Just in time for All Hallows’ Eve, Sony Interactive and Other Ocean Interactive resurrects the eclectic and supernatural hack and slash adventure game, MediEvil. This rich and lavishly detailed remake of the original PS1 title has been skilfully reproduced with modern graphics, audio, and animation while remaining faithful to the story, level design, and gameplay spirit of the first incarnation.
The lore of the Kingdom of Gallowmere retells the legend of Zarok the evil sorcerer, and his diabolical schemes to raise an army of the undead, to seize control of the kingdom and the very souls of its inhabitants. Leading the militia and the charge against Zarok on behalf of the King of Gallowmere, was “The King’s Champion”, “The Hero of Gallowmere”, … Sir Daniel Fortesque! After suffering a mortal wound on the battlefield by taking an arrow shot to the eye, Sir Daniel succeeded in his quest to vanquish Zarok, before drawing his last breath. Thanks to the ultimate self-sacrifice of Sir Dan, and the defeat of his most powerful of foes, the kingdom thereafter enjoyed 100 years of lasting peace… That is, until Zarok one day returned…
Through both the passing of time and legend, hero’s tales tend to grow more daring and dramatic with each recounting. Feats become mightier; the sword becomes deadlier, and our heroes… well, of course, they become more courageous… Yet there are some forces that persist beyond the decay of days gone by, whose memory is long, and remember the ignominious truth of things. It has been now some 20 years since I first took up arms as Sir Daniel on my Playstation. My recollections of the game are of a fun, and at times challenging adventure game with puzzles and hidden secrets to solve through each level. Nostalgia always gets the best of me, especially around Halloween, as it was always one of my favourite celebrations growing up in America. Much like the folk of Gallowmere had exaggerated Sir Daniel’s deeds over his hundred-year slumber, had the ravages of time influenced my feelings towards this game? I was super keen to give this new remake a try, and find out!
The first thing that really stood out to me is the stunning amount of detail rendered to every object and environment. The limitations of the graphics engine on the original Playstation resulted in a blocky world with a rather dull colour palette and a constant, pitch-black sky. In comparison, the art production showcased in this PS4 version is intricate, vibrant, and create an overall spooky vibe in a way the original failed to achieve. While there are other games with ghoulish style, MediEvil is truly the king of Halloween with its skeletons, zombies, witches, jack-o-lanterns, and graveyards. This is the one aspect of the game I was impressed with the most, as MediEvil has heaps of different characters, enemies, and environmental assets that were all faithfully recreated with much greater detail.
In keeping this remake as close to the original as possible, the gameplay controls for Sir Dan are simple and reminiscent of the old hack and slash titles of the PS1 era. Although this may feel a bit too simple for more sophisticated gamers who are used to the complicated combat systems of modern-day games, it does lend itself to being playable by a wider audience of younger, and more casual gamers. What MediEvil lacks in combat system sophistication, it more than makes up for in the challenges brought by its puzzles, hunting quests, and mazes. Each level can be difficult at first, and it is easy to get turned around without the aid of a HUD mini-map. The option to switch between an overhead camera and the new over-the-shoulder “Dan Cam” perspective, encourage the player from time-to-time to stop and examine their surroundings. Every time I stopped dashing through the level to swivel the camera around, I would notice little details I would have otherwise completely missed. This second perspective can be very helpful when looking for clues or finding hidden areas. The camera angle pan and tilt are smooth; however, there are areas in each level where the camera angle locks, and you are unable to pivot the camera in one or both perspectives. I found this a bit frustrating, especially when the perspective lands in a way that hides an enemy out of view. Travelling from one level to the next is done on a world map, and you are free to replay any previously completed levels. Each level will have its own secrets, and techniques to master in order to get past it. There is no checkpoint system once you start a new level, so if you die, you start back at the beginning each time. At first I thought this was a bit harsh, especially as I began progressing beyond the first several levels and they got more difficult, but I started to notice that after my first few tries at a level I would quickly learn the tricks to get to the finish line, and once I beat it, it was much easier to breeze through the level again with the knowledge I had learned beforehand. I think this strikes a nice balance between challenge and preventing discouragement.
As Sir Dan fights his way through each area, killing enemies will release their souls to fill the spectral chalice. Once an area’s enemies have all been dispatched, the chalice will fill to the brim, and Sir Dan can collect it if he can find it! Successfully collecting the soul chalice, and finding the lingering green, foul-smelling magic stench Zorak has left behind, will earn Sir Dan a trip to the great Heroe’s Hall, to commune with the spirits of Gallowmere’s fallen heroes. These interactions are of prime importance, as these spirits will bestow upon Sir Dan new weapons, gold, and items that many times are necessary to defeat the upcoming levels and bosses. In each level it’s not all tricks though, there are plenty of treats too! Witches, fairies, and other manner of friendly characters can be summoned or released to aid Sir Daniel with cash, health potions, and weapons. Grumpy gargoyles mounted to strange places will serve to give you vague guidance, peppered with a berating dismissal of your skills as a champion, and your past as a hero. You will need to fight harder than you ever have in your afterlife to impress these timeless overseers. Luckily for us, nothing can get under Sir Dan’s skin (get it?)
Well-matched with the artistic style of the game, is it’s marvellously eerie soundtrack in the style of Danny Elfman’s cinema classics, composed by Paul Arnold & Andrew Barnabus, a.k.a. “Bob & Barn” with pieces performed by 80 members of the Prague Studio Orchestra, supported by a 32 person choir and recorded in the Czech Republic. The choir vocals, symphony instruments, and cadence of the music blend beautifully with the ghastly world and imagery. Included with the deluxe digital edition of the game is the full original soundtrack, and even though I wouldn’t consider it the first album to listen to in my car, it works perfectly as a playlist for any Halloween party.
Also available for download with the deluxe edition, is “The Art of MediEvil” a digital comic book with sketches, paintings, and renderings of the game’s characters, environments, and assets. I really enjoyed going through this offering, and it gave me more of an appreciation for the amount of time and dedication both Other Ocean and Sony Interactive put into this game. The developer interviews at the end were also appreciated; it is always interesting to hear the thoughts and challenges the development team went through to produce the title.
As if all that weren’t enough, there is a special bonus of the original 1998 MediEvil version, that can be unlocked by completing all of the side missions. After playing the remake, a brief look at the original serves as a stark contrast of just how far the industry has come, and how much work it took to bring it into the new millennium. Overall, I think this game is as good a remake as any studio can venture to release, as the constraints of the PS1 had served as the framework, so I think it is only fair to judge it on those merits. This was an enormous undertaking for the team at Other Ocean, and I believe they have not only done justice to the predecessor but took full advantage of the modern technologies available on the PS4, to refine and improve upon it for a whole new generation of gamers to enjoy.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I will be spending tonight’s celebration of the dead by playing MediEvil!
+ Beautiful soundtrack
+ Quirky characters and solid story.
+ Great value for money with the deluxe edition.
- Limited checkpoint system.
- Locked camera angles in certain parts.