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MediEvil review: Arise, Sir Dan, zombie hordes await

The older we get, we tend to look at things we loved or admired from the past through rose-coloured glasses. Thinking they’re better than they actually were. I think this is the case with MediEvil, a game from the era of the first PlayStation and now been lovingly remastered for the modern PlayStation.

Nostalgia is a funny thing, isn’t it?

MediEvil tells the tale of Sir Daniel Fortesque (who sounds a lot like Mr Bean in his dialogue delivery). A former warrior who was immortalised into history as the hero of Gallowmere during a battle against the evil sorcerer Zarok. Problem is Sir Dan wasn’t really a hero: He was struck down during the opening charge of the battle, but now, inadvertently re-animated by Zarok as a one-eyed, slack-jawed gormless skeleton. He has the chance to re-write history and defeat Zarok once and for all – and all those zombie hordes, of course.

Off the bat, MediEvil seems a strange PS1 game to remaster when there are better candidates that could have received the remaster treatment. I remember playing a MediEvil game on the now long forgotten PSP (PlayStation Portable), and from memory it wasn’t that well received.

MediEvil - a rose tinted adventure?

So I guess the question is:

Is MediEvil a game that should have been remastered for the modern age in the first place?

Graphically, this MediEvil is a polished affair, with graphics pulled kicking and screaming into the 2000s and a wonderful orchestral soundtrack that backs up the narrative. It’s the perfect game just in time for Halloween, too, if that’s your jam.

Developer Other Ocean Emmeryville has faithfully recreated the game for the PS4 pixel by pixel, scene by scene. Fans of the original will salivate at the chance to play an old PS1 favourite on a modern TV with a HD lick of paint. In an age of games where it’s easy to get lost from the task at hand due to the modern penchant for wide open spaces. It’s nice to play a game where you know exactly where you’re supposed. As progression is clearly signposted and you’re guided in the direction you need thanks to the layout of the environments.

Blindly faithful to the original MediEvil?

However, that faithfulness to the original is often the games downfall. Those of us old enough to remember games from the dark ages (or 20 years ago) will know the frustration of fixed camera views that were commonplace in games like MediEvil. The developer has introduced a less restrictive camera view in this remake (allowing you an over the shoulder point of view). I still lost count of the number of times my view was blocked by a doorway or pillar. Or I had trouble negotiating Sir Dan through a doorway because the game had decided to employ a fixed camera for a particular location.

The camera really poses problems during some of the platforming and puzzle section, which is frustrating.

Combat definitely falls into the old school mechanic, too, with much of the time Fortesque swinging blindly with a club or sword as he’s surrounded by pesky imps or lumbering zombies (which then dissolve in a puff of purple smoke). At times, it’s definitely a case of spamming the attack button until all the baddies are gone (you have a shield but to be honest, it didn’t seem much use). The game mixes combat up with ranged weapons like throwing knives and a handy crossbow that are useful against ranged enemies but overall, the combat won’t stretch your muscle memory. Certain weapons are better at doing better things, too: The club, for example, is perfect for smashing rocks and spikes.

You get what you Retro with MediEvil.

As in many games from the late ’90s, checkpoints aren’t the best, certainly the case here against the boss fights. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to redo a significant part of a level in the lead up to a boss fight. Having failed said boss fight because you ran out of ammo for a weapon or your club broke.

Here’s a gentle suggestion for the developers: Put a checkpoint at the start of the boss fight.

Here’s some advice for players: Listen to what the heroes in the Hall of Heroes advise about specific weapons uses.

Medievil has lots of backtracking to find keys and runes that will unlock doors thereby unlocking pathways to progress things. Standard fare from this type of game from the late ’90s. It’s a light hearted romp with a gormless hero but faithfully copying a game from the 90s, isn’t what gamers want today.

Look, MediEvil is nice change of pace to some of the more intense games out there that require complete concentration. However it’s a shame that many of the frustrations of the original (stiff controls and fixed cameras) have remained.

It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, really.