I initially saw The Messenger at Pax East 2018. Intrigued by the script font, the blue background and of course, the incredibly fun looking platforming, I added it to my Steam Wishlist on a whim and continued on with my pop culture adventure. A few months later, I get a notification that one of the games on my wishlist released, and on yet another whim, bought it. I knew essentially nothing about the game aside from the platforming aspect. I didn’t know I was in for an adventure that would take a hold of my life ransom for a full week with practically no pause.
Once Upon A Time, in a retro land far far away:
Upon booting up the game, I immediately heard and saw the references to the classic NES era of gaming. I internally hoped and prayed it wouldn’t be a platforming hell akin to classic DK and Castlevania games, simply because I wasn’t thirsting for another game like that at the time. Instead, what I got a game that was humorous and provided me a world that left me excited for more.
The humor in the game was hit or miss for me personally. There were times where it got a great laugh and chuckle out of me, and other times where I felt they were pandering. If the goal was to make some of the characters have some typical dialog, that was achieved, but your character, The Messenger, has some great one liners. He is not outdone by Quarble, the cheeky demon fellow that brings you back to life when you inevitably fall to your death.
Now go on and Cloud Step!
As you progress deeper and deeper into this game, you get more tools to assist you in your platforming journey. Ranging from a claw grip akin to the Gamecube days of 007: Agent Under Fire, or walking on water that’s not too different to what he see ‘ninjas’ doing in movies and cartoons, the games gives you enough interesting tools to keep the game fresh. I found myself at times surprised by how much I could do with the tools I had. The shopkeeper that you meet early on in the game also is an immeasurable help throughout the game with some of his upgrades and knowledge of the world itself.
Probably the most interesting mechanic is cloud stepping, The Messenger’s version of double jump. It’s activated when you jump and hit an enemy or a lantern that’s floating, causing you to really have to consciously think how you’re going to navigate some of the perilous rooms the game presents you. I found the mechanic really intuitive, and coupled with a few shop upgrades, makes for a fresh take on a classic concept.
But the game isn’t all positives. There are some critiques about the game I do in fact have.
Get this, and this, and this, and this, and this:
My gripes with the game begin at the halfway point, around where you learn about your true purpose and the fact that you can time travel between worlds. Let me start by saying, I love when games do time travel. I love when they provide the reasoning for it, the logic, and all that fun stuff. And the game gives you more than just time travel. When you switch time periods, the music switches to a 16 bit soundtrack from an 8 bit soundtrack. It was really neat to hear and was one of my favorite ‘gimmicks’ of the game because it reminded me of Gianna Sisters: Twisted Dreams.
But at that same halfway point, the game starts to make you backtrack and explore. And that’s really one of the main points of a Metroidvania in my opinion. But the shopkeeper doesn’t have much to tell you anymore. There are small sections that you gain access to that are pivotal to the game, but the world generally stay the same. You don’t encounter as many new enemies, and then you realize the game feels a bit more repetitive than it should. I felt I was running around a lot to the same sections to grab items and bring them back. You also barely get any upgrades throughout the second half of the game and although that doesn’t bother me that much, I can see it being an issue for some.
Bring an umbrella and brave the rain, it’s worth it:
Don’t let those negatives bog down the game that much though. The story, although basic at first, develops and blossoms into something I didn’t entirely expect when I first started. It’s a great experience and the last 15% of the game have some of the best levels I’ve ever seen. Especially the last one. Man…
The game as a whole is definitely worth checking out. I got it on the Nintendo Switch, and although I suffered a few framerate issues that the devs said is being addressed in a patch, I loved the game from start to finish. If the tiny quests in the middle were somehow merged or weren’t as frustrating, I’d say The Messenger is damn near perfect. Pick it up on the Nintendo eShop or on Steam for the PC when you get a chance!