Review by BloodGod65

"I Dub Thee, Sir Sucksalot"

At this point, I'm sick of writing about how the PSP doesn't get enough original titles and sees more ports than an ocean liner. But once again I am forced to say this because Medievil Resurrection is exactly that – a port. While Medievil is, arguably, a cult classic, it was released on the original Playstation. That is to say, it is an old game – and once you start playing, this becomes painfully obvious. However, the game's archaic feel is somewhat counterbalanced by the game's humorous slant, which remains fresh years later. But a few laughs are not enough to make you forget how far game design has come since this title was originally released, thereby making Medievil little more than a relic of the past.

As Medievil begins, the long dead knight Sir Daniel Fortesque is unwittingly resurrected by the evil wizard Zarok, after he casts a spell in a local graveyard. Zarok's spell also summons a necromantic army of the dead, which he plans to use to take over the world. Sir Dan actually has a history with Zarok; one hundred years ago, he was part of a campaign to put an end to the reign of the evil wizard. Much to his misfortune, Dan was killed by the first volley of arrows. By some quirk of fate, as stories of the battle were passed down through the years, Dan assumed the role of a legendary hero who stormed Zarok's castle and slew him. Only Dan knows the truth and after he is resurrected, he plans to make up for his previous failure – even if he is nothing more than a jawless, animated skeleton with a magic genie living in his hollow skull.

Given the state of the main character, it should be obvious that Medievil doesn't take itself too seriously. In fact, the game's dry British humor is hilarious – the opening cinematic details the state of affairs in the land before Zarok's rise to power, saying that the King was loved by all because of his affection for kittens and the children of the kingdom were always nice and polite, not just when begging for chocolates. Other characters constantly mock Dan's condition and his premature death during the war. The voice actors supplement the witty script with their comic interpretations of their characters. The genie in Dan's skull speaks with a hilarious Middle Eastern accent and most of Dan's dialog is subtitled because his lack of a lower jaw makes his dialog incomprehensible.

The humor extends to some of the game's design as well. During the course of the game you'll find yourself fighting possessed pumpkins and demonic scarecrows, along with some nutty interpretations of typical fantasy enemies like skeletons and zombies. Unfortunately, beyond the comedic value of the game, Medievil has little to offer modern gamers. Because it is essentially a gussied up port of a Playstation One game, the design is decidedly archaic.

Like any third person action game of its time, players will spend much of the game fighting and platforming around a variety of linear levels. And it doesn't take long for the whole thing to get bogged down by outdated, cliched design. Take the levels for instance. While they're funny and interesting from an artistic perspective, they're all tightly linear and filled with switches to hit and locked doors that require what are essentially keycards to pass through. The decision to make keycards look like rune stones does little to make it any more tolerable. There are also some issues like the lack of mid-level checkpoints. While the levels aren't exactly epic, it is still easy to die. When you do, you must start over from the beginning.

Combat is no more engrossing. Truth be told, this is actually one of the worst aspects of the game. Medievil's combat is typical for an action game of its time, with numerous weapons that have their own types of attacks, the ability to create combos, and so on. Unfortunately it is all just too clunky and poorly designed to deal with. Certain items, such as clubs and shields, degrade with use. Fighting enemies comes down to learning attack patterns and when to use your shield or dodge out of the way. Most fights can be won by using the same simple tactics; attack, retreat, attack and retreat, over and over until the enemy dies. But since you usually face enemies in mobs, Dan takes a lot of cheap hits. And because Medievil uses a traditional health bar (that is to say, non-regenerating) these cheap hits become even harder to tolerate. Health restoring items are scarce, so you usually have to get through a level while taking a minimum of damage.

The biggest problem the game has is the camera. Not only is it positioned oddly, so that it is often difficult to tell where Dan stands in relation to his enemies, making it harder to hit and harder to avoid them, but the player has little control over it. You can hit the R button to center the camera or hold the button to lock onto an enemy, allowing you to strafe or target them with a ranged weapon. But if you move and the camera brushes up against some environmental object, it jerks wildly. In interior locations, just trying to see where you are headed is a battle in and of itself.

The best part of the game is actually a collection of mini-games that are found in a carnival area – and that should speak volumes about the lackluster quality of the rest of the game. These mini-games are varied and surprisingly fun. There are two versions of a shooting gallery, one that uses a trebuchet and another that uses a crossbow. There is a version of Whack-a-Mole, which actually uses Zarok heads in place of moles, and a few combat type challenges. One of these requires using a single weapon type to defeat waves of enemies and another that makes Dan protect a bell from enemies.

While the gameplay feels old, the visuals and graphical style are still very nice. However, the game looks much too good for it to be a straight port, so one would assume improvements were made. Regardless, Medievil's cartoonish goth aesthetic fits the game perfectly and you'll visit a variety of locations from mausoleum, graveyard, cathedral to old farms and evil pumpkin patches. As I've already mentioned, these areas are populated by funny enemies, and their design fits with the lighthearted gloominess of the game. The visuals are complemented by a nice, atmospheric soundtrack, which stays in line with the gothic themes.

THE VERDICT
Having never played the original Medievil, I can't judge to what extent this port is true or similar to the original. However, I can say that “medieval” is, in many respects, the perfect way to describe this game. It is stuck in an era of game design that was relegated to the past long ago (and with good reason). The combat is awful, the camera barely qualifies as functional and the linear levels are a bore to slog through despite the interesting visual aesthetic. While you'll want to love Medievil for its humorous charms, the archaic gameplay makes doing so impossible.


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 07/26/10

Game Release: MediEvil: Resurrection (US, 09/13/05)


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