It is clear from the beginning that Messenger is heavily influenced – aesthetically and mechanically – by the classic Ninja Gaiden series. But it is also clear that the game not only influences the sleeve, it also brings a brilliant new to the action platform genre.
You play as a young ninja warrior task of delivering a sacred scroll to the top of a mountain after his village is attacked by demons. It's not a completely original idea in any way, but Messenger turns off confidence in favor of a humorous and self-reflective tone, as regular rifles on action platforms-thundering through the ninja warrior's talks with different characters. The excellent writing keeps things lively and fresh, with jokes and pop culture references interwoven with an ambitious and clever story that involves a time travel mechanic that binds well into the gaming system.
Ninja's skills are initially limited, but it is expanding rapidly to include capabilities like a rope dart, mountaineering and flight guidance as well as a few optional techniques like a boomerang shuriken. Most interesting, Messenger replaces the classic double-jump with something called cloudstopping, an ability that only makes double jumping available after you've succeeded with a sword of an enemy or object in the air.
This means you can not skip anywhere and an element of skill and timing is added in regular procedures – chain more hits in order and you can almost fly over the map by shooting but whiff one slash and you will find yourself staring into a bottomless pit. It is a great satisfaction to be found in the requirements for successful cloudstpping, and the controls are impressive responsive to your needs here.
The rewarding high physics mechanic is complemented with Messenger's smart design. Almost every level is designed in such a way that it can be crossed using a variety of different approaches, and exploration and experimentation is encouraged in every corner. You can take the easy route or try the hardest shooting path that ultimately brings bigger rewards because of a number of well-hidden secrets sprinkled throughout the game.
Messenger Begins Fairly Light, but the difficulty increases rapidly as you get more skills. Harder obstacles and challenges are introduced, and the game forces you to make the most of your ability to keep up. Death is common, but momentum never stops because of the use of generous control points, so you can quickly learn from past mistakes and improve muscle memory. The chest never feels too overwhelming or too easy, and the pacing and difficulty level are nicely balanced – it's always a pleasure to have when a secret is found, a difficult obstacle is conquered, or a boss is defeated.
Messenger also has a big twist: While the first half of the game is a linear action platform, when the midway point is reached, the game's story expands and unlocks travel to and from the future. The game switches from its vibrant 8-bit aesthetics into an even more beautiful 16-bit art style, richer background, a more varied color palette and more advanced audio processing, unlike the former chiptune audio track.
In addition, Maps and Mechanics are opened in the style of Metroidvania, and a mechanic is introduced that allows you to travel back and forth between times. A whole new dimension of confusion opens up and offers even more exciting opportunities for exploration – you have to go back and forth often to maneuver around one level's physical barriers and differences in each time zone. It's a simple yet creative and aesthetically impressive mechanic that works very well.
The only thing that becomes distracting at this point in the game is the limited number of enemy types – there are not so many of them and meet and kill the same The monsters again and again when exploring can be boring. And while the 20 or more hours of time travel, traverses and swordfield lead you to a satisfying and appropriate climax, the game has a sudden end that robs you of any sense of closure.
Messenger takes the best part of the action platforms, influences and reinterprets them well. With smart writing, well-designed levels and balanced difficulty curves, the game continually connects you with tempting skill-based challenges and satisfying payoffs. Your character may have an immediate necessity to deliver a world-saving roll, but the journey is definitely one to taste.