A Newcomer’s MediEvil (PS4) Review

I want to start off this review by saying that, no, I have never played the original MediEvil game on the PS1, having been a Nintendo-only sort of gamer back in the 90’s.  In fact, my first exposure to the series, in any sort of form, was the inclusion of Sir Daniel in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, a Super Smash Bros-esque game for the PS3.  Among the characters with which I was unfamiliar, Sir Daniel stood out as a particularly charming example of a character I didn’t yet know, but wanted to get to know better.  And my chance came in the form of the MediEvil remake for the PS4.

I have now completed the game with all Hero Chalices, and though it was a short experience, it was also a fun one.  For anyone else who did not grow up with the game, the story goes a little something like this.  Sir Daniel Fortesque was brought back to life as a one-eyed skeleton (he’s also lacking a lower jaw, making the little dialogue he gets comically difficult to understand) when the evil necromancer Zarok returned with an army of undead soldiers to invade the Kingdom of Gallowmere.  In fact, legends were passed down of Sir Dan’s bravery in vanquishing Zarok 100 years ago…a legend that’s completely false, as Dan’s actually a coward who died in battle within moments of it starting.  (Thanks to an arrow to the eye, no less.  Owch!)  Fortunately, Sir Dan’s gotten a second chance to defeat Zarok for good and prove himself worthy of the legend.

Let’s start off with a few quick observations.  The graphics look amazing, and the fully orchestrated soundtrack is a joy to listen to.  Also, now that I’ve gotten to play through Sir Daniel’s first outing, I still find him to be a wonderfully charming main character.  I suppose I’ve always been partial to skellies, but the simple fact that I get to run about as a sword-wielding, armor-wearing skeleton makes me very happy indeed.  (I also just really like the way his head turns all the way around to look at you sometimes.  It’s just so weird!)

But the most important aspect of any game is, of course, the gameplay, and that is what the rest of this review shall focus upon.  Though the initial graveyard stages are rather linear and easy, they are not a good representation of the rest of the game, which gets drastically more difficult and provides more open exploration.  Gameplay is comprised of hacking and slashing your way through a variety of undead enemies, puzzling, exploring as you seek out runes to progress to new areas, and some light platforming.  The puzzles in this game were usually not too tough to figure out, but still managed to provide some nice variety to the gameplay.  The platforming, on the other hand, was actually something I could have done without, as Dan just doesn’t jump as precisely as I would like, so he’d often fall into water and the like, losing a full Life Bottle in the process.  It’s probably why I really hated the Ghost Ship (plus, that level is kind of glitchy…).

Fortunately, the main focus of the game is on slicing and dicing your enemies, and as you progress, you can amass quite a sizable arsenal of weapons, from melee weapons like magical swords and mighty hammers to long-range weapons like bows and throwing daggers…to magical items, as well, like armor that lets your breathe fire and a magical glove that smites your foes with electricity!  Now, keep in mind that you won’t be getting that many good items unless you are collecting each stage’s Hero Chalice.  If you defeat enough enemies and fill the Chalice to the brim with their souls, you get to visit the Hall of Heroes once the stage ends, where you get help from the real heroes that won the battle against Zarok a century ago.  With an ever growing arsenal of weapons at your disposal, combat is fun and varied, while Life Bottles serve to expand your health bar in a manner quite similar to the Energy Tanks in Metroid Prime, making Dan even more formidable (though no less goofy).

I would be remiss not to mention that this game can be quite difficult, as even the most mundane of enemies can ravage poor Dan’s health if you’re not careful.  (The frogs in The Enchanted Earth did quite a number on me.  The frogs!)  Of course, as I collected more and more weapons and increased my health, Dan became so powerful that the game eventually started becoming rather easy again.  So on one hand, I really enjoyed the high difficulty level while it lasted, but becoming so powerful is also so satisfying that I didn’t mind too much that the game started being a breeze by the last third.

The last point I’d like to cover is the game’s tone.  As one might expect from the banner image alone, you can tell that this game is perfect for Halloween, with plenty of dark, ominous goodness for anyone who enjoys a more lighthearted take on the horror genre, with the obligatory graveyard, a cornfield stalked by evil scarecrows, a previously sunken town, and more.  Honestly, I love spooky things, but most horror games are too gory for my taste, so the fact that this game is a combination of spooky and silly gets it additional points in my book.

I don’t really have too many negatives to say about the game.  Sure, I got a bit frustrated earlier on when I was weaker and the enemies were killing me off too quickly.  The camera can sometimes be a nuisance, and I didn’t really like the platforming.  Overall, though, this game is a heck of a lot of fun, and the few annoyances I did have weren’t too big of an issue, considering the game isn’t all that long and doesn’t really overstay its welcome.  (Most people say it takes them 6-7 hours to beat the game; I’m rather slow-paced, and it took me closer to 10)  I’m really glad this remake exists, or else I would have likely never gotten to join Sir Daniel on his very first adventure.

Image from official PlayStation website