As science progressed, humans began conducting daring experiments, defying the laws of creation. Their leader, called Father Prime, has concocted the most audacious plan: contact Satan. His reasoning is that he who controls the devil will also know how to control God. As the Earth plunges into sin and corruption, God himself decides that time has come to interfere. He sends a little cherub named Bob to investigate Father Prime's designs. Since Bob is endowed with a human soul, he has a free will and is capable of making a decision, even if it contradicts God's orders. With nothing but his frail angelic body, Bob descends into the sinful world.
Messiah is a third-person action game set in urban environments with sci-fi elements. The player controls Bob, who can fly (though at low altitude), but not do much else; he is very vulnerable and can be easily killed. Thus, the player must make use of Bob's other ability: possession. Bob is able to take over any creature, from humans to animals. Once he possesses his target, he has complete control over its movements.
Possessing a body can serve a variety of purposes. For example, possessing a muscular brute who has great strength and endurance would be a fitting choice if the player wishes to engage in melee combat; taking control over a trained policeman allows carrying a gun without raising suspicion, etc. Possession ability is also used as a puzzle-solving element, as some areas can be only entered with specific bodies (e.g. only scientists can enter a secure laboratory). On higher difficulty levels, Bob can only possess a target who have their back turned to him, and must sneak around to avoid notice.
This game was in development hell for over 4 years.
The concept of the possession mechanic was inspired by the game Earthworm Jim, where, on one of the levels, the protagonist loses his armor and is vulnerable and helpless until he finds it again. The developers liked the feeling of changing from a weak character into a powerful one.
The distributor, Virgin Interactive, came up with a magazine ad depicting Pope John Paul II smoking a cigar, with the tagline "What's possessed you? Messiah". Two magazines refused to run this somewhat controversial ad.
There is a scene that has you possess a worker in a radiation suit. When you approach some guards, they call you "Half Life." This is a reference to the game Half-Life.
One of the in-game locations is named "Club Kyd", after Jesper Kyd who composed the game music.
One of the sound effects in the game — namely, Bob's grunt of pain in the closing cutscene — later made its way into the game platform Roblox, where it was used as the default "death" sound. The sound effect, known as "oof", became an iconic internet meme, but its source remained obscure until a Twitter user pointed it out in 2019. In 2020, Roblox reached a settlement with the sound's original creator, Tony Tallarico: the sound would be removed from the platform, but any user could purchase it for a small fee to use it in their Roblox creations. (Source)
Messiah's engine is a lot more advanced that what it first may seem. It featured a LOD function (Level Of Detail) that would modify the polygon count in the scene in real time while the player was playing to keep the frame rate smooth. The faster your PC, the more polygons the engine would put in the models making them smoother. And you can see the adding subtraction of polys as you are playing.