Anyone who knows me, knows that I love my Metroidvania games. When The Messenger was released just recently on the PS4, I knew what I had to do. I’ve never played a Metroidvania game that I didn’t like. How could I? They’re always well designed with lots of unique ideas! Does The Messenger continue this trend?
The Messenger starts off with a bang. After some quick tutorials on the controls and unique slash/jump ability, your world is invaded by demons. Legend has it that a hero from the West will come save the day, and that’s exactly what happens..sort of.
This hero gives you, a ninja warrior, a scroll to take to the top of the mountains. From there your journey takes you through forests, catacombs, rocky areas, all in an effort to make your way to the mountain’s peak.
Sounds straight-forward, right? Even these earlier levels are fairly straight-forward, as platforming and enemies are all pretty basic and easy, so as a veteran, I was surprised that I wasn’t being too challenged. Once you’ve made your way through all these levels, it’s then the game turns on its head. It’s almost like the game was simply preparing you for what’s to come. After certain events occur, which I won’t talk about for spoiler reasons, the game opens right up and becomes the Metroidvania that it was born to be.
New mechanics are introduced, which includes an awesome ability to switch between the past and future through rifts scattered throughout the levels. Certain parts of the level will change depending on where you are in time, and you’ll need to experiment to fully explore everything. What really impressed me about this mechanic was that the visuals changed depending on ‘when’ you are. When you’re in the past, the graphics become 8-bit, and the music is to that of NES games. When you’re in the future, the visuals go 16-bit like the SNES. I’m a huge fan of 16-bit graphics so I was happy every time I stepped into the future!
The platforming is one of many highlights in The Messenger. It’s crafted with care so every section is unique and challenging. Thankfully it’s not brutally challenging (like Celeste), but is enough to still be a lot of fun. There’s plenty of elements to keep you on your toes, such as traps, spikes, projectile-spewing enemies, moving platforms, and more. You unlock more abilities as you progress and these all are incorporated into the platforming, requiring you to really master each ability. Combine all that with time-travel rifts, and you have plenty of variety to keep things interesting at all times.
The gameplay and controls also feel good and responsive. Flying around through each section and using all the tools at your disposal feels like a dream. The physics for your character are just right and never feels too floaty or too quick. Your sword swings also feel great, and taking on all the different types of enemies is always fun. Your enemy types vary throughout the game and you’ll have to adapt to their attacks to get through unscathed.
There’s plenty of collectables through the game and you’ll constantly feel motivated to back track and fully explore everything- at least I did anyway. The game could have had a more efficient way of getting around, as I did have to travel through entire levels just to get to where I wanted to go. Thankfully the game is so fun to play through, even repeating the same areas isn’t so bad.
One aspect that really stood out was the game’s writing and humour. I had plenty of laugh out loud moments listening to the conversations between my character and the blue-hooded shopkeeper. Even if you’re not into this genre, the game is worth just for the laughs.
The Messenger Review Summary
There’s not much to criticise with The Messenger. Apart from the slow start and lack of fast travel points, the game gets everything else spot on. The action is well-paced and the platforming is creative and the right level of challenge.
The story is surprisingly interesting even though it’s generally not important for these kind of games. The way the visuals and music changes depending on whether you’re in the past or future was done extremely well, and retro gamers will appreciate this very much. The humour is also guaranteed to get some laughs out of you and is a great addition to the game.
There’s really something here for any type of retro gamer/indie fan. Everything is done at a high standard with some innovative ideas that is sure to keep you coming back for more until 100% completion.