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MediEvil PS4 review – knight of the living dead

MediEvil (PS4) – better off undead

Sir Dan is back from the grave, and the original PlayStation 1, but has MediEvil got the remake it deserves?

The remakes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon have all been surprisingly excellent, with great care taken to update the graphics and gameplay so that they take as much advantage of modern technology as possible, without changing the nature of the original games. In fact, they’re such good remakes that it brings into question whether the games, especially Spyro, really deserved such attention in the first place. They were always popular, and the nostalgia appeal can’t be underestimated, but few would claim they’re top tier platformers.

It’s a different situation for Crash Team Racing, whose quality was never in question, but PlayStation 1 game MediEvil is nowhere near as well respected. This is clearly Sony’s attempt to ride the same family friendly remake bandwagon but no matter how fond your memories may be of the original it was never a particularly good game and it certainly hasn’t got any better in the last 21 years.

Although often categorised as a 3D platformer MediEvil is really closer to being a scrolling beat ‘em-up, as there’s much more combat than Crash, Spyro, or any of its other contemporaries. You play as the reanimated Sir Daniel Fortesque, mistakenly brought back to skeletal life by the evil wizard Zarok who’s trying to take over the entire kingdom with an undead army. The story is pretty basic stuff but, with some clear influence from A Nightmare Before Christmas, the tone is welcomingly different to most other 3D platformers and it’s obvious why Sony chose to release this just before Halloween.

Despite combat being the major focus of the game, it’s disappointingly basic. The most interesting aspect is the wide variety of weapons, with Dan using his own dismembered arm by default but also a wide range of swords, clubs, and ranged weapons. You can also use a shield at the same time, but it tends to be very flimsy and is best held back for more dangerous encounters.

The trick for any remake is to maintain the same basic gameplay and level layout while using modern advances in a way that compliments the original design. MediEvil doesn’t really do that though, as there no real attempts to improve or change anything. Not so much out of laziness but out of an unjustified reverence for the original game.

Despite claims that the movement controls have been improved they’re still extremely imprecise and there remains no lock-on option. It’s worth remembering that MediEvil came out a month before Zelda: Ocarina Of Time on the N64, a game which completely revolutionised 3D combat. By comparison, MediEvil has you floundering around trying to stab in vaguely the right direction and frequently failing to land a hit on enemies that are right in front of you.

As for the camera, it was terrible in the original and by today’s standards it renders the whole game almost unplayable at times. You’d swear it had been specifically designed to always place itself in exactly the worst position to frame the action and it’s infuriating when every defeat is because you couldn’t see where you’re going or couldn’t judge the angle of attack properly.

MediEvil (PS4) – showing its age

MediEvil offers nothing of interest to do in between fights, with the simplistic platforming and puzzles being even more underdeveloped than the combat. The level design is bland and repetitive and while there are hidden areas to discover you come across many of them largely by accident, so it never feels like any kind of an achievement.

Perhaps most damning is the fact that the graphics aren’t even that great. They’re obviously better than the original but they’re nowhere close to the quality of Activision’s remakes or Sony’s own Shadow Of The Colossus. MediEvil clearly has a lower budget than either of those but that only begs the question of why bother at all if you’re just going to do it on the cheap.

If Sony wanted to remake a classic PlayStation 1 platformer they would’ve been much better off with Ape Escape, which was always a much better game and far more deserving of the attention – not to mention a new sequel. And that’s just counting Sony published titles. They might not be classics themselves but everything from Pandemonium! to Klonoa: Door To Phantomile was better than MediEvil.

But it’s Sir Dan that everyone remembers, so nostalgia wins out and underserving as it may be this is the end result. The graphics are better but nothing else about MediEvil has seen any useful improvement and that means you’re left playing a 20+ video game that was already deeply flawed when it first came out. Sometimes the dead should just be left to rest in peace.



MediEvil PS4 review summary

In Short: A remake that is loyal to a fault when it comes to honouring the original, with gameplay and design mechanics that were barely acceptable 21 years ago, let alone now.

Pros: If you loved the original then this is as amorous a love letter as you could ever hope for.

Cons: Dull combat with horribly imprecise controls and one of the worst cameras ever seen in a modern game. Bland level design, with few other gameplay distractions.

Score: 3/10

Formats: PlayStation 4
Price: £24.99
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Other Ocean Emeryville and Studio Cambridge
Release Date: 25th October 2019
Age Rating: 12

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