I’d never seen The Messenger before, but was immediately drawn to this game when I passed the booth this weekend at PAX South. It’s a retro styled (8 and 16 bit) action platformer that throws nods to games of the past. Take a mix of Ninja Gaiden and some RPG elements, but it plays like an incredibly fast and tight platformer of today’s generation. 

The quick and dirty on the story is that you’re a ninja in training, and the world is attacked by demons and all the other master ninjas seem to have either vanished or been defeated. There’s a sort of Mega Man X sequence where you come face to face with what is presumably the final boss, but you’re saved (or at least for the time being) by another more powerful ninja. You’re tasked with bringing a scroll to three sages, and that’s ultimately where the game takes off and you’re on your own.

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Without question, the most impressive thing about the game is how tight the controls are. You learn early on in the intro sequence that you can’t double jump, but you can “cloudwalk.” This is where your skill and timing come into play because cloudwalking requires you to hit an enemy (or an object that might be holding gems/health) and then you can immediately jump again. So if you time it correctly, you can go ahead and hit an enemy while already in mid-air and then immediately jump again. This is super helpful for avoiding certain pitfalls and also other enemies entirely if you want. 

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Enemy design is great too, and while replaying the same two levels over and over a few times (I admittedly kept going back to this booth) I didn’t get to see firsthand the variety of enemies and bosses that are in later levels in the game. The demo levels (the intro sequence, first level, and second level) I got to play were enough to keep me entertained because you try to see how fast you can get through the game without taking damage or having to dispatch enemies along the way. One of the developers I spoke with had mentioned that there were already some speedrunners showing interest in the game because of how tight the controls were.

What’s really interesting about this game is it doesn’t really punish you for failure. You have a traditional health bar and can only take so many hits before you finally die, but it’s not based on lives or continues. Instead there is a character named Quarble who shows up the very first time you die with an interesting hello,

“Oh! A New Customer!”

Or something along those lines, I can’t remember exactly but Quarble has witty remarks every time you end up dead. Up until that first in-game death, you really don’t know what the process is. If you were to expect something along the usual frustratingly difficult NES/SNES games, you’re in luck. While Quarble has a fair amount of witty comments about your deaths, he’s important because he revives you when you die. You’ll bounce back to the nearest checkpoint you’ve passed through, and he will take a portion of your cash or the cash you collect until he’s satisfied. While that means you might not be able to get that character upgrade as fast, not having to literally start the entire game over because you made a bad jump or got a little too greedy on a boss battle is a worthwhile compromise. 

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Though The Messenger isn’t quite an RPG, it borrows some elements in the way of character upgrades. As you collect cash through the game, you’ll eventually come across shops that you enter through dimensional portals. It immediately gave me a very Illusion of Gaia vibe when I visited the shopkeeper, and he’s the one who grants you upgrades like increased mana, health, and other abilities that’ll become very important along your journey.

The game is slated for a 2018 release and while I don’t have a specific date, you should definitely add this to your Steam Wishlist or Follow list so you know when it drops. It’s definitely a fun game and worth checking out if you’re into fast action platforming with a retro throwback.

Check out the awesome trailer below

Source: Sabotage Studio 

Written by Andrew(@SoAfterISaid)