If you find yourself longing for the era of tough-as-nails, NES-era action titles, then The Messenger might just be the indie game you’ve been looking for.
The Messenger casts players a ninja in a mystical realm who has been tasked with delivering an important scroll to his clan in order to save his people (that really should have been the plot to The Postman). Along the way, he encounters various baddies who will surely takedown all but the most mechanically gifted of players.
On the surface, The Messenger basically looks like an unofficial Ninja Gaiden game. It’s clear that developer Sabotage isn’t shying away from that comparison. It features chiptune songs, airtight controls, and will no doubt make you want to throw your controller out of the window at some point. Much like how Shovel Knight was a love letter to the era of NES platformers, The Messenger pays home to games like Ninja Gaiden, Batman, and Contra.
However, this is much more than a case of simple digital flattery. See, The Messenger eventually allows players to utilize a time travel system. When you hop into one of those time portals, the game changes to a 16-bit graphical style and begins to incorporate Metroidvania elements. It’s not entirely clear whether or not these two styles of games will be at odds with each other or if they will somehow both be organically incorporated into a cohesive experience. What we can tell you is that the developers are promising that this aspect of the game will add a great deal of replay value to the experience.
Even in its 8-bit form, though, The Messenger looks like a special experience. We really haven’t gotten many genuine attempts at recreating the beloved era of NES action titles. Some games have touched upon that territory, but we haven’t really been treated to many significant recreations of that style. The developers behind this particular title seem to have a very clear understanding of the mechanics and level design elements that make that particular breed of game so beloved. They’ve even implemented a sense of humor that pokes fun at the genre while still paying respect to it.
The Messenger is certainly on our radar and it should be on yours too when the game releases for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC later this year.