The short version: Messiah is a game by Shiny Entertainment. That should tell you everything you need to know already. It’s actually quite possible to devise a drinking game that focuses entirely on sitting at the computer, playing through the game, and hunting for as many Shiny characteristics as possible. Take a sip every time you notice something, and by the end of it you’ll have swigged enough booze to make an elephant sick.
Messiah is, to say the least, rather weird (sip). It has you playing the role of a cherub named Bob (sip) who God sends to Earth because, well, humanity has screwed up enough to create a classically dystopian and unnecessarily violent (sip) future. Your job is to destroy Father Prime, humanity’s sinister overseer and leader of a powerful police force populated by people who look like they scavenged their armour straight from MDK (sip). They’re pitted against the Chots, an underground resistance force who, despite being the “good guys”, have an unfortunately vicious demeanour and a penchant for cannibalism (sip).
Predictably enough, an oafish, tongue-in-cheek Satan (sip) gets involved at some point and screws everything up even further. Given these somewhat steep odds, Bob needs to possess various creatures (humans, mutants, and even rats) to resolve his problems through a mixture of fighting, puzzle-solving and freakishly jumping into people’s chests (oh, just go ahead and down the bottle already).
The aforementioned possession premise is what differentiates Messiah from an oh-so-typical shooter. The very creatures you fight against become your tools, your weapons, and your means of living. Die, and you’re simply released from your body, ready to chest-leap another unfortunate victim and lead them to victory or doom. This idea of “using” your enemies turns everything on its head during combat and forces the development of an entirely new skill set.
Married to this premise is Messiah‘s flexible play: even in a scenario consisting of just one or two rooms, there are often several routes to take. Do you want to sneak through the police base as a harmless scientist and disable the laser field? Or would you prefer possessing one of the Chot soldiers outside and leading a full-on assault to destroy it? How about taking over a police commander and turning their own gun turrets against them?
Unfortunately, there are quite a few downsides to this game. For a start, Messiah is oldschool in the worst way possible. The default controls are awkward for modern gamers (especially frustrating when you’re in the vulnerable cherub form), the tutorial level is very unhelpful and misleading, AI behaviours are difficult to understand at times, and the game itself really isn’t long enough. But for all its flaws and oversights, Messiah was (and probably still is) a unique and groundbreaking experience.
If you’re easily scared off by intimidating and confusing games, leave this one alone. But if you’d like an oldschool challenge, are open to fascinating new gameplay paradigms, and are a fan of pretty much everything that Shiny stands for, grab this game now.