The original MediEvil games on the PlayStation were a pair of action games that had a lot of rough edges to them, but delivered the goods when it came to satisfying combat. The ability to not only use a sword, but also a variety of ranged weapons stood out at a time when you generally only had one kind of attack – and with the industry still leaning towards that setup more often than not, the franchise winds up being a bit more future-proof 20 years later than anyone could have anticipated. The series didn’t really have a large following – but did get a bit of acclaim when it was re-released on the PS3. This led to a whole new generation of players enjoying the first game and seeing how well this mix of action and comedy worked. Now, with Sony getting ready to roll into the next generation with the PlayStation 5, the PlayStation 4 gets a top-shelf remake to call its own with MediEvil.
The original’s mix of Tim Burton-esque world design and a fairly dark, but silly sense of humor remains pretty funny today. Poor Sir Dan Fortesque is remembered in the game’s lore as a legendary hero – but was the first slain in a battle against Lord Zarok. With history making him seem like a hero, he’s been chosen for resurrection when Zarok himself is reborn – and now Dan needs to find a way to live up to his own posthumous legend. He’s got a series of tools at his disposal to do just that, as he’s always armed with a sword and can use things like arrows and crossbows as time goes on. The longer-range attack items are always in limited supply due to scarcity of ammo, but if you can find a shop nearby, you can replenish your stock. Items like clubs allow you to keep a short-range mindset if you like, as they will dole out more damage, but take more time to use and will break in time.
The risk/reward factor adds a bit of depth to the combat and makes you think before acting. Do you go in with a “safe” approach of just using long-range attacks to avoid contact, or do you mix it up and only use long-distance when you need to? Is it worth the risk of taking damage now just to conserve your health? Generally speaking, it’s better to go in with melee combat first and only use ranged attacks when you need to. The game does have rejuvenation areas, so if you wait it out and make sure to avoid taking tons of damage when clumps of enemies are around, you should be fine. The game’s difficulty does scale up, but it always does so in line with your skillset.
The remake is a complete revamp from the ground up and one of the best remakes out there. In this era of the Crash N-Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, this is the kind of remake that the industry now has to hold itself up to and it’s good to see Sony treating a first-party property with that level of care. The dev team has gone above and beyond by taking what was a well-crafted third-person action game and adding some more modern control flourishes. With any kind of weapon, you can simply hit a button and get a behind-the-shoulder viewpoint. This one move completely revamps the entire feel of the game.
If you stick with the normal setup, you’re fine for the game’s hordes of enemies. Sometimes, having that overhead camera view is far superior as it allows you to see more enemies and their location. However, when it comes to being accurate, you can’t top the third-person viewpoint as it allows you to minimize wasteful shots and changes the player’s mentality from this being a third-person adventure to also being a bit of a shooter as well. This move can definitely help expand the game’s reach as there are definitely people out there who need something to act as a gateway and with FPSes being something that some just play and nothing else, having this is an option can lead them down the road of enjoying other kinds of action-adventure games.
The core game is an absolute blast, but does suffer a bit from the devs sticking so closely to the original game’s structure. The level design is very claustrophobic and has a lot of tiny areas – leading the camera to go a bit haywire when you’re just trying to get a better angle on things. It’s also tough to navigate from area to area to find everything in the stage with so many areas looking similar and not having a mini-map to refer to. This means that it is easier to get lost than one would expect in a new release for 2019 – so it does fall a bit short in that regard.
Visually, this remake is about as perfect as it can be. The art style is more in line with what the original game’s CG cutscenes looked like – only with far more detail. The revamp is essentially what people have grown to expect from the Activision remakes with a massive increase in detail for everything from the characters, to the weapons and environments. Animations are a lot smoother, but not so elaborate that your timing gets messed up from it. The worlds themselves gain a lot of ambiance from the increase not only in detail, but in lighting and are now more ominous while still retaining a light-hearted tone.
The game’s soundtrack hasn’t been lost in the shuffle with the remake, thankfully. It’s still got a lot of whimsy and charm to it with some of the songs being quite catchy. The redone voice work is outstanding and gets across how much of a goober Sir Dan was before his death and how lucky he is to be resurrected just in how the lines are delivered. The sound effects are similarly improved, with more depth for things like sword slashes to get across how much more damage those do per attack compared to something like an arrow.
Overall, while MediEvil has a couple of rough edges, the core game is more fun than ever before thanks to an extensive reworking of the original mechanics. Everything that worked before was kept and improved upon, but things that didn’t work before – like the camera – didn’t quite get the attention they needed out of the gate. The revamped graphics and audio are incredible and on-par with the best-in-class work done on Crash Bandicoot and Spyro’s recent remakes, while things like a third-person view for combat allow the game to have an audience that otherwise wouldn’t check out an overhead action game. If you loved the original PS1 classic, you owe it to yourself to check out the remake and those who have heard how great it is and never had a chance to play it on the PS1 or via PSN on the PS3 should give it a go now.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
This review is based on a digital copy of MediEvil for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment Canada.