Gisle Slvberg, during a game design class: You could choose what you wanted to do so I was doing the animation part and Gisle was doing the coding part. We made crappy flash games together. We then got jobs as teachers and while doing that we started living together and working on Manual Samuel. And we recruited our other friends,” he tells MCV.

So what began as a good laugh between friends is now a perfectly functional game that will be published by Curve Digital for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. But initially, Manual Samuel was supposed to be a PC title only.

But that’s only because we had no idea how to port stuff to Xbox and PlayStation,” Dros reveals.

He adds that they first decided to partner with Curve because they are very nice” but mostly because he did not know how to self-publish Manual Samuel.

"If it wasn’t for Curve, we would still be messing around with the first level. If it wasn’t for them, the game would look like crap."

Ozen Dros, Perfectly Paranormal

We were just going to release it on Steam because we know how to make computer games. And they were like: ‘we can port it to Xbox and PlayStation for you’ and we were like ‘that sounds cool, let’s do it’,” he laughs.

He then adds more seriously: We then realised it was much more than just that, because they have been also helping us with quality, testing and finding bugs. We’re making a cool game but we’re terrible human beings, we’re not good at doing stuff in time. So they helped us make a plan and follow it. And if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have done that and we would still be messing around with the first level, telling people that the game will be out in 16 years. If it wasn’t for Curve, the game would look like crap.”

Manual Samuel certainly doesn’t look like crap: the title has been well received by the early critics and has been described as a mix between Monkey Island, QWOP and even Octodad.

Our philosophy was that our game should have unique gameplay. I know it’s such a clich thing to say, but we really wanted to put in some new kind of way of playing,” Dros says. At the beginning, it was just about him doing everything manually, essentially just walking, breathing and blinking, but then we put in all those extra things that you have to do.”

And all these things to do – from drinking coffee to emptying your bladder – will also be achievable in co-op. In local multiplayer, you get five bodily functions, each one being assigned to a player,” Dros explains. The reason we have local multiplayer is because we’ve shown the game to a lot of people and we keep seeing people trying to play on the same controller.”

It seems that Manual Samuel has everything it needs to be the world’s most unusual party game.

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