The little demon that revives you every time you die in The Messenger is a bit of a git. It’s an often quoted idiom made famous (but not originated by) Benjamin Franklin, that “…in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. Quarble is both of these things. When he first appears, he gleefully informs you that every time you perish, he will take all of the gems you collect until his services have been paid for. He’s forever hiding in the background, waiting for you to slip up, so he can note your debt in his little ledger.
I thought that The Messenger was going to be a rather short platformer at first, something akin to the games of the 1980s. Indeed, there were times where leaping across levels as a ninja were felt remarkably similar to Ninja Gaiden. As I scaled a mountain to deliver a message about a demon invasion, I got new abilities that furthered my ninja skills. Things got weird in a tower when the game started throwing puzzles into the mix, but it worked well enough.
But just when everything clicked together and I got into the flow of beating the levels, The Messenger upended everything I had come to understand. Suddenly I had a hat. There was a little more detail in the backgrounds, and the sequential levels became open-ended worlds that I could freely travel between, revealing new areas using the powers I had picked up along the way. Things were fresh once more – and it wasn’t the last time my understanding of the game was changed, either. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, so much so that as soon as it ended, I started a new save file.
But for all its upheaval of expectations, there’s one thing that The Messenger drills in: whatever changes, there are always two certainties. That the messenger will die, and that Quarble will be there with his ledger when he does. The utter git.