Medievil: Looking back on a classic
It's not often that I anticipate a remake of a classic game, but with Medievil, I'm going to make an exception. The original game is one of the most beloved titles to come out on the PS1. Alongside Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Abe from Oddworld, Sir Dan is a character that everyone remembers from that era. Also like those characters, his own adventure is being lovingly recreated from the ground up.
The story of Medievil is that Zarok, an evil sorcerer, uses black magic to bring the land of Gallowmere into eternal darkness and to resurrect the dead, including our hero, Sir Daniel Fortesque, a champion of the king and the first to fall in the battle against Zarok's unholy horde of demons. Despite this, Dan has been falsely proclaimed a hero and has now been given an opportunity to live up to the legend, and to defeat Zarok.
The original game was co-created by Chris Sorrell and Jason Wilson, who drew influence from Tim Burton's, The Nightmare Before Christmas when it came to the art style of the game. The soundtrack was also given the Tim Burtonesque treatment, with composers Andrew Barnabas and Paul Arnold being brought in to compose something among the lines of a Danny Elfman soundtrack. Think of NBC, Beetlejuice and Batman, and you'll hear the influences of those in the game, and do you know what? It works! It really works. Medievil's soundtrack is enthralling, catchy and complements the levels extremely well, which is more than you can hope for any music within a video game.
In regards to the level design, they went to their best to give each one plenty of atmosphere and character whilst making Gallowmere an interesting, but yet creepy and wonderful place to visit. Each place to visit is a treat for the eyes and there is always something to do, besides killing baddies and collecting the chalice. Puzzles are placed in specific levels and are cleverly laid out and complex, without ever getting tedious. Each one from the easiest to the hardest always give me great satisfaction upon completing, especially in regards to the puzzle where you unlock the Shadow Demons.
What was the game itself like to play? It's not flawless, but the game is fun to play and one of those titles that does become addicting once you pick up the controller. Dan's movement is solid, the combat feels good and there are plenty of tools given to make it through the journey. It's up to you, the player to make good use of these as you journey with Dan throughout the land of Gallowmere.
The weapons themselves fit the setting, and the devs took liberties when it comes to the creativity of Dan's arsenal. Giving him access to the bog standard swords, shields and bows as well as other fun weapons like an axe that can be thrown as a boomerang, lightning bolts, and even giving him chicken drumsticks that can turn enemies into roast chicken, to which you can eat to regain health (hilarious and very helpful on the Asylum level). Most of the weapons are obtained from visiting the Hall of Heroes, so finding and filling the chalice (or rescuing all the fairies in the ant cave) is something you'll want to achieve in each area you visit.
Pretty much, the game itself is perfectly simple to get the hang of and that I think is part of the reason why it was never that hard, and has aged quite well for the most part.
That being said, there are things about Medievil's controls that haven't aged all that well. Both the camera and the jumping mechanics felt clunky back in the day, and they still do now. The game is extremely easy, but these issues do make a couple of levels less enjoyable to play because of them. I'm curious to see if improvements to these will make Pools of the Ancient Dead a bit more enjoyable. The Ghost Ship in particular is a pain, because of these problems.
The only other thing I'm iffy about is the final fight with Zarok, which is split up into three parts and honestly feel underwhelming on the whole. It's not the first time I've seen this in a video game, but it's still something worth noting. I will say though that the ending of the game is worth it. The good ending has Dan recognised as a true hero, and he earns his place in the Hall of Heroes. This can be done by collecting all the chalices in the game, so it rewards you with better weapons and a better ending. Do I need to say more about them?
At the end of the day, Medievil is still a fantastic game. Sure it's not a perfect game, but It remains one of my favourite games, and I hope the remaster can bring it justice. I have played the demo and it does look promising so far but of course, it's only a small taste of what's to come and I will give my thoughts on that once it is released.