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Interview with the Developer of the ‘Manos’ Game

A quick Q&A with Sam Beddoes, developer at Gloucester, England-based FreakZone Games, who oversaw the creation of the game.

Q. Tell me a little about your company. How many games have you created?

A. Before “MANOS” there was “AWESOME Land,” the platformer parody which put FZ on the map, but I’ve been creating games since I was about 7 years old! I used to type in BASIC on an old Acorn Electron (think Commodore 64, only more British) and got to know how game design works, and I’ve been putting together games as a hobby ever since, and a lot of FZ’s current projects are based on games I designed and built as a kid. It wasn’t until the wonder that is iPhone that I decided to go commercial.

Q. Tell me about the the genesis of the game How did the idea for it come about?

Oh, man, well, I love “MANOS.” I mean I love to hate “MANOS,” but don’t you find that there’s something just so… loveable about it? Torgo has to be one of the most… unforgettable characters in cinema history. I and my ‘bad movie buddy’ who worked with me on the game love to watch terrible films we can find at £1 shops (99-cent stores) and riff over them MST3K style and the idea of a “MANOS” game adaptation just sort of became a running joke. It was upon reading about the film’s public domain status that we realised it was an actual possibility. We went through a few ideas of how to adapt “MANOS,” notably a Shadowgate-esque ‘point and click’ adventure, but nostalgically watching Cinemassacre’s “Angry Video Game Nerd” rant about all of the crazy video game adaptations of movies back in the ’80s and the wonderfully nonsensical nature of them was what made me realise what “MANOS” was destined to be.

The beauty is the way “MANOS” was this uncovered relic from the past, something swept under the rug which the MST3K crew just sort of stumbled upon and resurrected it, and I created the game with the limits of the 80s Nintendo Entertainment System console so that it almost felt like another ‘dug up relic’, as if the game had been created in the 80s and that the iPhone ‘resurrected’ it in the same way MST3K did the film… If that makes any kind of sense…

In the research stages we noted how movie adaptations on the NES took even the most basic concepts from a film and turned them into hazards and enemies – for instance, Home Alone 2 pretty much takes any object you could imagine to find in a hotel, from vacuum cleaners to lamps to room keys, brings them to life and has them attack your character – and the whole idea of bringing events from the movie to life as obstacles in the game was born. The long, lingering and somewhat pointless shot of the fireplace in the Valley Lodge (with two musical stings for the price of one for some reason) became a boss battle with angry fireplace ornaments, the (completely pointless) scenes of the kissing couple knocking back the booze was turned into an enemy, Mike’s tussle with some stock footage of a snake became the common desert snake enemy (named “Squirm” in the end credits, as a nod to MST3K fans) and so on.

Q. How long did it take to develop, from first idea to final product?

A. The concept has been kicking around FreakZone for quite some time, and the “research” stage involved playing a heck of a lot of old NES games (good and bad) and… *shudder* repeatedly watching the film, but the actual development time was a few months.

The most challenging tedious part was repeatedly watching the movie again and again to try and memorize the music, then recreating it in 8-bit, but somehow making those bizarre lounge melodies into something catchy. We knew that was something we wanted to do (it couldn’t work without the “haunting” Torgo theme, but I find the film’s strange interpretive jazz score to be equally bizarre and memorable) and I think the OST came out great but it was a heck of a challenge and I’ll be glad to never have to watch this disaster of a movie again… At least not until the next time I get to that episode of MST3K. ;P

Q. My sense is that this isn’t just about “Manos” and that it’s sort of a tribute to MST3K generally, with lots of characters from other MSTed movies popping up.

Well, MST3K and bad movies/B movies in general, and even “bad” games. For example, the line “What a horrible night to have a curse !!” comes from CastleVania II: Simon’s Quest, a legendary disappointing video game sequel, even the odd punctuation (the space followed by two exclamation points) is a throwback to old school video games like Zero Wing, and the character’s death animation is a reference to Alex Kidd in Miracle World on the Sega Master System.

Whilst designing the enemies and bosses for the game which don’t exist in “MANOS”‘ plot, I felt that it’d be great to reference other classic bad movies and of course, with that, there comes MST3K episodes but there are also a lot of references to classic bad movies that MST3K never managed to cover, such as “TROLL 2” and “The Giant Claw.”

But of course, it couldn’t be “MANOS” without referencing MST3K, we owe the knowledge of this movie to the show. Some nods are more subtle than others – the decaying old gumball machine in the lobby of the Valley Lodge will look very familiar to MSTies, but any MSTie who makes it to the end credits will enjoy some of the names of even our completely original monsters, and even some more abstract references, such as skulls that scream (‘screaming skull’), hands that crawl (‘crawling hand’). The number of times we changed the “Valley Lodge” sign to read “Valley Loogie” to see if the testers would notice…

There are a few things we didn’t manage to get in in time for release but hope to include in future updates, such as a stage where Torgo attempts to kill Mike with a forklift, and an invasion of aardvark-like aliens who come from pods. I even wanted to include a Death Ray with it’s own “bah ba-dah ba-da-daah” theme music but we have to be careful for legal reasons.

Note that there are two endings, the fate of Mike and his family depend on whether or not you manage to find and collect all of the crystal Hands of Fate.

