Some people may take one look at The Messenger and think they have the game completely figured out. “It’s just like all those 8-bit games out there”, some will say. However, spending just a couple minutes with The Messenger will show you just how different the game is. Few games have pulled me in faster and kept me addicted longer than The Messenger. Its brilliant design, gameplay, and soundtrack don’t just make for one of the best indie games released this year, The Messenger may just be one of the best games of the year. In short, The Messenger is unbelievably good.
The Messenger follows the story of a nameless ninja who’s training with a secret group waiting for the return of the “hero from the west.” This hero from the west will come bearing a scroll and hand it off to a new hero who must save the world. That new hero ends up being…you. It’s your job as the new Messenger to deliver the scroll to the top of the mountain where you’ll complete your quest…or so you think. In reality, making it to the top of the mountain is only the beginning of your adventure. Once you make it to the top of the mountain, the game opens up into a 16-bit Metroidvania version of itself.
The Messenger absolutely nails gameplay down perfectly. In the game you have to make it through a series of locations filled with obstacles and monsters to reach the end. What The Messenger does so well is nail its platforming. The game feels fast and fluid. Yet what the game does so well is teach you different moves that in themselves seem simple (like a double jump or gliding), but if you take the time to master them, then it makes the game even faster and more fluid. That platform in the distance that at first seemed impossible to get to now becomes completely doable because you learned to glide, double jump, grapple, and jump again to make it over there. That is something really awesome about The Messenger. It introduces these new moves to you and slowly ramps up their use. At first, maybe you only once or twice use the double jump and grapple. However, in some time you’ll be dropped into an area without any platforms or floor, requiring those moves exclusively to make it through.
The Messenger also excels at its writing. Let’s be clear, this game doesn’t take itself seriously. Constantly throughout the game are fourth-wall breaks where the game and characters acknowledge you, the actual player. Even the dialogue between the characters is funny. In one instance you walk into a shop, and the shopkeeper falls in love with your hat; that’s pretty much what he wants to talk about. The next time you walk into the shop, he got the exact same hat and is willing to argue with you that you copied his look. Or if you try to open the shopkeeper’s wardrobe too many times, the shopkeeper warns you that he’ll tell a long, boring story, and you aren’t allowed to skip or speed up the text to get through it faster. Sure enough, because I felt like trying it out, that’s exactly what happens. It’s little details like this that add humor to the game and make you want to read all the dialogue on-screen.
The Messenger also has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. Seriously, take a minute and look up almost any tune from The Messenger and listen to it. It’s great, isn’t it?! The music is super catchy and, for me personally, reminds me of older soundtracks from the 8/16-bit era; those soundtracks that immediately get stuck in your head yet never annoy you. The music matches the action on-screen, creating an experience that feels pretty perfect. The Messenger feels completely perfect on Nintendo Switch. You can easily play a few minutes of the game on the go, clear a level (or try to), and progress your way through the game that way. Or you can go for long play sessions and really get hooked into the game. Honestly, it’s a perfect fit on Switch, and it’s the platform I’d recommend picking it up for.
For this review, I’ve spent around 25 hours on the game, and I am nowhere close to completing it. There are so many places to explore, so many collectible coins to get, that I likely have many more hours left in the game before I find them all. Normally in games with collectibles, it can feel very hit or miss. Some games do well at making it fun to collect all the different things, but in other games it feels like a chore. The Messenger makes it incredibly fun to collect them all because the gameplay is so perfect. I’m not annoyed that I haven’t collected all the green coins because I want to keep playing the game. I want those harder challenges or hard to reach places to be hiding something so I have an excuse to keep playing this game. The Messenger isn’t just a game I love playing, it’s a game I can’t stop talking about. Go out right now and buy this game. You want to have a great time? You want a game that’ll hook you in and keep you playing for hours? You want a game that you’ll talk about for weeks to come? Buy The Messenger. This game is worth every penny.
Developer: Sabotage Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 30th August 2018