Sony's Cambridge Studio, known as Guerrilla Games Cambridge when it was shut down, is perhaps best known for its 1998 hack and slash platformer MediEvil. The PS1 game is often hailed as one of the system's classic and most unique games, but despite its popularity, Sony has rarely revisited the franchise over the years, with the last entry being 2005's MediEvil: Resurrection on the PSP. That's why it came as quite a surprise when it was announced that a full-fledged MediEvil remake was in the works for the PlayStation 4, but after playing it, we sincerely hope this isn't the last time we see Sir Daniel Fortesque.
Sir Daniel Fortesque is a rather interesting video game protagonist because he starts the game dead, and is hailed as the hero that defeated the evil sorcerer Zarok, when in reality he was killed right at the start of the battle. Zarok eventually returns, and he uses his magic to create an undead army for himself, inadvertently bringing the skeletal Sir Daniel back to life in the process. Given a second chance at glory, Sir Daniel sets out to stop Zarok's schemes and slay visually-striking bosses along the way, like the Stained Glass Demon, in a haunted world that wouldn't look out of place in a Tim Burton movie.
The game's Tim Burton-esque art style really pops thanks to MediEvil's new 4K visuals. Levels are dark and spooky, but filled with enough color and cartoonish characters that everything feels playful rather than genuinely creepy. Each level brings with it interesting new characters for players to meet, including a town mayor that looks exactly like the mayor from A Nightmare Before Christmas, and a plump witch who thinks of pumpkins as her "children." Exploring MediEvil's bizarre world is fun, and the intrigue of seeing what's next will keep players hooked.
MediEvil delivers a constant stream of new characters, puzzles, and gameplay mechanics. Each stage has its own defining gimmick, and so no two levels really feel alike. Granted, the game is only about six hours long and only has about 20 levels, but it's a prime example of quality over quantity. MediEvil doesn't dilute the experience with repetitive level design just to artificially extend its playtime. There's no filler here, and it keeps everything moving along at a nice pace.
MediEvil also has some ideas that still feel unique to this day, like how some puzzles can extend from one level to the other. MediEvil is filled with Zelda-like puzzles that often require players to find certain items to progress further, and sometimes these items are found in levels that aren't accessed until much later in the game. It's a thrill when the light bulb goes off and players realize that they have finally found something that will let them explore an older level further.
One of the more interesting examples of this is the witch item that players can find in one of the first levels that lets them summon witches in later stages. In one instance, the witch even shrinks Sir Daniel to the size of an ant, and players then have to explore an ant hill to complete a quest. There are many more examples of this throughout MediEvil, and it ensures that players are always thinking about what's in their inventory and how those items may open doors to previously inaccessible areas.
From a gameplay perspective, MediEvil stays faithful to what made the original game so unique for its time, but it's still leagues ahead of the PS1 original, with a vastly improved camera, more reliable controls, and changes here and there to make the game more engaging for old-school fans. Some of the boss fights in MediEvil have been reworked to be more challenging, which means that even those who have played the original game to death will be in for some surprises.
There are some other changes in the MediEvil remake, though one of the most significant we noticed was the addition of a brand new collectible called Lost Souls. Unless we are mistaken, Lost Souls weren't introduced until the sequel, MediEvil 2, and so it was surprising to find them added to the original game. This retroactive collectible is similar to what was done with Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy's time trials, which were added to games that they didn't originally appear in.
While these changes ensure that the MediEvil PS4 remake is an improvement over the original game, it's still not quite perfect. Combat can feel mindless in the early stages as all players can do is hack and slash and run around wildly. The camera, though significantly better than the PS1 game, is still a pain in specific spots, usually when it won't let players rotate it. Some modern gamers may also find the game's checkpoints, or lack thereof, to be pretty harsh, as dying means restarting the entire level over from scratch.
The controls in the MediEvil remake could also use some work. Platforming feels imprecise and is much more difficult than it needs to be. The simple act of moving Sir Daniel through doors can be a chore at times, as he moves around in a somewhat chaotic fashion. The fact that the block button and the dash button are both assigned to R1 is also puzzling, especially since L1 isn't really used and one of those functions could have been assigned to it. Since blocking and dashing are both governed by the same button, it's not hard to accidentally dash when meaning to block and vice versa.
Besides these control issues, it could be argued that the MediEvil PS4 remake perhaps didn't make enough changes, especially when it pertains to some of the more frustrating elements of the original game. For example, the Scarecrow Fields level in MediEvil is maddening, as it throws an absurd amount of enemies at the player, all of which can deal significant damage, and some of which can simply trap Sir Dan against a wall until he's dead. We also experienced some severe lag in Scarecrow Fields that slowed the MediEvil frame rate down to a crawl, and that was the only stage where that happened. Coming back to Scarecrow Fields with better weapons proves that the level itself is fine and has some interesting puzzles and secrets, though it is the biggest hurdle players will have to overcome early on.
MediEvil in general is a game that starts off somewhat frustrating, but becomes gradually easier as it progresses and Sir Dan gains access to new weapons and more health. The later levels, despite being filled with deadlier enemies and more dangerous hazards, are a breeze when compared to some of the earlier stages. While some may feel like this is backwards game design, what it does is make Sir Dan's upgrades feel meaningful. Going through the trouble to fully complete a level is worth it because players know they will get some reward that will vastly improve their chances in the next stage.
Ultimately, the MediEvil PS4 remake stays true to the original game while being a more enjoyable experience overall. There were still some ways that the developers could have made the MediEvil PS4 remake even better, but what's here is still a great game and will leave fans hungry for more. Here's hoping that Sir Dan comes back from the dead again sooner rather than later, whether that be through a MediEvil 2 remake or better yet, a brand new entry in the series.
MediEvil launches on October 25, exclusively for PS4. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.