Review

MediEvil Review - Bones 'n Brawn

  • First Released Oct 1, 1998
    released
  • PS4
James Swinbanks on Google+

Heroes don’t need lower jaws.

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As a remaster of the 1998 puzzle-platformer of the same name, MediEvil holds up reasonably well. Its cartoonishly charming characters and varied, if relatively simplistic, level design both stands the test of time and looks better than ever thanks to a complete graphical overhaul. But as much as MediEvil can feel like a warm blanket of nostalgia--especially for those of us who played the game 21 years ago--it also feels incredibly dated, with jittery controls and camera issues that regularly get in the way of progress.

You play as Sir Daniel Fortesque, a dead knight who is returned to life when the sorcerer Zarok makes an unexpected return to Gallowmere, bringing with him hordes of monsters. Fortesque remains every bit as charming a character as he was; his gnarled teeth, warbly voice, and single, rolling eyeball lose none of their charisma in the remastering process. Zarok's design hasn't aged well, though, and the new visuals leave him looking like a plastic doll who’s been left out in the sun too long. Enemy designs are otherwise just as fun as ever, with many tying in closely to their given map’s visual themes.

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Challenging puzzles, light platforming, and hack-and-slash combat make up the bulk of what you do in MediEvil. The land of Gallowmere feels stuck in a perpetual state of Halloween, with each level brandishing its own delightfully spooky artistic twist to it. The diverse range of locations makes for some wonderful variety in the look and feel of each level; a graveyard, a pumpkin patch, a large hedge maze, and a floating town in the middle of a lake are a small selection of the good choice of maps to slash your way through.

Combat is reliant on simple hack-and-slash controls, and this feels underwhelming in the beginning--not only do you feel initially weak, but one of your two main attacks is so slow and unwieldy that it's borderline useless. Most frays are chaotic at best, rarely involving anything more than mashing the attack button while running around to avoid damage, so having one of your main attacks feel pointless is a real bummer. A handful of new abilities that you gradually learn spice things up a touch but also feel awkward to use, like a charge attack that lets you force enemies off platforms by charging into them with your shield up.

However, combat gradually improves as you earn more powerful weapons and start to deal a more satisfying amount of damage. You earn new weapons by killing enough of the enemies wandering around a level, which will fill and reveal a hidden chalice. This grants you entrance to the Hall of Heroes--an in-between level where characters from Daniel’s past offer up new weapons. Filling and finding each chalice isn’t essential for progression, but the extra effort it takes to do so is very much worth it.

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Because it's a straightforward remake, a big issue with MediEvil are the aspects that feel dated by modern standards. Progression often relies on some variety of fetch-quest, like collecting the right runestones to unlock the next door or gathering a few items to encourage some help from a new character. This encourages exploration around hidden corners or through smashing boulders blocking a new path, which can be rewarding when you find a stash of gold or a health-extending life bottle, it can also lead to much annoyance as you grapple with the game’s occasionally nonsensical camera.

When in an open area, the camera acts like any other third-person camera and can be controlled with relative ease, only rarely getting caught in the world geometry. But when inside a cave or a building the camera switches to a fixed view, doing so regularly and without warning. Not only does it look and feel clumsy, but it also switches the movement to tank controls for as long as the camera is stuck in place, which is a tremendous hassle. The result is often jerky and awkward movement, which can be a killer during combat, and these controls are even worse when trying to navigate puzzles and platforming sections.

Adding to these frustrations is the fact that mid-level checkpoints are non-existent, so when you die, you go back to the beginning, which becomes a problem when combined with MediEvil’s annoying movement and another one of its aging design concepts: watery death. It can be so easy to fall foul of some bad geometry and slip to your death that any surface around water will become instantly anxiety-inducing, such is the consistency with which I found myself in this situation.

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Furthermore, character health is continuous across the game--finish a level with low health and you’ll either have to tackle the next one with what you’ve got and hope for the best, or backtrack to a previous one and try to find as much health as you can before attempting to move forward. Stack that on the ever-growing pile of issues, and MediEvil becomes the kind of grind that makes you want to put it down and never come back to it.

MediEvil does have some nostalgic charm, but due to its bevy of issues, it feels not just old, but undeniably outdated. For every part that helps us look back fondly on a time when games were made differently, there’s another that reminds us of how far we’ve come in those years since. MediEvil's delightful level and character design mostly still stands tall, but its combat and controls largely fall well short of what feels tolerable by modern standards, and it left me feeling wholly ambivalent to its existence.

James Swinbanks on Google+
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The Good
Wonderfully fun characters mostly still look great
Varied level designs are visually charming
The Bad
Some serious camera issues make basic tasks unreasonably troublesome
Unreliable controls can cause some real pain around bad geometry
Lack of checkpointing and progression issues can mean having to backtrack and replay levels multiple times
5
Mediocre
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for MediEvil

About the Author

James Swinbanks spent 10 hours sending the sorcerer’s minions back to where they came from. He once played a demo disc of MediEvil so much that it stopped working. His copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.
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matastig

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Maybe the game has ....aged well?

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KiriharaZro

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I´ve played the demo, and even with all the nostalgia, the game sucks.

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MisterTech

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Not game of the year and I dont even plan on playing it.. but to have the difficulty maintained like how old school games used to be is a negative? Replay levels? God forbid you have to play the game

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DuaMn

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@mistertech: It's not fun and it doesn't add anything to the game experience, so it's a negative.

