There are tons of retro-style Indie games that I adore. ‘Shovel Knight‘ and its numerous expansions rank among my favorite games of all time. ‘Stardew Valley‘ is my go-to game for relaxing. ‘Crawl‘ is one of my favorite multiplayer experiences of all time. And now, a new entry has been added to the echelon: a simple action-adventure game called ‘The Messenger‘.
Not a whole lot of people talked about this game when it came out last year. Frankly, I have no idea why! This is one of the most solid and fun games I have ever played! It is incredibly creative, witty, challenging, and satisfying to play from start to end! If you still haven’t played this game, then let me assure you: you are missing out!
Story: A Message Through Time
Be warned: there will be minor spoilers to the plot. I won’t reveal every detail. But for the sake of the review, I have to talk about certain aspects that appear at the halfway mark. You have been warned.
Humanity is on the brink of extinction. Demon kind has conquered the world, pushing the human race to a small village to the west. Legend has it that one day, a hero shall appear from even further west and save them. Our hero, a simple ninja, doesn’t believe in this tale. But when it comes true right before his eyes, he finds himself on a grand adventure to deliver a scroll given to him by this hero.
Along the way, he makes friends with the Shopkeeper, a mysterious hooded figure who lives in a strange pocket dimension, and Quarble, a strange creature that will resurrect the Messenger from death for a fee. With their help, the Messenger rises to the top of the mountain, conquers the Shopkeeper’s trial in the Tower of Time, and is sent to the future.
After a few more twists and turns, he is given the ability to freely go through time. With this new ability, he must explore the world further to gather items of great power. Can he break the demonic curse and save humanity? Or is the world doomed to fall into darkness? That is all up to you, brave Messenger!
The story is very simple, much like many retro games. It is very effective and fun. But it has got nothing compared to the dialogue.
Oh my god, this game is hilarious! I don’t think I’ve laughed this much at a game since the Dr. Faust scene in DMC5! The characters each have a fantastic dry wit to them that makes them especially entertaining, even if they aren’t the deepest characters in the world. My favorite is the Shopkeeper, who always puts fun and often cynical twists to his stories.
Not going to lie: I rushed through the levels just to hear what he had to say.
Presentation: Suck It Evoland!
In terms of visuals, The Messenger has two identities. And it absolutely excels at both.
The first is an NES style game. While in this style, the game gives me an odd ‘Shovel Knight’ vibe. It features the crisp, nostalgic visuals of the ’80s, combined with the modern technological abilities and colors of new hardware. It runs as smooth as butter with simple sprites and equally basic and effective animations.
The other style is that of a SNES game. Much like the NES style, this features all the best of the ’90s with the modern enhancements of extra color and refined animations. In this style, all the sprites and animations from before are brought back and upgraded. It is an incredible visual treat.
Oh, and did I mention that you can change back and forth between them on the fly? And that doing so will change the levels, offering you new methods of traversal? Because you can. And it’s fucking awesome!
But you know what’s more awesome? The music! Oh my god, I want the soundtrack right the fuck now! Each track has an 8-Bit and 16-Bit version, which will change on the fly when you travel through time. It is utterly superb!
My god, this game is so good! And that’s all before the actual gameplay!
Gameplay: ‘Ninja Gaiden‘ Meets ‘Metroid‘
Much like the presentation, ‘The Messenger‘ has two different identities in terms of gameplay. And as per before, both are absolutely splendid!
Initially, the game is a classic ‘Ninja Gaiden‘ style game. You run through screens filled with perfectly placed enemies that charge you, blast shit at you, or simply jump around. At the end of the stage, you fight a challenging and fun boss fight. Simple, right?
Well, shortly after you unlock the ability to travel through time, the game opens up completely. You are no longer playing ‘Ninja Gaiden‘. Now, you’re playing ‘Metroid‘!
In Metroidvania mode, you are given free rein over every level in the game. You can explore new areas that you couldn’t before to access areas you couldn’t before. You gather new powerups, gather more of the game’s collectibles, and buy even more upgrades from the Shopkeeper. Once you’ve explored enough and grabbed enough items, you make your way to the final stage and fight the final boss.
Put simply, the end game of ‘The Messenger‘ is the same as the end game for ‘Metroid Prime’.
This game plays like a dream! Your character controls exceptionally well. The platforming is tight and responsive, as well as fair and challenging. Each monster is unique, memorable, and provides a great challenge thanks to their perfect placements throughout the level. The boss fights are challenging and incredibly fun. Everything in this game is fucking fantastic!
Even if I suck at it and died over a hundred times. Hey, I never said I was good at video games!
Lots of games fly under the radar these days. ‘The Messenger‘ does not deserve to be one of these titles. It is one of the best games of last year, and one of the best games to come out in a long time.
I’d highly recommend ‘The Messenger‘. If you love retro games, Metroidvania games, or just want to play a game that will make you laugh, this is the perfect game for you! It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it is incredibly well made. I don’t just recommend you play it. I implore you to play it!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the DLC came out just as I’m writing this final paragraph. So… I’m gonna go play that. As in, right the fuck now. And I’d recommend you do the same.
Buy this game. Go! Go! If you have the cash, go buy it now!