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MediEvil

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We are living in the midst of a Remake Renaissance. For some gamers these titles are a blast from the past, jam-packed with nostalgia. For others, it’s a whole new adventure into big name franchises they missed the first time around. Following in the footsteps of Spyro and Crash Bandicoot’s incredibly successful releases, Sir Daniel Fortesque now takes a step up into the spotlight with this timely remake of spooky classic MediEvil.

This 3D platformer follows Sir Dan, a hapless knight erroneously credited for the historic defeat of the evil sorcerer Zarok and his army of the undead. 100 years later Sir Dan is called upon to once again save Gallowmere. Will he become a true hero worthy of his accolades this time around?

The gameplay is very simplistic, the bare bones of what you’d expect from an action-adventure hack-and-slash. Follow the easy-to-navigate paths, cut down the enemies in your way, unlock new weapons and take down bosses. Rinse and repeat as you work your way across the map.

The buttons are pretty straight forward and intuitive to anyone who knows their way around a controller. Even button mashing will get you a decent way hacking through your enemies. Nevertheless there is still a tutorial at the start and as redundant as that feels I’m always super appreciative of games that take the time to include these for newer players.

The graphics are the most immediate noticeable change in the remake. Going from limited polygon angular models to characters rendered with today’s technology allows for a lot more detail, personality and expression to shine through. Personally, I love the new character and environment designs. I’m a sucker for anything that has its own unique style and MediEvil definitely fits that category.

The horror aspects such as zombies, werewolves, and gargoyles are simplified in a way that makes them almost endearing and mostly family friendly (rated PEGI-12). The cartoon-y proportions, expressions, and actions are reminiscent of old-school claymation films; not always faithful to realism or physics but still manage to engage you in the story and temporarily suspend disbelief. A “spoopy” vibe similar to the Addam’s Family, Nightmare before Christmas, and Frankenweenie.

The backgrounds have received an upgrade too, with more environments able to be seen off in the distance. This adds to the overall feel and depth of Gallowmere. The colour palette is very aesthetically pleasing, with an abundance of cool dark tones, livened with pops of vibrant colour.

MediEvil boasts a phenomenal orchestral soundtrack worthy of a film score. Whimsical and curious upbeat tunes blend into ominous sweeping melodies. The soundtrack was re-recorded anew by the Prague Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the original composers. And they’re not the only returning artists, as Jason Wilson reprises his role of Sir Dan. Other characters have had their dialogue recycled from the old original recordings.

The most challenging aspect for me was that health doesn’t automatically regenerate (in all fairness Sir Dan is a skeleton…) and there are no save points throughout each level. This makes end-stage boss fights incredibly frustrating when you are THIS CLOSE to beating them but fail at the last moment, and thus have to begin the whole level again. This particular aspect is one point where I believe the remake may have benefited from deviating from the original material, if it had been altered to bring it more in line with modern gameplay styles.

There are, regrettably, a few technical cobwebs lingering about. The camera is the main issue. The focusing isn’t very intuitive. It still feels incredibly clunky with its movements and has a tendency to automatically position behind scenery, leading to some very ignoble deaths slashing blindly in the dark. On occasion it even locks in place so suddenly you’re now playing a linear game. Is this some kind of 1998 throwback Easter Egg? Because that’s what it feels like a times. An authentically horrifying ordeal.

As we were generously given the Digital Deluxe Edition to review, a little sneak peak at the bonus features:

  • Art Book. An entirely pictorial volume consisting of a range of art from concept sketches to finished art tiles. Some of the character pages could be quite good for cosplay references. I love the opportunity this provided to appreciate some of the small design details you may have run past too quickly during game play. The content is a little bit spoiler-y towards the end so if this is your first playthrough and want to go in blind, perhaps wait until you’ve finished the game. The art book concludes with two video interviews, in which Other Ocean Emeryville art production and animation developers discuss the thought processes behind these design choices.
  • The digital comic book MediEvil: Fate’s Arrow takes us on a bizarre time-travelling side quest. There’s a couple of plot twists in there, some more obvious than others, that may change how you look at the story.
  • The OST is also included, so you can enjoy that breathtaking soundtrack on repeat. I know what music I’m using for my Halloween party this year!

A lot of love has gone into remaking this game. It feels like it was made by people who enjoyed the original to a fault and wanted to share that exact same experience with a brand new audience. Opinions and reactions are going to be divided over whether this is to the benefit or detriment of the game.

For better or worse, the heart and soul of the original have been preserved in the faithful remake. It isn’t going to wow anyone looking for the next big photorealism open world RPG. But if you have a soft spot for the quaint, spooky and a touch of 90’s kitsch, then you will definitely get your money’s worth of enjoyment out of MediEvil.

It’s available now on PS4.

– Courty Kayoss

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