When you think about the classics that graced the PlayStation’s formative years there are some iconic franchises that have gone on to become household names. Series such as Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Tekken, Gran Turismo and more still continue to release entries even to this day, while other PlayStation classics such as Ape Escape and Wipeout have largely been left to collect dust. MediEvil sits firmly in the latter; a series whose last appearance came in 2005 for the PlayStation Portable in the form of MediEvil: Resurrection – a game that ultimately had the opposite effect to its title. Still, MediEvil is cherished by those who remember ‘the good old days’, and after almost 20 years since its last console release, Sony has resurrected Sir Daniel Fortesque once more, but is it a remake worthy of a place in the Hall of Heroes?
Home sweet home
Remakes and remaster are common practice this gen, with publishers eager to make a quick wedge by polishing up some textures or tearing everything down and building it from scratch – a la Capcom’s remake of Resident Evil 2 that released this year to critical acclaim. What made RE2 2019 so good was that it was less of a remake and more of a reimagining and modernising of an old favourite. MediEvil on the other hand is a literal remake, with Sony tasking Other Ocean Interactive with rebuilding the 1998 classic from scratch.
If you’ve never played the original (shame on you), then here’s a quick primer to get you up to speed. MediEvil is an action-adventure hack ‘n’ slash game that takes place in the kingdom of Gallowmere, with an evil sorcerer named Zarok cursing the kingdom and its denizens while raising his undead army. Unknowingly, Zarok brings our skeletal hero Sir Daniel Fortesque back from the dead in the process, with the fate of Gallowmere now resting upon his bony shoulders. Defeat Zarok and Fortesque will earn his place in the Hall of Heroes, the resting place for all of Gallowmere’s legendary heroes.
Heading back into Gallowmere for the first time in over ten years (since I last played it) was a blast, at least initially. Slaying the undead and making my way through the Gallowmere graveyard brought back memories of 1998 and just how much I enjoyed the original. But if it’s a remake of a PS1 game then it’s sure to play like a PS1 game, and herein lies MediEvil’s greatest frustration – the gameplay mechanics can often feel outdated.
I call this piece, The Smashing Pumpkins
Easily the most infuriating element of the game is the camera, which is diabolical at times. Using fixed cameras that allow you to rotate at certain times, your view has been dictated for you. However, given that you’re always on the move the camera often struggles to keep up if you move between areas too fast, or the camera is poorly placed and you’ll get lost inside or behind walls or other objects, totally hindering your view and leaving you exposed to attacks. One new feature in the remake is that players are able to switch to an over-the-shoulder view, however this is often unavailable, which makes it a pointless inclusion.
Combat for the most part is fine, and the of arsenal weapons that Fortesque attains throughout (by collecting chalices) are fun to use. However the controls can sometimes feel like they’re working against you, especially when you have to keep fighting the camera as well as Zarok’s undead army. It can feel like trying to push a shopping trolley one way while it’s pulling you in another.
Playing through MediEvil made me realise there are some modern game design choices that I take for granted, such as having a camera that isn’t hampering the gameplay and a generous checkpoint system. As in the original, MediEvil doesn’t have any form of checkpoints; once you run out of Life Bottles (health) you must start the level all over again. It’s not inherently bad design to lack checkpoints, but certain levels can feel like a slog after reaching the final boss only to perish at the final hurdle and forcing a replay. I mean, a cheeky little checkpoint before the boss fight never hurt anyone.
From a visual standpoint Other Ocean Interactive has done a stellar job of recreating the Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired kingdom of Gallowmere. Levels such as the Pumpkin Gorge, Scarecrow Fields and Sleeping Village (childhood favourites of mine) and the monsters that patrol it all look fantastic in 4K running on the PS4 Pro. Other Ocean Interactive also deserve plaudit for the handling of the audio, with the game featuring a re-recorded version of the original soundtrack, as well as the game’s original voice actors who return to reprise their roles, creating a truly authentic remake experience.
Where’s the village people?
While MediEvil may feel a little dated in areas, when it comes to nostalgia, MediEvil delivers it in spades, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my return to Gallowmere. It’s fun, full of that 90s charm and faithful to the source material. If you enjoyed the original MediEvil and want nothing more than a trip down memory lane, then this could be the best $39 you’ve spent all year.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher