In an era of remakes and remasters you see a lot of artistic license taken with these properties. That might be a shift in art style for the Crash Bandicoot series or new additions like 4x play speed as seen in Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. There are merits for each of these changes but if you are looking for that classic experience from days gone by, then you might be a little disappointed. However, MediEvil is more or less a 1:1 remake of the original game from the title screen to end credits. Does this approach lead to an enjoyable experience or was an evolution in more than graphics needed?
Let’s start with the obvious, how MediEvil looks. And it is beautiful. The graphical style has been updated to the modern era but it has kept that the same aesthetic. It constantly feels like the original PS1 game but with a PS4 facelift. By maintaining this style, MediEvil succeeds in combining horrible and humorous. This also means that it doesn’t lose any of its personality via the remake which you could argue is the case with games like the Crash Bandicoot remake.
MediEvil stays true to its roots throughout the game as you follow the exact same path you did 20 years ago. This includes the Hall of Heroes and each individual level. This means that throughout you have this constant feeling of nostalgia as it transports you back to simpler times. This permeates through combat as well even if there is now a lock-on feature for ranged attacks. Everything is done with a respect and reverence to this original.
And that’s where the problems with MediEvil truly lie. In remaking this game, the developers have only really remade the graphics. You could easily have a toggle to turn back to classic PS1 graphics and not notice much of a difference. And for those to whom graphic fidelity is everything, they are going to appreciate this improvement. However, for everyone else, there hasn’t been enough of a modernisation to prevent serious frustration.
The combat, for example, is incredibly floaty. It doesn’t matter which melee weapon Dan is using none of it hits his foes with any particular impact. There should be a difference between hitting something with a giant hammer or his own arm, but there isn’t. And considering how much MediEvil you spend whacking enemies, this is an issue. The range attacks while helped by a lock-on, don’t let you easily switch between enemies causing you to often waste arrows shooting something away from the imminent danger chomping on your face. What results is frustration. You want to dance and dive through enemies using the full range of fun weapons. In reality, you’ll rely heavily on ranged weapons and play MediEvil like a chonky third-person shooter.
And when it comes to the platforming, MediEvil doesn’t fare much better. The aforementioned floatiness extends to jumping and walking. Dan’s jumps are not easy to judge in terms of distance or height. He doesn’t have a floaty jump that you can control, ala Mario. Instead, you take your heart in your hands any time you jump when near water. This is because falling off a platform into water uses up a full health bar. And considering how imprecise jumping is, you’ll lose a lot this way.
Adding to the frustration of the combat and platforming is that you need to finish a level in a single pass. If you die during the last seconds of a boss fight or mistime a jump at and fall in some water, you’ll need to repeat the entire level. This frequently led to me putting the game down and stepping away for days at a time because I knew I’d need to repeat sections again and again. It doesn’t make sense to scrimp on checkpoints when there are clear opportunities to add them. They could before a boss fight, at healing vents or a myriad of other locations. Instead, in staying true to the original MediEvil carries forward it’s biggest issues.
And the same is true for the floaty combat and imprecise platforming. All of this is true to the original but in the worst possible ways. While I admire the time and care that has taken place to ensure MediEvil is the same game it was 20 years ago with a new lick of paint. The idea of a classic PS1 adventure game is appealing until you play one and realise how far game design has moved in the past 20 years. And while there is a wonderful simplicity in having a clear goal with few distractions, it’s held back by a dated design and a myriad of ways to frustrate and put off the player. However, if you loved that old game and want to see it in all it’s PS4 glory, then Medievil (2019) is that exact experience including all those classic frustrations.
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