If that save file tea leaf reading isn't enough to jar you out of the game, his next feat has you place the controller on the ground, as flat as you can - in the later version, your character himself nods to you, to give you the go ahead - and then, using the rumble feature, Mantis makes it skitter across the floor. Psychokinesis! But this plugged-in controllervision isn't just a simple gimmick. When the fight begins, Mantis reveals that he can read your every move, reading and dodging every button press before you can even deliver your attacks. All the while, he flits about the room, blinking the video to a black screen that reads HIDEO in the top corner. Do not attempt to adjust the picture - Psycho Mantis controls the horizontal, and the vertical.


Without pausing to consider how to outfox such a digital gremlin, Psycho Mantis is indeed, as he says, invincible. But unfortunately for him, these technological shenanigans work both ways - through he can read every button press on controller 1, controller 2 is a mystery to him. By plugging your controller into the second port, your movements are concealed, leaving Psycho Mantis as little more than a bug-eyed piƱata. It's true that once you know the solution to Mantis' little trick, the boss fight holds little challenge, but the way that you reach victory is interesting nonetheless. To beat Psycho Mantis, you have to play along with his metatextual charade, forcing you up out of your sofa to fiddle with plugs, ports, and crossed wires - the very stuff we don't want to be thinking about while playing a game. This inconvenience shows how successfully Mantis worms his way out of the game and into your space. But it also hands him a very different sort of psychic control - one over the narrative of the story itself. As you endure Mantis's taunts and tricks, you're not dealing with Metal Gear Solid as a cohesive tale, but as a whirring disc in a machine. For a few brief moments, Mantis doesn't just strain credulity, but rather breaks it over his knee, stating matter-of-factly that the game you are playing is thuddingly, resolutely unreal.

The result is the crowning moment of fourth wall breaking that Metal Gear Solid aspires to, and one that defies normal player expectations of control. So often, we're told that it is that illusive quality of "immersion" that makes our games great - the ways they conjure breadth, and entice us to follow along. But nestled deep in the guts of Metal Gear Solid's elaborate psychodrama of betrayals, reversals and revelations, is this megalomaniacal joker, out to remind us that it's all just hokum. Though Mantis' mind games resemble parlor tricks, his very presence begs the question: Who is the real trickster here - some weirdo who can read your save memory, or the writers who expect you to buy into such a cockamamie game? Psycho Mantis laughs away any illusions of immersion that the player might have, reminding them that they're playing a game, and hinting that tomorrow, they'll play something different. Through his strange little interlude, he suggests that any investment you might have into Metal Gear Solid is fleeting and illusory, just one more trick of the light.

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