Hop between 8 and 16-bit eras in The Messenger

The Messenger

So long as it moves and feels right and has an original idea or two of its own, I’ll always make time for an old-school platformer, especially one starring ninjas. What can I say? I grew up through the late 80s/early 90s.

The Messenger is the upcoming debut game from Sabotage Studio, and it looks, at least at first glance, more than a little like Ninja Gaiden. That alone is enough to catch my eye, but the addition of Metroid-like exploration elements built around hopping between 8 and 16-bit iterations of the game? Alright then, you’ve got my interest.

The Messenger has already made a bit of splash in Canada. At the Montreal Independent Games Festival, it came away with both the Best Gameplay Design and Best Music awards, and I must admit that the audio in the trailer below is catchy. Apparently it’s composed in Famitracker, meaning it’s fully NES-authentic.

The big gimmick of the game is a little bit of a mystery at this point, but it seems that at some point, you gain the ability to phase between 8 and 16-bit eras, with level structure changing, and the art being significantly improved in the latter realm, right down to enemies having more-detailed sprites with additional animation frames. Sabotage have some art chops for sure, so it’s not too surprising that they’re also collaborating with Oddworld Inhabitants to develop Oddworld: Soulstorm, the modern reboot of the classic puzzle-platformer.

Sabotage only fully announced The Messenger just recently, and the teaser trailer saves the main twist of the game for the last couple seconds. Sabotage Studio will be demoing the game at PAX South in 2018, so hopefully we’ll hear a few more details then.

The Messenger is due to launch sometime this year. Until then, you can follow it on Sabotage’s site and the game’s Steam page.


  1. Megatron says:

    This actually looks awesome. I’m very keen to see more of the Bit-switching, or does it only happen once, when your character becomes Master?

    Yes. More, please.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      In the press release I received, there was an animated GIF hinting that the generation hopping was going to be a key game mechanic, which seems pretty cool.

    • anon459 says:

      I hope it’s a time travel gimmick that works a bit like in Link to the Past. Is that wish too specific?

      • April March says:

        Ha, I’d like that. A game with a LttP style time travel thing that is actually explained as traveling to an earlier installment of the game.

  2. Ejia says:

    I thought Evoland’s switching between 16-bit 2D and late ’90s 3D was tiring, but that also came with a changing of mechanics, and it was an (assortment of) RPG(s).

    However that music is simply lovely, and this is absolutely my sort of platforming (although I prefer shooty ones to stabby ones).

    • April March says:

      A good reminder that I own Evoland and should give it a try.

  3. Dominic Tarason says:

    This game should also be a pretty good example of why so many developers settle on 8-bit style art instead of 16-bit or similar. Just look at the number of pixels and animation frames and colours given to a single enemy – it’s an exponential increase in art production time, likely 3-4x as much effort per item.

  4. syllopsium says:

    By ‘8 bit’ they really do mean ‘like a PC Engine on steroids on its best day’ rather than actually 8 bit, and the PC Engine was stuffed to the gills with custom chips..

    Composed in Famitracker. Really? Doesn’t sound much like 8 bit music I’ve heard, but I do like chiptune so I’ll let it pass.

    Looks alright, if nothing special though.