Sabotage is a brand new game studio based out of Quebec Canada. The team consists of a handful of industry veterans like Thierry Boulanger and Martin Brouard. The Messenger is a side-scrolling action platformer inspired by 2D classics like Ninja Gaiden and Metroid. It’s also the studio’s first game, which is why what I’m about to say may shock you. The Messenger is one of the best games of 2018 and earns its spot among the very best offerings on Nintendo Switch. Do I have your attention? Good, because I’m excited to finally talk about the beautiful, incredibly-paced, and damn near perfect video game that is The Messenger.
To get the obvious out of the way, The Messenger is drop dead gorgeous. Whether I was trekking across an 8-bit or 16-bit land, my jaw was constantly to the floor. Not only are lands filled with highly detailed, beautifully crafted animations and sprites, but the game’s soundtrack by the renowned ‘Rainbowdragoneyes’ is nearly too good to be true. Combine these immaculate visual and sound offerings and you get one of the most endearing and awe-inspiring video game worlds I’ve ever had the chance of experiencing.
Hardcore Ninja Parkour
Here’s the thing, I don’t have an affinity for retro games, or retro-inspired games, which makes it all the more impressive that The Messenger was able to sink its claws into me. From the second I began playing, I loved the way the game felt. You are capable of an infinite number of jumps as long as you land a sword attack on an enemy or object in mid-air. It’s a basic gameplay mechanic that goes a long way, as you’ll use it to your advantage for fighting common foes and bosses, as well as traversal. The flow of movement, speed of jumps, and overall platforming feels extremely satisfying. Then, as you unlock new abilities and learn new ways of traversal, it continues to get better and better. For example, early in the game, you can learn a spiral air-attack. This not only allows you to hit objects while spiraling forward, but you can also use it to attack enemies from above, something your basic attacks do not allow you to do. After you get the hang of everything, you’ll start feeling like a badass ninja slicing-and-dicing your way through areas that you previously struggled with, at ease.
The Messenger comes packed with a challenge that may have you wanting to throw your controller. Luckily, the game never feels overbearingly punishing. Level-design is superb, forcing you to use all of the abilities in your arsenal to complete them. Moments of frustration will occur but ultimately lead to triumph and victory. You might die seven times thinking there’s no way to dodge a bosses attack. But in that eighth round, you’ll figure out the key to winning. Each boss is a puzzle that needs solving, and in doing so, your reflexes are put to the test. In short, The Messenger offers one of the most rewarding adventures in recent memory.
Full of Surprises
The crux of The Messenger is its pacing. You never really know what to expect throughout your journey. One second you’ll be slicing baddies in the coolest manner, the next second you’re being chased by a dragon, then you’re having thought-provoking conversations with the game’s shopkeeper. Gameplay is constantly changing and it never lets up. To add to that, the game’s writing is nothing short of genius. The Messenger kept me engaged with its story, characters, and comedy. Seriously, the Shopkeeper is my new hero. Fresh off the heels Guacamelee! 2, I didn’t expect another platformer (so soon) to constantly keep a smile on my face with its witty writing and humor.
Also similar to Guacamelee!, The Messenger uses a mechanic that lets you swap between timelines and drastically changes the world around you. This changes the game’s art and sound from 8-bit to 16-bit, and vice-versa. This time-traveling mechanics allows for solving clever puzzles and only adds to The Messenger‘s outstanding pacing.
For all of you completionists, there are branching paths and secret areas to discover. On top of a skill tree to max out. The Messenger brings so much to the table in terms of quality and quantity in this budget-priced ($20) title. And just when you think the titular hero’s journey is coming to an end, the game throws a whole new kind of experience in front of you. But I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Is The Messenger perfect? Of course not, I have a few minor gripes. Enemies reappearing the second you’re out of frame and return can be annoying. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between lower areas and certain death. And lastly, some save spots being spaced far apart will cause some frustration. However, none of these issues are enough to severely sour the experience.
The Messenger surpassed my expectations in its first two hours. Then it went on to become one of the most joyful, rewarding, and memorable gaming experiences I’ve ever had. To say developer Sabotage succeeded at making a great platformer is a huge understatement. The Messenger transcends the platformer genre and should be played by everyone, regardless if it’s their style of game.
A review code for The Messenger was provided by the publisher.
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Brett Medlock is a senior editor and a lead on video production here at Enthusiast Gaming. He’s obsessed with action-adventure games, platinum trophies, and K-pop. To hear more about how lame he is, follow him on Twitter @brettnll