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Platform(s): PSOne, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2019


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PS4 Review - 'MediEvil'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 23, 2019 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

MediEvil is an action adventure game where you, as resurrected Sir Daniel Fortesque, defend Gallowmere from the evil forces of Zarok, a sorcerer with the power to control the dead.

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It's sometimes difficult to remember that there are hundreds, even thousands of "kind of good" games that are forgotten upon the change of console generations. MediEvil is one such title. It lingered on the edge of being forgotten but was charming enough that Sir Dan, the skeletal protagonist, remained a fixture in cameos and references for some time, despite the last true sequel coming out almost a decade ago. MediEvil 2019 is the second attempt to update the PS1 game for modern consoles, the last being 2005's MediEvil Resurrection for the PSP. It's a very loyal remake that aims to capture everything about the original PS1 offering — both good and bad.

MediEvil follows the adventures of the late Sir Daniel Fortesque, who led the charge against a terrible wizard and … died miserably in the first moments of the battle. Sir Dan did not earn a place in the Hall of Heroes, his body instead languishing in his musty grave. When the evil wizard returns, Dan is brought back and given a chance to redeem himself. If he can slay the evil wizard, he can join the heroes.

The gameplay in MediEvil is simple. You mash an attack button or hold down a charge attack button to hack and slash repetitive weak enemies until they fall over. You can get different weapons, including your trusty sword, a giant hammer, and a crossbow, among others. They play slightly differently, but by and large, it's about finding a weapon that you like and sticking with it. It was a relatively early PS1 platformer game, so it was a miracle that enemies did something besides rush at you and die.

MediEvil treats its lives in an old-school fashion, too. Dan has a limited number of lives, which are represented by "life bottles." If he runs out of health or falls into a pit (the latter is significantly more deadly), he'll die and respawn only if he has a life bottle. You begin with only two bottles, but you'll collect more by exploring the game. This is important because if you neglect collecting life bottles, some of the later segments will feel awfully frustrating when one or two missed jumps doom you.

Like many games of the era, MediEvil also felt like a collect-a-thon. Each level has a chalice that you collect by killing "enemies with a soul," so you can't farm certain foes. Kill enough, and you'll unlock a chalice that unlocks either a new weapon or upgrade at the Hall of Heroes after the level. Some chalices are easy to find, while others require searching for secrets and solving puzzles. There are even some secrets that require you to return to an earlier level with an item from a later level.

It's a neat feature, but some of the puzzles are pretty nonsensical or difficult to understand because the visuals don't communicate what they are. Finding the chalice rarely feels rewarding and feels like busywork, but this is also the part of the game that feels the best. When it works, it's really neat to figure out a puzzle or go back and get a bonus life bottle from an earlier stage.

MediEvil 2019 has a few nice updates over the original game. The biggest is that the default walking speed has been massively increased. It feels even faster than running in the original game, and it's done automatically without having to hold down any buttons. This may not sound like much, but it's a very welcome improvement. A lot of other minor adjustments have been made to speed up the game, with less busywork for basic things, like going to the Hall of Heroes. Most of these probably won't stand out very well unless you've played the original game, but fans of the original should welcome each change.

The biggest problem is that MediEvil doesn't have much going for it beyond pure nostalgia. The gameplay might be familiar to those of us who grew up on the PS1 but to anyone younger it's going to feel pretty awkward. Even fellow members of the rebuild club Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon have aged significantly better. While I was playing through MediEvil the number one thing I could think is that there just isn't much distinctive about it these days. The gameplay is pretty basic and repetitive, the level design isn't that great, and the wacky fantasy adventure story is so common these days that anyone without prior fondness for the skeletal hero probably isn't going to find much exciting here.

Make no mistake, MediEvil 2019 is a good update of the PS1 game, and it looks significantly better than the PSP update did, but at heart, it's still a PS1 game. The changes in speed result in less wasted time, and if you sat me down to play MediEvil, this is the version I'd choose. However, at the end of the day, it's a forgettable PS1 game with an amusing protagonist and occasionally funny writing, but its gameplay wasn't something to write home about, so some of the flaws still stand out. The most significant issue is the camera. It was improved over the original game, but it's still cumbersome and awkward, and it locks into place too often.

The visual update is quite solid. MediEvil resembles the game that existed in my mind when I first played it in 1998 and not the blurry, pixelated title that my eyes see today. It suffers from its PS1 roots, as it remains too loyal to the original graphics, resulting in cheaper-looking graphics and awkward animations. The environments have been gussied up from the PS1 original, but they're still pretty boring. The Spyro Collection did a better job of making similarly basic PS1 environments feel much better. The music and voice acting are appropriately nostalgic, even reusing PS1 voice acting (with naturally higher fidelity) from time to time.

Ultimately, MediEvil doesn't have much going for it except for nostalgia. Everything about it is unexceptional, and it feels lackluster when compared to similar recent attempts to update PS1 classics. Without a fondness for Sir Dan and his antics, I'd be hard-pressed to say why MediEvil is worth playing. It's a game for fans, but little has been done to make this offering stand out. Perhaps it would've been better if Sir Dan had been left to his peaceful rest, but we can hope for a genuine next-gen MediEvil someday in the future.

Score: 6.5/10

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