Blast from the Past: Medievil (PS1)
Although Halloween isn’t widely celebrated in South Africa, I still thought it would be a wasted opportunity not to post a Halloween themed retro review. When looking at my (sparse) library of retro games, one game stood out and was perfect – Medievil.
The escapades of Sir Daniel Fortesque has created a massive cult following, especially among the Sony acolytes. Despite the first game’s popularity, the sequel and remake never quite matched the out-of-the-box feel of the first game.
Our Hero’s Tragic Tale
What set Medievil apart from the many games that came out at the time, was that instead of playing the typical dashing man or innocent child, you played an undead, witless hero in a Gothic horror / comedy video game. Although honoured as a noble knight, Sir Dan Fortesque is a massive joke to the all other knights and heroes. You see, Sir Dan was a charlatan who boasted great victories to the people of Gallowmere – where the game takes place. But one day, when the evil magician Zarok attacks Gallowmere with an army of undead, our hapless hero gets killed by the first arrow that was fired in the war.
Needless to say the real heroes won the fight and defeated Zarok. Years later Zarok returns and casts a spell on Gallowmere and hopes to raise his army of undead, only this time there aren’t any heroes left to fight him. What Zarok doesn’t know is that he unwittingly brought Sir Dan back to life. Now Fortesque has the chance of redeeming himself and earning his seat at the Hall of Heroes by defeating the evil Zarok once and for all.
Looks like Cartoon Horror
It has been 17 years since Medievil launched. It brought with it an unusual flavour by perfectly blending both gothic themes and humour. Both of these were achieved with the aesthetics of the game. The cartoon horror mixed with a little bit of medieval fantasy is well executed even though the graphics are completely outdated. Visually, it hasn’t aged well at all, yet still maintains the feel it’s supposed to have. The haunted houses, forests, corn fields and more still has a Nightmare before Christmas kind of feel to them.
What really makes this game blossom is the music and sound effects. It’s not always timed perfectly, but the music matches the setting and the background sounds provide the needed atmosphere. It’s not original, but many horror sound classics were included and almost perfected in this game, like the thunder, zombie moans, wolves howling in the distance, the creepy caw of crows and the cackles of wart-covered witches.
When Things Underwhelm
What wasn’t particularly novel was the combat. As a knight, you can fight with a range of weapons, like swords, clubs and a crossbow. A different weapon for a different situation. In terms of controls, you have the normal control setup – standard attacks, heavy attacks and charged attacks. If you have a ranged weapon equipped, you can shoot targets. It’s fairly simple and doesn’t really develop into something more than that.
What didn’t win me over, even way back when I first played it, was the camera. It’s not very good at obeying your commands, and has a way of moving in the most inconvenient position. It’s particularly bad when you’re in a fight and you can’t see an enemy. It’s made even worse when you’re running out of life and you can’t see in front of you.
Another issue that I have, and this is probably due to pampering from modern games, is that there’s no map. In most cases each level is fairly linear, but not all of them. A fair amount of back tracking is required, usually to find the chalices (an important item that allows other heroes to give you bonus items) in the level. Without a map, these levels can become a drag to navigate.
Medievil may not be the prettiest retro game in this day and age, but it’s still a fun and odd Halloween themed game.