I don’t really have fond memories of every game series from my youth. It’s not to say that the games were bad, but I just don’t think about The Adventures of Lolo, Kid Icarus or Ninja Gaiden anymore as they hold no nostalgic draw to me, unlike what I’ve seen with other fans of the series’.
I admit that I’d not heard of The Messenger before I was asked if I wanted to review it, but looking at the screenshots I could only think of one thing, Ninja Gaiden. Despite my lack of nostalgia or happy memories of playing that series, there was something about how the developers seem to have perfectly captured that era of gaming which made me instantly want to review the title.
It was a nice surprise when I discovered that it was the award-winning indie game from Sabotage Studio which I’d heard people talk about yet never looked into due to it not being available on the PlayStation 4 previously.
The premise of The Messenger seems very simple at first. Almost all of the humans have died and the last remaining people have gathered in a village where they train as Ninjas so that when the day comes that the demons attack, they will be prepared to fight back. There is a prophecy that a hero will save the day when that time comes. You play as a Blue Ninja which you name yourself, and not 5 minutes into the game, unsurprisingly, the Demons attack the village and you are assigned as the messenger who is tasked with bringing a scroll to a mountain and all will be well, right?? RIGHT?! Let’s just say that The Messenger is more than what you think it is…
The Messenger is very ambitious in the sense that the game essentially has two parts to it. We will call it the 8-Bit and 16-Bit parts. You will know the difference when you come to it, just know that when you think you beat the game, you really didn’t! In fact, you might even say that Sabotage took a page from the ‘Symphony of the Night’ book, as at that point you are only halfway done with the game. The first half of the game is the NES like 8-Bit graphics and music, whereas the second part of the game is the SNES like 16-Bit graphics. This is also when the game transforms from a linear hack and slash platformer into a Metroidvania game.
In each level, there are multiple checkpoints that you will come across. If you “die”, you will resurrect back at these checkpoints with a little red demon that will follow you around and take any money you gain until you pay him back for saving you the second before you died. I liked this approach so that for canon sake, you never actually die in the game.
Some of the checkpoints are portals that will take you to a strange shop that is in another dimension. Honestly, this was one of my favourite parts of the game as the back and forth discussion between the Hero and the Shopkeeper can be quite hilarious. This is also where you will spend Time Shards that you collect while in the real world to purchase new abilities. These can range from the ability to swim faster to more HP among others. You will think that the price needed is pretty ridiculous for all of the abilities, but honestly, it is not too bad and you will find that you can save up shards quickly.
Travelling through the levels gets to be pretty intense, but if anything can be said about the game it’s that it’s never unfair. You will gain special items, like a wingsuit or a grappling hook, that make traversing the levels fast and exciting. As you near the end of the game, you will have mastered the use of all of these tools to make it from platform to platform.
As I said, the game is always fair. If you die, you never feel like it is because the game is torturing you. It’s likely because you were trying to rush through an area or a boss fight. This is the type of game that you will likely have to stop to analyse the area before you attempt to get past it. Even if you do die, you won’t be set back hours upon hours thanks to the generous checkpoint system; Thankfully there is a checkpoint before each and every boss fight as well!
The Messenger is without a doubt a game that gamers should not pass up on. I very much enjoyed every aspect of the game from the hilarious banter between the Messenger and the shopkeeper to the platforming and the boss fights. I cannot see any one aspect of the game that I did not enjoy. If this is the first game made by Sabotage Studio, then I would say that they have a bright future ahead of them in the games industry.
Whether you’re looking for a nostalgic blast to the past, or want to try out something that’s challenging yet fair, The Messenger is sure to entertain and excite everyone who picks it up today!