A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Messenger is a downloadable third-person action/adventure game for the Nintendo Switch and Windows PCs. In this side-scrolling hack-and-slash adventure game, players are cast as a ninja who must use a sword to kill an army of demons before they destroy the world. But the impact of the violence is lessened by the game's low-resolution, pixelated graphics, which make it look like it was made 30 years ago. While there's no profanity in the game, there's nothing stopping players from using profanity for their character's name, which appears on-screen for the duration of play. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content.
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What's it about?
In THE MESSENGER, people in a distant cliffside village spend their time training to be ninjas, afraid that a frightening demon army is coming to wipe them out. Of course, that's exactly what happens. After surviving this devastating attack, you're given a scroll and are told to take it to sages in a distant land, because they'll know what to do and how to prevent further destruction. So you head out into the demon-infested world, carrying a message of great importance, with only your sword, your ability to jump, and new items you buy along the way.
Is it any good?
Though this is a new side-scrolling hack-and-slash adventure, its gameplay is decidedly old-school, and not just in the way it looks. In The Messenger, you play as a young, largely untrained ninja who must deliver a scroll by traveling through a land under the control of a demon army. Armed with a sword, an ability to jump, and other ninja gear, you spend the bulk of this game smacking demons and figuring out how to avoid their attacks so that you can get close enough to smack them. But as you progress, things get a lot more complicated in how the world is laid out, along with the kinds of demons you have to fight. All of this fast-paced action is done from a side-scrolling perspective, with the kind of low-resolution, pixelated graphics and low-fi keyboard tones most games gave up when they moved from 2D to 3D.
That's not to say that The Messenger doesn't use some modern conventions. When you die, for instance, you start over from the nearest checkpoint, not at the beginning of the level or even the beginning of the game, even though this will cost you gear and cash. The game also has problems that have plagued games since the beginning, such as a lack of clearly explained controls or rules, which can be annoying if you're not familiar with games that are old-school or, well, just old. It's also on the tough side, with no options to change it, though it's not as tough as Dark Souls, Super Meat Boy, or other games that pride themselves on being difficult. Still, if you're old enough to remember games from the '80s and '90s, or young enough that you think games back then are cool again, you'll have a tough time not enjoying The Messenger.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in The Messenger affected by the fact that you're killing demons instead of people? Does it matter that the game's visuals are pixelated instead of realistic and graphic?
When does it make sense to sacrifice yourself for the greater good, and when does it make sense to live so you can fight another day?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Windows
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Devolver Digital
- Release date: August 30, 2018
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Violence
- Last updated: April 14, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.