I wanted to write this a long time ago, unfortunately I did not have access to a scanner, nor the particular images I wanted to talk about, however for once the gods seem to be acting in my favor, and i've miraculously come into the possesion of a lovely little printer/scanner combo machine. I decided it was time to finally talk about these manuals.
First up, we have a very special manual, one that belongs to a game most of you will know, and many of you will agree was under-appreciated. The Darkness. Unfortunately, there isn't an awful lot to actually say about this manual, so i'll let its uniqueness speak for itself.
Unfortunately, I imagine Microsoft would not allow them to forego the inclusion of the XBOX360 and Xbox LIVE logos as well as their banner across the top, but it's obvious that it was Starbreeze's intention to have the manual completely blank, there isn't one of their own logos to be seen, and I would imagine again, the legal jargon on the back also cannot be negotiated away.
I feel this is very unfortunate, because in my personal opinion, this is the greatest video game manual of all time, it's quiet, dignified, stylish, mysterious and at the same time normal. It looks like a regular old diary, obviously with a few extra blood stains, and it perfectly fits the theme of the game.
The manual itself is informative, nicely stylised and a good balance between scrawled notes that you would find in Jacky's diary and vital game information, even that is presented in a stylish fashion, making images look like poleroids that have been stuck into the diary. Equally importantly, it offers all the core information you would expect of a manual, while this doesn't sound like a phenominal achievement you would be surprised how often manuals simply forget to mention important things, like something as stupidly simple as how to open a door.
Some might see it as obnoxious, or pretentious, but I see this manual as magnificent and glorious. I simply adore it, too bad the game wasn't this great.
HITMAN: Blood Money
Hitman: Blood Money is going for a similar concept as The Darkness, however, I feel the need to bring it up to point out why it fails to give off such an aura of mystery and daring, and simply looks cheap, tacky and poorly designed. Firstly, they've shattered any and all illusion by including the IO - Interactive and EIDOS logos on the manual, secondly the font is bordering unreadable. It's a shame really because the idea of a training manual for assassins is a pretty good one, and I personally really like that name "The Professional's Methodology: Theory & Execution"
The other major factor that brings it down is that the inside of the manual does nothing to continue the illusion, each page has a rough, chalky pink background and makes no attempt to look like the old, leatherbound book that the cover alludes to, instead it switches to a different style altogether with modern looking silhouted images performing each of the various actions available to the character. Unfortunately, this is not where it ends, even without noticing the change of style, you will notice the bad design, the horrendous page layout, and poor attempts at humor dotted throughout.
Overall i'd have the say that this manual dissapoints on many levels, which is a shame, because at first glance it's a good idea, just poorly executed. Much like the game itself.
Wario Land: The Shake Dimension
It's not often I get excited, but this manual excites me. It makes me want to play, climb trees and run about like maniac, what you might call re-living a traditional childhood. And that's not even the best part, it has stickers. Fucking stickers. (Forgive the scan quality, they look much better for real)
Oh no though, the wonderment doesn't end there. They don't just give you stickers and expect you to be all "Wow, that's fucking AWESOME" ohh no. The bottom third or so of each page in the manual is kitted out to look like each of the various stage themes from the game, and Wario invites you to stage your own little Shake Dimension scene on the very pages of his own manual! It's almost more fun the the game itself. Wario even tells you how to use his own patented Super Stickers.
It hardly even seems worth it to show you, or even mention the cover art itself (but it's to the right anyway), it pales in comparison and could not hope to do justice to the sheer wonder that lies within the manuals pages. Page after page of witty (for Wario at least) commentary from the man himself about his awesome game, and how much he loves garlic. Written in a charming and hilarious fashion while maintaining the informative purpose of the manual, brilliant layout and design manages to entertain and inform while still leaving all that space to use your Wario's Super Stickers. What more could you possibly ask for? This is the level of awesomeness all manuals should aspire to.
In other news, the GI Joe movie looks shit, I tried (and failed) yet again to play Castlevania: SoTN, i've given up on MvC2 due to disconnectors not being good for my blood pressure, and I still do not understand the last 20 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey.