The indie scene is alive and well with plenty of games that pay tribute to the games of yore with pixel art, but the good ones can be rare and few with Shovel Knight and Celeste coming to mind. But to have gorgeous art combined with even better gameplay is a harder feat, and Sabotage Studio’s The Messenger blend of tight platforming and captivating presentation is just that perfect concoction.
Starting off as a ninja-in-training, you will be tasked to save the world when the inevitable demonic apocalypse descends upon the world.
While a legendary hero from the fabled prophecy saves the day, he tasks you to be the titular messenger and carry a mysterious scroll to a mountain peak to the east.
A straightforward enough plot, but the twists and turns that await you are some of the more fun surprises you will find, all delivered in the humorous style that permeates The Messenger.
Journeying through the various worlds, players will not only master new skills, but fight a variety of foes that are challenging and more importantly, enjoyable to beat. Learning to cloud step (double jump by hitting a target), wall jumps, destroying projectiles and more present additional opportunities for you to take on the harder platforming sections, traversing both optional and main paths.
These skills and their upgrades are purchased with Time Shards, earned by destroying enemies and finding hidden secrets. The shopkeeper that sells you these upgrades has some of the funniest/annoying dialogue you will find in videogames, and it all plays into the fact that The Messenger has great writing throughout.
Like all Metroidvanias, as upgrades are unlocked, backtracking to find secrets and hidden paths will often lead to big rewards, and it is no exception with The Messenger. Of course, the main questline demands that as well, and while it can take a while to figure out what you are supposed to do, it is never too convoluted or requires too much from players.
All these wonderful design and execution is wrapped in breathtaking pixel art, and when the chance comes, both the 8-bit and 16-bit styles are brought to life perfectly. This extends to the music as well, providing some catchy tunes that will stay in the memory for long. The world design is remarkable, upping the atmosphere in each of the distinct biomes you will explore.
And even when you think the game is done, everything turns up a notch, and the world expands with even more to accomplish, to find, and to enjoy. Such pleasant surprises just keep making The Messenger an even better game the more you invest into it.
From the onset, the action and platforming of this gem are appealing enough, add tight controls, soothing music, and often at times hilarious writing and you have an adventure on your hands. While a hero’s tale is all too familiar, The Messenger’s story should have you hooked for hours on end, and that message rings true and clear.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An instant classic, The Messenger is one you will not want to miss.
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Story - 9/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 9/10