In the early days of 3D action-adventure games, Sony’s PlayStation console was a fertile digital habitat that bred a healthy number of titles that helped lay the foundation of what the genre would become. Few however were as uniquely twisted and imaginative as MEDIEVIL, a gothic and humourous tale that was as distinctive as it was technically flawed. Now remade by developer Other Ocean Emeryville, this fresh take on the classic highlights much of what made the original so special while still managing to stumble into many of the same pitfalls.
Taking up sword and shield as Sir Daniel Fortesque, legendary “Hero of Gallowmere,” players will travel through a fallen medieval kingdom in pursuit of Zarok, an evil sorcerer who’s returned a century after his presumed defeat to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting populace. But as is the case with many ye olde tales of chivalry, this was a highly embellished tale put forth by the king to protect his lead soldier’s precious reputation. In actuality, our hero was the first to die in battle after being caught on the receiving end of an arrow to the eye. Having inadvertently risen from his grave after Zarok raised an undead army, Daniel is granted a second chance to untarnish his reputation and finally put an end to the sorcerer’s reign.
MEDIEVIL was a great looking game when it was originally released back in 1998, so it’s no surprise that the remake is similarly gorgeous. Though it loses a bit of the visual quirkiness that the PS1’s visuals were able to achieve, enemies and stages are lovingly recreated down to the finest of details. Drawing obvious inspiration from equal parts German Expressionism and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, levels exude oddity with every element of their design. Suitably spooky locations to explore include a graveyard, asylum, pumpkin patch, and even the odd ant colony.
There’s also plenty to do in each stage beyond simply reaching the exit. Ridding the level of enough enemies will allow the retrieval of a chalice that grants entry to the Hall of Heroes where Daniel can unlock useful new weapons and helpful collectibles such as health and gold coins. Other easy-to-miss areas reward exploration, and locked sections warrant the replaying of certain levels once the corresponding item has been gathered elsewhere.
Most of MEDIEVIL’s audio seems to be remastered original content which should come as a plus to returning fans. As in the original game, voice acting is solid across the board, and it’s always amusing to hear the jawless Foresque mumble his responses to characters that frequently doubt his abilities. Music is charming and darkly whimsical, though certain enemy sound effects can quickly become grating such as the female townsfolk found in “the Sleeping Village” stage.
If there’s one thing that MEDIEVIL never really excelled in, it’s how it manages to handle its camera. Perhaps easily forgivable in the early days of 3D gaming, this is frustratingly still the case, though the remake tries to remedy this with the newly included “Dan Cam,” a toggled over-the-shoulder mode. Even still, certain areas such as rooms with static camera positions don’t allow for this, and more wide open locations allowing otherwise free camera movement inexplicably prevent its use.
Hit detection can also be a bit perplexing at times, as enemies will take several slashings from Daniel’s sword and still manage to make contact with the player and inflict damage. This never really seemed to be the case in the original game, as each swing would knock foes back to prevent them from ever getting close enough for harm.
Still, by and large, this is a vastly superior reimagining than the rather lazy PlayStation Portable MEDIEVIL RESURRECTION and manages to preserve the original’s darkly colourful and offbeat aesthetic, flaws and all. With a little more time and polish, perhaps similar treatment of MEDIEVIL 2 could prove to be even more of a bone-rattling good time.
MediEvil is out Friday, October 25 for PlayStation 4. Review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada.