PlayStation may have surprised a few of us announcing the remake of the original MediEvil back in 2017. The 1998 hack and slash adventure game starring the reanimated Sir Daniel Fortesque had been laid to rest in 2005 after one sequel and a PSP remake. However with a little bit of necromancy and a whole lot of heart the team at Other Ocean have brought us this charming but imperfect remake.
You play as the great Sir Daniel Fortesque, the Hero of Gallowmere, the slayer of the Sorcerer Zarok except that you didn’t. For you see, Sir Dan was slain by an arrow to the eye whilst charging into battle and somehow the mists of time and the fog of war have led to him being declared the hero of the day. 100 years later when Zarok returned with his undead army and enslaved the locals, Sir Dan is given a second chance to live out his destiny albeit as a reanimated Skelton missing a few bits. It’s a comical set up which leads to a decent inferiority complex, some rather fun baiting from gargoyles, and surprisingly, a French sex symbol.
Yes, a sex symbol. Maybe it’s his downtrodden ungainly gait, exaggerated gesticulations and ability to whip off his own arm to bludgeon enemies, I honestly will never understand. He is pretty endearing with his frustrated grunts and desperate attempts to redeem himself. A decent character needs an environment to shine and in Medievil Sir Dan battles to reclaim the lands of Gallowmere and these are a sight to behold. The original game’s creative director wanted to combine Ghouls’n Ghosts and Tim Burton’s Nightmare before Christmas and though the original did a decent job, the remake embodies this dream completely. Each level is surprisingly varied from a Gothic graveyard to a flying pirate ghost ship. The levels are heavily populated with everything from the Addams family’s Thing scuttling along the ground like a plague rat to the headless zombies that charge you and smash into walls when you perform a perfect dodge, this game is full of these perfect touches that ooze charm. All of this framed in a funny and engaging story, what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, the gameplay chips away at the goodwill brought from the art design and writing. Hacking and slashing through hordes of the undead should be gratifying but it feels careless and cruel. You don’t always make impact when you should, enemies seem to be able to do massive damage with minor hits and you find yourself accidentally with your back to the enemies. It doesn’t feel slick and the remake should have modernized it. Another creature comfort that’s missing is the ability to save mid level or prior to the boss fights. Given that the game can alternate between a pleasant stroll to a punishing hell ride it would have been nice if you had the opportunity to save. However, if you hit one of these moments of brutality unprepared you will find yourself dumped back at the level’s opening cutscene.
I never played the original game, so I am uncertain if the large swathe of faults that are present here are new or dutifully recreated from the source material. Though you can certainly still have a lot of fun in the game, the bugs are numerous and can lead to a lot of frustration. The more comical faults focus around collision detection. I’ve been able to phase through rock, float in midair when I should have fallen to my demise, and at one comical point my foot appeared to get stuck to a chicken. Given the main protagonist is a member of the undead community I found this worthy of a chuckle and felt that it added to the gameplay.
What I didn’t find so funny was the camera which truly seemed to be possessed and was gunning for me to rejoin the afterworld. Often it was a nuisance; difficult to control leading to failures during the platforming sections and tipping the balance during combat. At times it would generate its own gravitational field and literally draw Sir Dan towards it including one occasion towards the end of the game where I was pulled into oblivion. There was significant frame rate drops during certain levels and the cutscenes occasionally seemed to have issues with anti-aliasing. It is probably the biggest testament to the writing and genuine charm of the game that I was still driven to finish the campaign as a game without its humor would have been dropped sooner.
So, where do I stand on this one? Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Medievil, it’s fun, doesn’t take itself seriously and I love the idea of a fake hero trying to achieve his destiny on a second shot. However, when I look at what games like Zelda: Link's Awakening where they added some quality of life features but kept the main game, I believe they missed an opportunity here to iron out a few creases.
6/10 A fiendishly funny but flawed adventure.
Coffee received a copy for this review on the PS4 Pro