Q. How much does it cost and what kind of devices can play it? Where do they go to download it?

It’s $1.99 on the iTunes store, if you have an iPhone (3GS or later), iPad or iPod Touch (3rd generation or later), you can play it right now! Anybody without a shiny Apple device can get the Android version, coming later in the year, and failing that we’re hoping to get it out on PC and Xbox Live Arcade by the holidays.

Q. What’s next?

A. In the future we hope to maybe adapt a couple of other bad movies in this style if possible. We already have some concepts down for “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” and I dream of some day managing to get the rights to adapt “Future War” (come on, lets see a game about punching dinosaurs and cyborgs!) and “TROLL 2.” We have designs for a “MANOS” sequel but hope to see if we can affiliate with the producers of the new ‘Search for the Valley Lodge’ film. Torgo also returns to cameo in a few games we are working on and might even see his own adventure.

20 Replies to “Interview with the Developer of the ‘Manos’ Game”

  1. DeeJay says:

    Looks like it’s taken more than a little bit of inspiration from the unbelievably bad Friday the 13th game from the 80’s. Seems interesting enough to drop $2 for.

       1 likes

  2. Captn Ross Hagen says:

    THIS IS COOL.

       1 likes

  3. clonus says:

    now THIS is how you pay homage to Manos. intelligent and fun. will definitely be getting this one.

       1 likes

  4. BIG G BERGER says:

    we seem to be spending a lot of time on manos.anyone?

       1 likes

  5. Kathy says:

    They have a high standard to meet with the online game based on “The Room” out there…and that one’s free.

       2 likes

  6. sol-survivor says:

    When the Android version comes out if it can be used on a Kindle Fire, I’m in.

       1 likes

  7. Don says:

    Kathy isn’t kidding, there is a real “The Room” Video Game

    http://www.vulture.com/2010/09/play_the_room_the_video_game.html

       0 likes

  8. Disco 3:16 says:

    On a related note, August 4th marks the World Re-Premiere of the restored Manos, here in El Paso, Texas. Details here:http://plazaclassic.com/films.php

       0 likes

  9. Dr. Batch says:

    Playstation Network please.

       1 likes

  10. A. Lurker says:

    Will definitely hold on until Android or Xbox version comes out.

       1 likes

  11. Zor Prime says:

    There is NOTHING disappointing about Castlevania II.

       0 likes

  12. Raptorial Talon says:

    A game that takes inspiration from MST3k *and* the Angry Video Game Nerd (*and* The Giant Claw *and* Zero Wing)? I never planned on owning more than the most utterly basic phone I could find, but I think I have to play this someday . . .

       0 likes

  13. Of no account says:

    Yes, bring it to PSN! I suppose my under-powered PC should be able to play it, though.
    I’ve been debating getting a tablet of some sort, so this might be enough of an incentive to finally do so.

       0 likes

  14. syferdet says:

    Man, stage four is like, “So, you think you’re good at this game? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAYOU’RESTUCKHERE!!!”

    And, Zor Prime @11, I think the fact that you had to go to Nintendo Power to find out about the tornado, the Grim Reaper was too darn easy, and that dang interruption every 5 minutes with it changing from night to day was enough to set me against it.

    Agree with the AVGN 100%.

       1 likes

  15. halfmoonmaiden says:

    The fact that I can fully grasp all the references made in this interview fills me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I believe this is what they (or perhaps only I) call ‘geek joy.’ I am proud of all the semi-obscure information I have stored within my brain. However, my ‘geek’ well is not that deep. I enjoy looking at ‘geeky’ things, but there are so many that I don’t have a vast working knowledge of any. Please forgive me.

       0 likes

  16. Raptorial Talon says:

    @15 It’s not just you . . . it’s just where some of us belong.

    We all have different emphases within the geek disciplines, so don’t worry too much about not knowing just anything and everything. For example, I’m mostly a space-opera and technobabble buff, with inroads into various other subjects, while some of my friends are into comics or collectibles or different genres of TV and film. Be proud of your areas of focus!

       1 likes

  17. lancecorbain says:

    15-completely understand and identify, I’m a fan of too many things to really be an expert at anything. There are only so many hours in the day. I think I caught all the references as well, but I’m almost 40, so for me, it’s mostly just a bunch of useless crap piled up over the years.

       0 likes

  18. Warren says:

    I don’t know if I’ll get the Manos game but it looks interesting for an NES-style throwback. Incidentally if Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest had had an in-game map and stored the things villagers told you, so you could bring up the statements without writing it down on actual paper, the game would’ve been more popular and maybe fewer people like me would have got stuck. I’m never getting rid of my copy, same goes for the other two NES Castlevania titles.

       1 likes

  19. schippers says:

    DLed it last night, and it’s a lot of fun. Fighting the space turkey from “The Giant Claw” is a highlight, as are the great chiptuned Manos tunes.

       0 likes

  20. Cronkite Moonshot says:

    I have to agree with Zor Prime that Castlevania II is a great and innovative game. I believe it’s the first video game with a day/night cycle (at least the first one I ever remember seeing), and it took what was a fun but straight forward platform game and turned it into a grand exploration quest style game along the lines of Metroid, but still managed to keep all the same platforming fun of the original. Personally I was disappointed when the third game came out and they had ditched all those cool things. That felt like a step back, not forward.

       0 likes

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