The Messenger

Review by Orb

The Messenger takes its player through centuries of history and tradition in the Louvre, the august eight-century-old building in Paris, once the host to heads of French state and now housing one of the greatest art collections on earth. One of the highlights of this game is that the player explores the building in different time periods, getting to enjoy the feel of how it has been used historically, how the architecture has changed and been added to, and how people of these times looked and interacted with the environment. From this viewpoint, playing The Messenger is a rich historical experience as well as a game.

This is an aspect in which this game truly shines. The building itself has been carefully reconstructed using plans and historical documents, and the attention to detail shows. This unto itself makes it fun to explore the Louvre, and it reminds me of some other games that have lovingly recreated historical sites, such as Titanic and The Legend of Lotus Spring.

The story of The Messenger is actually quite minimal. You play as Secret Service Agent Morgan Sinclair, ordered to infiltrate the Louvre and recover four artifacts known as "Satan's Keys" in five time periods. These keys, when brought together and joined, will bring about Armageddon. It is the dying wish of Morgan's father that she halt this.

The graphics are well-done. Environments are richly detailed, well-designed, and completely appropriate for each time period the game moves through. Some of the rooms seemed rather empty, however, with only one or two pieces of furniture and the walls to explore. This may or may not be an accurate representation of how the Louvre has been maintained over the years, but it definitely lessened what there was to explore. There are really nice transitional animations that give the game a further lush look.

Characters are cleverly designed, and they really keep the whole look and feel of each time period fresh and very realistic.

Now to some of the more problematic aspects of this title. The game is designed in such a way that saving becomes like a compulsory itch—the player can accidentally surprise guards and die, and there is absolutely no way to anticipate when this is going to happen. Yuck.

Another weakness with the design is that the inventory system is just way too complex and not at all intuitive. There's just a lot of "figuring out" to do. For some explicable reason, the inventory was designed to only hold a limited number of items, and the others that are given to the character at the opening or found during gameplay are stored in a chest. The chest appears in various rooms throughout the gameplay, and all items can be stored in any chest anywhere to be accessed from any chest anywhere—highly unrealistic. There is a mapping system that will take the player to any area already explored during gameplay, normally a wonderful thing, but because of the onerous task of loading and unloading and rearranging inventory, even this task becomes practically as arduous as having to walk back and forth from locations to the closest trunks. Traitor's Gate, which this game most resembles, does the big inventory system of tools mixed with things found much more smoothly.

All of the puzzles are inventory-based, and so this necessitates a lot of this "inventory shuffle," especially since you are given tools to get in and around and through things, such as a flashlight and knife and gas mask. But you also have a whole separate set of items that must be combined and used in each time period to solve puzzles that have to do specifically with that portion of the game.

The endgame sequence is pretty short and sweet. This is not really surprising, as the character you have been playing is minimally defined and spends the majority of the game acting as a Sigourney Weaver/Lara Croft superhero, rather than an in-depth character study. However, the extreme brevity of the endgame may be surprising and disappointing to some.

The soundtrack accompanies the environment nicely. It runs in short loops but does not get overly redundant. The soundtrack does not play throughout the game; instead, there are periods where the player enjoys the ambient sounds of the environment of the Louvre and the people in the structure.

At one point about three-quarters of the way through the game, it dumped me out inexplicably, which of course heightened the compulsive save twitch just that much more. This did happen only once. Other than that, there were no bugs or problems—it installed smoothly and ran without a hitch.

The Messenger is not a bad game, it's just that there are design elements that make sections of gameplay laborious rather than fun. And with that in mind, there are quite a few more recent releases worth the time spent, such as Dracula Resurrection, from the same developer and publisher, as well as games that are similar in nature that have some elements most frustrating here worked out better, such as Traitor's Gate. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Index+
Publisher: Dreamcatcher
Release Date: 2001

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

G3 or iMac
System 8.5.1
32 MB RAM (64 MB RAM from Virtual Memory)
(64 MB RAM recommended)
6 MB 3D video card, Open GL compatible
8X CD-ROM drive

Windows 95/98/ME/XP
Pentium 166 MHz (200 MHz recommended)
16 MB RAM (32 MB recommended)
4X CD-ROM (8X recommended)

Where to Find It

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