When I think of classic PlayStation games, I think Crash and Spyro. If I think a bit harder I eventually remember MediEvil, a wacky, gothic-inspired action-adventure game released in 1998 for the original PlayStation. It didn’t set the world on fire, but it did get a sequel before the series mostly went dormant. Now, after other games from that era have had successful remakes, MediEvil returns on PS4 on Friday, with a total remake. After playing the first seven levels or so, it looks wonderful, but some technical issues I’ve run into mar the adventure.
MediEvil tells the story of an evil wizard and a (somewhat) heroic hero who have both returned from the dead. That dead hero is the main character, Sir Daniel Fortesque, who died at the start of the big battle that killed the evil wizard 100 years ago. Now, he has a second chance to prove he isn’t a loser. To do so, all he has to defeat the super-powerful wizard and hundreds of evil enemies.
The story is less a narrative and more of a setup. Once the initial cutscenes happen, the game mostly keeps the story in the background, at least in the first few hours that I’ve played so far.
Visually, MediEvil is instantly impressive. It has a creepy and whimsical animated movie aesthetic, not unlike something thought up by Tim Burton. There are a lot of weirdly shaped fences, creepy twisted trees, rolling hills and sharp cliffs. I’ve been impressed at how visually distinct each level is and how different they feel to play through. So far my favourite levels have been an evil cornfield and scary pumpkin patch, both of which feel perfect to play in October.
The gameplay in MediEvil has been, so far, rather simple. In about 30 minutes, you can usually find most secrets and enemies in a level. Puzzles are also simple, which is nice, as it means I never got frustrated at some obtuse problem with a bizarre solution. Instead, puzzles usually involve finding something towards the end of the level and bringing it back to an obvious dead-end towards the start.
Other parts of the game, like combat, feel too simple and unsatisfying. Combat basically boils down to mashing a button and running around enemies. You can block, but usually, you can just run around like a madman, waving your sword or hammer and killing anything that is unlucky enough to get in your way. It never feels great to fight enemies and, considering you do that a lot in the game, that’s a shame. Platforming also feels a bit too floaty, though I haven’t had to do much precision jumping, thankfully.
I’ve run into a lot of camera and technical issues as well. On my PS4 Pro, I’ve experienced framerate dips and hitching. Sometimes my game starts to stutter or the camera twitches in a weird way. When the camera isn’t twitching, it is often breaking in other ways. Sometimes the camera would get stuck behind walls or pillars, or swing around wildly when transitioning between areas. This sometimes got in the way of my gameplay, causing me to take damage or not see certain doorways.
MediEvil is forgiving enough that I never died or lost a lot of progress because of any of these issues, but they’re frustrating. I watched some gameplay of the original MediEvil on a PlayStation 1 on YouTube, and the camera seems a lot better most of the time.
Overall, these issues are an annoying blemish on an otherwise fun, but simple, retro experience. I wasn’t necessarily hoping MediEvil would return, but I’m glad it’s back.