Reviews - Updated on April 11, 2022

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my first impressions of The Messenger, an old-school platform game inspired by Ninja Gaiden. The game can be conditionally divided into three components: during the first two hours you go through the usual eight-bit platformer, then it suddenly turns into a 16-bit one, and when the counter is already about four hours old, The Messenger turns out to be … a “metroidvania” with the ability to switch between eras.

Back to the Future

The shopkeeper, who almost always sits in his timeless office, reveals a secret to the character: the scroll that the hero was asked to take to the top of the mountain is actually a map of the world. The protagonist didn’t even bother to glance at the contents of the package! But now it becomes much easier for him to navigate. You can see which zones are skipped, where the transitions to neighboring locations are located, and also notice exactly where the switch between the eight-bit and 16-bit worlds takes place.

Many rooms have two versions, which the artists have tried to make different from each other. Still, they don’t allow you to freely move from one era to another, as in Guacamelee ! – this happens only in certain places. This is done in different ways: either you cannot enter the next room without switching, or bluish circles hang in the air, and in some cases midges fly, the aura around which shows the location in a different style.

The original mechanics are superbly woven into the narrative – the messenger is instructed to remove the curse from the world, and he can achieve the goal only with the help of the acquired skill. The starting village, which has not yet been destroyed in the eight-bit version, turns into ruins in the 16-bit version, and it becomes impossible to find your mentor and his students there. But if you go back a few centuries ago, you will be able to communicate with the master.

The ability to travel through time allows you to find rooms in the old zones that you could not visit before. Some of them contain the notes needed to reach the finale. As the enigmatic prophet explains, the only way to lift the curse is to put together a melody from the “crystallized forces of this world”, so that the notes are scattered in various corners of it. Instead of forcing the player to carefully study the map, the developers give hints. Although sometimes they do not make much sense …

Messenger game review

Sometimes there are more dangers in one era than in another.

Secrets and mysteries

“Where the giants once lived, a tiny creature was paralyzed with fear,” these are the phrases the prophet says, answering your questions about what to do next. If you understand what kind of giants we are talking about, there is no problem – teleport to the desired location and look for this creature. If you don’t know what that means at all, the shopkeeper will mark the correct rooms every time for 300 crystals. The amount is not very large, so it is not a pity to part with it.

Additional improvements are also inexpensive – as soon as a genre change occurs, the skill tree approximately doubles. Some of them slightly simplify the gameplay – savepoints will heal better or attack power will increase. And the right column is responsible for the map, including you can mark the location of all the seals of power on it, so that it would be easier to hunt for them.

These seals are hidden in the test rooms, where you will need to use most of the learned skills. And the hook-cat will come in handy, and the wingsuit will not be superfluous. “Cloud step” is needed most often – as I already explained in the preview, a ninja cannot perform a double jump, but it can jump again after hitting an enemy, projectile or lamp while in the air. And in a couple of trials, you will have to jump from one enemy to another without the opportunity to land on the island and catch your breath. There are no such complex “challenges” as in two Guacamelee!, but you still don’t want to miss these rooms.

Messenger game review

Getting to the press is difficult, but real.

Fortunately, in the second half of the passage of The Messenger will not be limited to old locations. The player will open several completely new zones, and they will even have unique gameplay mechanics. Opponents will remain the same, but difficult platform episodes and intricate secrets – more than enough. Yes, and without battles with the “bosses” will not do – I also sang the praises of this component of The Messenger in the last article. None of the fights disappointed, and sometimes I even regretted that they ended quickly.

And all the other elements of the game make the adventure so exciting that there is simply no time to be bored here. The Messenger manages to be similar to the “pixel” classics – it looks the same, it has a fantastic soundtrack (depending on the style, the melody becomes richer, but the motive does not change), and the gameplay features of that era can be seen here. For example, if you killed all the enemies on the ground and climbed higher by moving the camera up, the enemies will be resurrected when you descend back.

But at the same time, it is much friendlier to the player, it has very convenient controls, and it is fully up to modern standards when it turns from a classic platformer into a metroidvania with a lot of secrets. And no serious dialogues – everything is served with chic jokes, many of which turned out to be really funny. The shopkeeper was the best character right up to the finale – sometimes when you go into his store, you can ask him to tell a story, and this can be either a completely inappropriate parable or a hilarious bike.

Messenger game review

At times like these, the level design is especially satisfying.

***

It’s still hard to speculate whether The Messenger will have as much of an impact on the indie industry as Shovel Knight. But in quality it has not gone too far from the adventures of a knight with a shovel. The authors are clearly in love with the classic Ninja Gaiden and wanted to modernize them, making their game similar to the sources of inspiration. And they managed not only to offer high-quality gameplay with unusual mechanics, but also to pay attention to music, which you immediately want to find separately and listen to until you get bored. Since January, great platformers and metroidvanias have been released almost every month, but even after them, The Messenger seems to be something fresh and original.

Pros: a modern version of Ninja Gaiden, largely faithful to the classics and making it more accessible and large-scale; original gameplay mechanics; convenient management; a great soundtrack that changes when switching eras; great humor.

Cons: in the second half of the game it is not always clear where to go if you do not pay for a hint.

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