Remakes of fondly remembered favourites always have a tough call to make: should they remain faithful to the source material, or make improvements and changes to modernise the old-school design? The answer usually lies somewhere in between. MediEvil is the latest PSone classic to be brought back to life, and it errs on the side of authenticity. The 21-year-old original is a fan favourite, but definitely has its flaws, and these unfortunately persist in the PlayStation 4 interpretation.
Still, the game has its audience for a reason. Though not without its problems, the spooky adventure from 1998 is packed full of personality, and Sir Daniel Fortesque is a lovably gormless protagonist. This is true of the remake as well. Other Ocean Emeryville has recaptured the essence and the atmosphere, delivering a kid-friendly game that balances the horrible with the humorous. While visually rocky on occasion, the overall presentation is naturally a huge leap forward. It still feels like MediEvil, but improved use of colour and some wonderful environmental work means Gallowmere has never looked better.
Sir Dan is looking good for his age, too, although controlling him will transport you back two decades. Platforming can be finicky with his stiff movements, and combat is as slapdash as ever. It might be true to the PSone game, but fighting off zombies and other creepy creatures is a flailing, imprecise procedure that doesn't sit well in 2019. It gets the job done, but beyond using your shield to block, there's no nuance to discover. Exacerbating these issues the camera. While we found it to be improved in some areas of the game, you'll still find yourself regularly wrestling for control, especially in enclosed spaces.
In terms of content, the remake is more or less exactly the same adventure you remember from back in the day. Sir Dan is inadvertently reanimated as the evil sorcerer Zarok returns to wreak havoc in Gallowmere. The story, which sees the undead soldier attempt to retroactively bring honour to his name, is a simple one, but it remains a clever premise and is told with a tongue in its cheekbone. While some characters are sporting their original dialogue, others have re-recorded lines -- including the main man himself. That's not the only change in audio; the quietly excellent musical score has been reproduced by a real orchestra, and the results speak for themselves.
Each of the 20 levels are here, Chalices and all, and remain very faithful despite the cosmetic upgrade. However, one new addition can be found in the form of the Lost Souls -- an optional quest line you'll discover along the main path. Once activated, most levels will have a hidden ghost with unfinished business, tasking Sir Dan with simple missions somewhere in Gallowmere. Collecting all the Lost Souls and fulfilling their requests essentially gives you another reason to play through each stage, prolonging the life of the undead adventure and giving veterans something new to enjoy.
While the gameplay can be a bit cumbersome, we found ourselves enjoying our time with Sir Dan in his journey to redemption. Puzzles are hit and miss, and some weapons are far more useful than others, but the retro sensibilities of this game are quite refreshing. Huge, open world epics dominate this generation, but there's absolutely something to be said for a straightforward adventure, traveling from level to level, with no big diversions.
As enjoyable as the overall experience can be, there are still some sticking points in the levels themselves. Tricky jumps combined with the loss of a full health bar if you fall wasn't fun in the late 90s, and certainly isn't nowadays. Stingy checkpoints mean dying will send you back to the very start of a level. Boss fights lack impact, and standard enemies are fond of dogpiling you, which can be frustrating to deal with given the messy combat. For every positive step forward, Sir Dan stumbles back -- but it's hard to stay mad at his jawless grin for long.
MediEvil's PS4 makeover sees the classic brought back to life, and it's an extremely faithful remake that fans will love. However, many of the old issues return as well, such as a dodgy camera and stiff gameplay. Sir Dan die-hards will be able to forgive these leftover problems, as this is otherwise a solid remake overflowing with character. If you've any nostalgia for this retro Sony title, or are looking for something spooky to play this Halloween, MediEvil has never been better -- just be wary of the skeletons in its closet.