Being what most would call a ‘2000s baby’, I was born too late to grow up with the classic PlayStation titles of old like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. I’ve been able to experience these titles in recent times due to the numerous remakes that have been dropping since 2016’s Ratchet and Clank. The latest game to receive this treatment is 1998s MediEvil, a much lesser-known hack and slash originally developed by SCE Cambridge Studio. Despite having never heard of the franchise before the remake’s reveal, MediEvil has a strong cult following, and after playing it to completion, it’s easy to see why.
MediEvil sees you taking control of Sir Daniel Fortesque, a long-dead and falsely praised martyr who allegedly took down an evil sorcerer known as Zarok, thwarting his attempt to take over the kingdom of Gallowmere. Except Fortesque didn’t do any of these things, he died on the frontlines after taking an arrow to the eye. After 100 years, Zarok is back, once again trying to take control over Gallowmere and its helpless residents, and only a recently resurrected Fortesque can stop him.
It’s an undeniably silly premise that is taken advantage of for comical effect at every twist and turn. Fortesque is a noble hero, seeking to prove himself by putting an end to Zarok’s evil reign once and for all, and despite lacking the bottom half of his jaw, he still manages to get a few sentences out here and there. It’s hard not to laugh at the various interactions he has with Gallowmere’s residents and the heroes of the previous war, there’s a tongue-in-cheek quality to the humour that’s always present in the writing, and it’s one of the best things about MediEvil.
MediEvil’s gameplay is decidedly simple, but more often than not, it works for it, not against it. Despite combat being a relatively simple hack and slash affair, there’s a slew of different melee and ranged weapons to choose from, most of which have a standard attack and a charged attack. There’s also loads of enemy variety, each with different attacks and methods to be dealt with. It keeps encounters fresh and varied even though the action on-screen looks similar with each engagement. The only thing that truly holds it back is the arduous camera that often wrestles control away from you and manages to get into awkward angles at times. The new inclusion of the ‘Dan Cam’ allows for an over-the-shoulder view of the action, but only mitigates some of the problem.
MediEvil’s most impressive feat comes in the form of its varied level design across its 22 different stages. Fortesque will visit an insane asylum, crystal-covered caves, and a pumpkin field to name a few. Each level is diverse, distinct, and toys with gameplay ideas that never hang around long enough to get stale. Each one is filled with puzzles, platforming and waves of enemies to hunt down and dispatch so you can collect that level’s Chalice for a powerful item. It makes for a remarkably well-paced adventure and revisiting past levels for missed secrets, or alternate exits never felt like a chore. Similarly, each of the boss fights, while varying in difficulty, are far from standard affairs, encouraging out of the box thinking and ingenuity.
Past beating the main campaign, there’s plenty of replay value to keep you coming back, whether it’s collecting all the Chalices for the Hall of Heroes to nab an alternate ending, or completing the numerous requests of the Lost Souls that you unleash into each level late into the game. MediEvil can quickly go from a tightly paced 6-hour experience to almost double that if you want to see and do absolutely everything.
The most significant difference and the main selling point of the remake over the original is, of course, the overhauled visuals and sound. Visually, the game always pops, and a side-by-side comparison of the original makes it clear that the difference between these titles is night and day. It’s a glow-up comparable to the Spyro and Crash remasters, and I’m sure most will love how Gallowmere has been brought back to life. Similarly, the voice-acting has also been enhanced, and the excellent soundtrack has been re-recorded to create a striking sense of atmosphere within every level.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
There’s something really special about MediEvil getting a well-deserved remake beyond the visual and audio glow-up. It provides the title with a chance to break out of the confines of relative obscurity to reach a wider audience. MediEvil deserves all of this and more with its fantastic tone, entertaining characters and story, excellent level design, and stellar pacing, even if a few issues hold it back. If you haven’t played it before you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not giving it a go, and if you have played it before, rejoice in Fortesque’s skeletal embrace.