REVIEW: ‘The Messenger’ Sneaks Onto Xbox One

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The Messenger

Recently released on the Xbox One after an original release on PC and Nintendo Switch in 2018 and Playstation 4 in 2019, Sabotage Studio‘s The Messenger is a unique platformer published by Devolver Digital. While even the game’s trailers give away much of the game’s unique aspects, part of what makes The Messenger so unique in both its storytelling and gameplay are better left untold for players to discover themselves.

On a basic level, The Messenger is a 2D-platformer and Metroidvania inspired by Ninja Gaiden games. Your character is training as a ninja when a demon king attacks and the Western Hero is a tad late to save the day. From there, you venture forth across myriad gorgeous, unique stages to uncover the plot and save the world.

Players are equipped to start with a basic sword attack and a fairly unique mechanic called Cloud Stepping where you gain another jump every time you hit an enemy or platform with your sword. You gain additional abilities as the game progresses to help you both traverse and fight. Learning to combine these abilities is so fun, both in the puzzle-solving aspect of traversal and the joy of learning to move faster across stages while taking less damage along the way. There is never a single way to make it across the screen and discovering all the fastest, safest, and most fun ways to do so is a blast.

Every NPC you meet throughout The Messenger is doused in character and set ablaze with sharp wit. The primary interactions you hold are with the Shopkeeper, an interdimensional being who sells you upgrades in exchange for Time Shards you collect from killing enemies and hitting lanterns. The Shopkeeper will absolutely yap your ears off but reading all of the dialogue is worth it not just for the interesting and well-worthwhile exposition, but just for the utter snark and sarcasm alone. This is the tone throughout the entire game and it works so, so well.

Each stage in The Messenger has a boss that, like the platforming sections, has no single way of being defeated. Dying repeatedly and learning to take on each stage of each boss always feels rewarding and never frustrating, even when a boss feels impossible at first. There is always another way to try..

The Messenger

I will not delve into some of the more specific aspects of how the game’s storytelling and gameplay make The Messenger so unique. To do so would ruin the opportunity to experience it for yourself. But know that the game’s dimension and time-warping nature make the second half of the game entirely different than the first. If the beginning feels confusing and more linear than you would expect for a Metroidvania, the feeling is intentional and will absolutely shatter by the time the game takes you to that point in your journey. Truly, the game’s multiple twists, while not revolutionary in the grand scheme of storytelling, are definitely unique from a visual standpoint and just really cool.

The Messenger also has a free DLC called Picnic Panic that is absolutely wacky, somehow fits perfectly into the world the main game develops, and is a worthwhile extra few bizarre hours after your initial playthrough. The DLC includes several interesting upgrades and some pastiche that you would never expect but somehow just works perfectly in the already strange tale the game weaves.

In terms of replayability, The Messenger definitely provides more than other recent platformers. There is a New Game + mode that you can re-up endlessly to increase the difficulty with every go. There are also ample collectibles to uncover, all of which can and should be found before the game’s final boss to give you an extra upgrade. Each one is found by navigating a challenging platforming room. The achievements are also a perfect balance of story and upgrade-related and challenges requiring perhaps an extra playthrough or two.

If you have not experienced The Messenger yet, there is no better time than now. Its unique and witty take on a tried and true genre is challenging and fun with nice replayability. Never frustrating and always asking you to improve your platforming abilities, the 2D platformer is one of the best of recent years.

The Messenger is available now on Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One, including Xbox Game Pass.

The Messenger
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

If you have not experienced The Messenger yet, there is no better time than now. Its unique and witty take on a tried and true genre is challenging and fun with nice replayability. Never frustrating and always asking you to improve your platforming abilities, the 2D platformer is one of the best of recent years.