Title: The Messenger
Developer: Sabotage Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC
Release Date: 19/03/2019 (PlayStation 4)
Price: £15.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
As a demon army besieges his village, a young ninja ventures through a cursed world, to deliver a scroll paramount to his clan’s survival. What begins as a classic action platformer soon unravels into an expansive time-traveling adventure full of thrills, surprises, and humor.
– Dynamic, acrobatic gameplay and ultra tight controls worthy of an epic ninja adventure.
– Character upgrades, new abilities, hidden levels, and branching paths to discover.
– Meticulously designed 8-bit and 16-bit sprites, animations, and backgrounds in the spirit of the classics.
– A memorable cast of offbeat villains, bosses, and associates.
– Original soundtrack by renowned chiptune composer Rainbowdragoneyes, handmade using Famitracker.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, The Messenger is a game of two halves. As with any title of this nature, it is the destiny of one of these halves to outshine the other. The puzzle then revolves around which half is the chosen one.
While the opening hours of this retro throwback will easily enthral gamers with a dynamic soundtrack guaranteed to get heads bobbing, the asset recycling and collect-a-thon heavy second half often seeks to undo the goodwill of what came before.
Taking all this into consideration, one must pose the all-important question: is the delivery of this message something players can commit to?
Looks and Sounds
As alluded to earlier, The Messenger has retro charm in spades with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous pixel art style and heavily synthesised score comprising melodies that will linger in the mind long after the power to your gaming device has been disconnected. Generating these elements through modern technology creates an experience that mirrors players’ memories of NES era platformers, maintaining player engagement during the early game.
Refreshingly, The Messenger is not merely a throwback to gaming innovators but is also a celebration of the medium as a whole. For example, the game’s synthetic sounds are also dynamic, seeing the music reduced to a distant muffle during underwater segments. Implementing music in a style exclusive to the gaming medium goes some way to maintaining a firm grip on the player’s attention for far longer than any film.
Unfortunately, the novelty of this title’s presentation inevitably wears thin, and when it does, the remainder of the runtime suffers immensely. Asset reuse is a consistent issue with earlier locations being recycled too frequently during the title’s elongated second half. As a result, traversing previously trodden earth removes the fresh sense of wonder these levels once instilled due to a dire lack of new and exciting discoveries to be made.
Gameplay and Replayability
Similar to a lack of variety, a lack of focus detriments the game’s final stretch. This is due to a rather sudden generic shift from hack-and-slash thrills to collect-a-thon fills where players must secure musical notes, which should be optional, to lift a curse. Consequently, this leaves only one other collectable – green tokens – which does little to incentive a second playthrough as the notion of only one additional reward is not as enticing as multiple.
Furthermore, all upgrades can be easily obtained long before the titular Messenger reaches the final boss as stumbling upon time shards, the in-game currency, is not rare and the majority of the upgrades are dirt cheap. Therefore, the tokens mentioned above serve as the only sense of progression upon another playthrough rendering the need for one completely null.
Although this title is best experienced once, the potential frustration of reaching the padded-out conclusion is decimated by making death a tangible threat. Upon death, the player is mocked by a being that robs them of all resources gathered for a short time post-resurrection. In turn, players are encouraged to dedicate their time to achieving a real mastery of the title so as never to be mocked again which will carry them comfortably to the end credits.
Frustration is an entity one will rarely encounter during The Messenger’s 12-hour run time (or, should that be two 6-hour runtimes?). Checkpoints and health items are plentiful, yet not overabundant, and are placed at highly advantageous locations for the player. Therefore, no obstacle feels impossible to overcome which will motivate players to see their message delivered.
Fear not, fellow video game enthusiasts and aficionados. Dive right in and make that vital first move as commitment issues need not concern you when it comes to this fun blast from the past that has modern touches in all the right places.
The Messenger shows promise in the early going by supplying gamers with an experience that harkens back to the games of old through its pixel art style and dynamically synthetic soundtrack. All while using the full capabilities of modern technology to surpass the titles it seeks to replicate.
However, the second half aspires to destroy this good will. While the reuse of assets is highly inadvisable, unexpectedly shifting the focus from one genre to other ranks among The Messenger’s greatest atrocities. With death looming ominously over players in a manner which is frequently fair, persevering until the end is no tall order.
Overall, The Messenger is an enjoyable title which desperately desires to be two, thus falling short of its real potential. With more focus, it could have reigned as the king among the pantheon of stellar Indie titles this generation has had to offer. Regardless, whomsoever decides to embark on the adventure that has just been described will derive immense pleasure from becoming… The Messenger.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase The Messenger at the PlayStation Store on the following link,