The Messenger (Switch, PS4, PC)

In the distant future, demons have taken over the land and only a scant few humans remain.  A clan of ninjas hide out on a remote island protecting the prophecy of a savior delivering a message on a scroll.  You are a ninja in this clan and end up being the messenger in the prophecy.  Now it’s up to you to save the day in this 8- and 16-bit retro styled 2-D platforming adventure.  It’s available to download on nearly all current consoles and PC, but reviewed on Switch here.

It’s obvious that the NES classic Ninja Gaiden was the biggest inspiration for this game.  As a ninja, you can swing your sword to dispatch enemies and learn skills like climbing walls, throwing stars, and later on you can learn to glide and use a grappling hook.  Probably your most important move is a special kind of double jump.  When you hit an enemy or lantern in the air, you’ll be able to jump again before hitting the ground.  You can chain these jumps and attacks to cross wide pits and other obstacles, but unfortunately it’s not always easy to do.

As you defeat enemies and smash lanterns, you’ll earn special shards you can use to buy upgrades at the shops that appear at nearly every checkpoint.  You can buy more health bars and other powers to help.  Hidden away are green coins that can give you a special power if you can find them all, too.  When you die, you start out at the last checkpoint.  You get unlimited lives and continues, but when you lose in this game, a little demon will come out and take any crystals you collect for a while.  It’s a little annoying penalty, but it’s probably better than having set lives and continues.

The game starts out very linear, and in an 8-bit environment.  Then about halfway through, you travel to the future and everything changes to 16-bit, which is a neat effect.  After that, supposedly you can travel to previous areas and view them in 8- and 16-bit.  But unfortunately I couldn’t get that far because the game gets just too darn hard.  It starts out fairly manageable, like “Mega Man Hard” but quickly gets to be “Ninja Gaiden Hard.”  I can beat most Mega Man games, but I can’t beat Ninja Gaiden.  They rely too much on insta-death pits, spikes, and lava, and I couldn’t get past a boss that moves three times as fast as you and requires you to double jump using lanterns that constantly change.  Yeah no thanks.  Plus I don’t think you should have to wait until more than halfway through a game to get to the good stuff.  It’s a shame, really, because if it weren’t for the difficulty and pacing, this game would be nearly “Shovel Knight good.”

Kid Factor:

The Messenger is rated E-10 with an ESRB descriptor of Fantasy Violence.  You can hit pixelly monsters with your sword, but they just explode when defeated.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, and younger gamers may get frustrated at the high difficulty.

2 Responses to “The Messenger (Switch, PS4, PC)”

  1. Dang, it sure is pretty.

  2. I’ve heard mixed things about this. But it does look nice!

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