The year is 2001, school holiday season; seven-year-old me sits wide-eyed on the floor at aftercare, watching the older kids play MediEvil on the PlayStation. They had the privilege of bringing their consoles from home, hooking it up to the class CRT TV and jamming with a select few friends. I wasn’t one of them but still, the rest of us enjoyed sitting there, watching… imagining the day when we got to play too *wipes tear*.
Jokes on them though, 18 years later this kid at heart experienced the joy of launching into MediEvil’s kingdom of Gallowmere for the first time ever, repackaged with glorious 4K visuals. Developer Other Ocean Emeryville captures the heart of the original classic with re-recorded orchestral music that swells dramatically alongside the sounds of crows and thunder cracking under a gloomy night sky. The graveyard, castles, gargoyles and even your one-eyed protagonist, Sir Daniel Fortesque, all look fantastic. It’s worth watching a comparison video to appreciate just how far graphics have come since 1998.
Developer Other Ocean Emeryville captures the heart of the original classic…
MediEvil tells the story of Dan, an undead warrior who has accidentally been revived by an evil warlock that he and other heroes fought hundreds of years ago. According to history books, Dan himself ended the tyranny of the warlock but players learn early on about the embarrassing truth. Narrated by the talented Lani Minella, the story comes alive with passionate vocal performances and a witty script.
Take my advice and don’t sleep on taking a moment to read, or better yet, let the narrator read the ‘Book of Gallowmere’. It’s essentially a bestiary that serves as a prime example of a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’ll find notes occasionally throwing shade at your character or breaking the fourth wall in a weird, wonderful and comical narration of each creature/character.
Now, when it comes to gameplay, there’s a lot of positives but also a few bones I need to pick (ed – Nexus prides itself on puns). I can’t make a lot of comparisons to the original but this will be great if you’re thinking about picking this up as a first-time player. If you’ve ever discovered a really large bug in your room and tried to get away while doing a weird dance/dodge maneuver, that pretty much sums up the way Dan runs all the time. This awkward skeleton is loveable from the start and it feels great just clomping around with his whacky high-knee movement. The camera, which has apparently been reworked, is unfortunately not as much fun.
You can pan 360 degrees when standing still but while running left or right, the camera refuses to turn which is pretty frustrating if you’re trying to get your bearings on enemies chasing you. Tilting the camera with the right stick stops jarringly once you’re level with your character, and doesn’t allow you to look upwards beyond that. The only way to bypass this is to press one of the bumper buttons and enter Dan Cam, an over-the-shoulder camera angle that allows your character to strafe and look around freely, but compared to most current third-person RPGs, it never really feels natural – in fact, it’s kind of claustrophobic.
Half of the fun spent in each area isn’t just focused on combat but rather on exploration.
In a game where you can rip off your one arm and use it as a weapon, you just know that combat is going to be a hoot. Unlock swords, hammers, throwing daggers and more as you mash away at zombies, scarecrows and a variety of other creatures that make things go bump in the night. Enemies are tough and chip away at your health pretty quickly. High-level shields aren’t exactly lying around overtly so you can imagine my happiness when I stumbled across something called ‘Golden Armor’ in my inventory. Perhaps I’m missing something or it’s just a pre-release bug but disappointingly, whether I equipped the armour or not, I had the same amount of HP and took the same amount of damage from opponents.
The level designs appear to imitate the original very well; only way, way prettier. Half of the fun spent in each area isn’t just focused on combat but rather on exploration. Curiosity is usually rewarded with difficult challenges and fitting rewards like new weapons or gold. Challenges can be combat-based, puzzles or a combination of both. It’s a fun mix as you quickly realise there are also elements of platforming like dodging traps and blades with well-timed jumps. Getting a glimpse at familiar unlockables like ‘Chalices’ and rediscovering the accompanying bonus Hall of Heroes throws me right back into that aftercare, curious to see what happens if a player collects them all.
MediEvil doesn’t hold your hand in terms of difficulty and can be pretty unforgiving…
If you’ve read this far then congratulations, you’ve reached a checkpoint! Something you may wish there was more of in the game. MediEvil doesn’t hold your hand in terms of difficulty and can be pretty unforgiving if you run out of life. If you die at any point, even to the boss, you restart the whole level. Some people may find this frustrating and others may find the stakes make it all the more exciting. I’m somewhere in the middle but can’t hate on the fact that classic remakes have classic difficulty!
This all being said, beating a level in MediEvil lands you a sweet victory with more gravity. It feels like a real reward for upskilling yourself, using your inventory strategically, learning different enemy moves and finding ways to take advantage of their weak points e.g. some early on brutes run at you but then fall over if they miss, leaving them open to a counter-attack. Experiment, test theories and then Google the answers like a good defeatist, it’s all part of the fun!
All in all, it’s mind-blowing that a remake of a game that I’ve never played before made me feel so nostalgic. Perhaps it’s because MediEvil on PS4 brings the nuances and mechanics that made the original PlayStation such a game-changer, back to life (Undead puns <3). Now that I’ve finally played it, I can honestly say that it was worth the wait. If you were thinking about picking this title up at launch, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Halloween than by sinking some hours into this stupidly fun, remastered spookfest of a true classic.
MediEvil on PS4 might bring the pain in difficulty, but it’s a lovingly crafted, faithful update of the original classic that’s absolutely essential gaming for Halloween.