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Rolento25

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@mistertech: For real.

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stevo302

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3D games from 20 years ago haven't aged well.

They should have taken the Zelda route and at least improve the control and QoL a little bit as well as graphics

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KiriharaZro

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@stevo302: Exactly my thoughts, the control feels archaic and the graphics are awful. Been "old school" game doesn't mean old school playability.

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xgalacticax

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A 5 for a remaster of a PlayStation 1 game with mechanics that don't live up to today's gaming standards. What a surprise.

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SupaMasterGamer

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After reading that review I guess it' Medi-Ocre...:)

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@supamastergamer: Hey-oh!

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KillzoneSnake

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Edited By KillzoneSnake

Played the demo so i know the game is not great but not a 5. Just like Days Gone is not a 5.

GS reviews are good for comedy.

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dynamotnt

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i loved the original

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@dynamotnt: Me too. Part of me is glad this is a super authentic remake ... but I imagine, if I played it now, I'd like it less than I did then, because of all the negatives mentioned in this review.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Can't see the issue. If people liked the original then they will like this.

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Gelugon_baat

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@deviltaz35: And that's why remaster-recycles can make money. ;)

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ASnakeNeverDies

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There's nothing wrong with Zarok's original conception. It's the new art style that compromised it, and so many other aspects of the remake.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@asnakeneverdies: The original was brilliant. Plays perfectly fine on my launch PS3 which has the hardware smoothing for PS1 games.

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Judge99

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Great nostalgia. Brings back good memories. However not being able to save or play long levels over and over.... gets old fast haha

I kind of agree with this review. If they fixed the saving/progression it goes up by two points.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@judge99: I am sure it will get patched in to save anywhere before too long.

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Yams1980

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Edited By Yams1980

Gameplay > graphics, and all they did was improve the graphics.

1990s 3d games were hell, even early 2000's 3d games, the cameras were garbage, they could have at least improved that and maybe some of the dated combat.

The Spyro remake made more sense, they improved the visuals but also fixed some problems like the camera.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@Yams1980: Plus introduced awful frame pacing on consoles. They still haven't patched it either.

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ASnakeNeverDies

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Edited By ASnakeNeverDies

@Yams1980: Combat in this game involves running around like a headless chicken hacking and slashing away. It's not supposed to be reliable, it's supposed to fit the character of this character action game.

It seems to me that people calling for improvement, are actually calling for homogenization. And that's very bad, Yams. 😔

EDIT: Not making excuses for the camera implementation, mind you. 🎥

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PrpleTrtleBuBum

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@asnakeneverdies: yeah this is what i keep thinking. sir daniel moving around like souls character with very timid movement and every battle being a 1 on 1 encounter just looks funny in a wrong way in my mind.

sure they could do something but when everyone says make it soulslike it just makes me lose hope for medievil 3. dan needs to be goofy, but at the same time i dont want something like souls with some preprogrammed falling animations or something that smash brawl added

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PDQstyl3

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Throwing a new coat of paint on this game was never going to change the gameplay. It's just old and out-dated.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@pdqstyl3: It is but it's fun , you have the option now anyway play the original or play this. I played the original on my launch PS3 and it was still pretty fun and that was only a couple of years ago.

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HOLYSHMUCK

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@pdqstyl3: Gee, a game from the 90s feels outdated. Almost like its a game from the 90s?!???

90s games will always play like 90s games. It's part of the charm.

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PDQstyl3

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Edited By PDQstyl3

@HOLYSHMUCK: Then what is the point of this 'Remaster'? Not only should the visuals have been updated, the gameplay should have as well. A pointless remake that already had a cheaper PSone classic version. Way to shill for Sony and support lazy development.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@HOLYSHMUCK: True imagine if they reimagine Doom and turn him into a vacuum cleaning dude that goes around clearing ghosts from a hotel ;)

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@pdqstyl3: Pretty much. If you've got mad nostalgia for the original (like me), then you'll probably be cool with the super dated design. Otherwise, I don't think Medieval has a lot to recommend it, because so much of the game feels very primitive and outdated.

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metin3191

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Edited By metin3191

5 is too much for this old fashioned game, even though its remastered.

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Crazy_sahara

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History has never been kind to medieval.

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Reznik00

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This review really does a disservice to this game. I don't have a clue where you experienced 'tank controls', the camera can be a minor issue at best but never once impede your gameplay, and none of these levels are longer than a few minutes to require a checkpoint system. Yes we have come a long way but that's no reason to knock an excellent game down to a 5. I got the Platinum trophy two days after it came out, the game is easily an 8, it deserves the gaming love but now looking through the comments I see people scared of it thanks to this horrible review.

Please don't listen to this one guys, the good points are well written but the bad points are severely exaggerated to a point that is questioning as to whether or not they actually played the game.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

@everson_rm: lol ouch , how do you review that game then?

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Crazy_sahara

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@reznik00: yup 😔

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MediEvil More Info

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  • First Released Oct 1, 1998
    released
    • PlayStation
    • PlayStation 4
    All in all, it's a welcome surprise.
    8.5
    Average Rating1210 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate MediEvil
    Developed by:
    SCE Studio Cambridge, Other Ocean Interactive
    Published by:
    SCEA, SCEI, SCEE, Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Theme(s):
    Fantasy
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    Animated Blood, Violence