When I was a kid, my brother had a bunch of those Playstation Underground demo discs. My siblings and I would spend a lot of time playing through these demos, probably more time than the people throwing them together anticipated. One of the best ones though was the JamPack: 1997 Winter Demo Disc. This one had games like Crash 3, Spyro 1, Metal Gear Solid, Tomb Raider Revelations, Small Soldiers, A Bug's Life, and more. I ended up getting many of these games, but there was one game that I enjoyed a lot that I never owned as a kid, yet it never really left my brain. That game was MediEvil. You got to play around 15 or 20 minutes of the game, then it would just throw you back to the main menu of the demo disc. I always wanted to get more out of it. It wasn't until around 2010 that I started looking for games I wanted to try as a child but never got around to. MediEvil was one at the top of my list, and after watching some playthroughs, I decided to pick it up, and I'm very glad I did.
MediEvil takes place in the 1200s. In a kingdom called Gallowmere, there was an evil sorcerer named Zarok. He and his demonic army went to war with Gallowmere's army, led by the main character, the courageous Daniel Fortesque. Legends say that Dan fought valiantly, led the kingdom to victory, and peace reigned for 100 years because of him. In reality, he fell to the first arrow shot in the whole war, going directly into his eye. Being a necromancer, Zarok came back 100 years later to claim his revenge on the kingdom, summoning vast armies of the undead to do his bidding. During the process, he accidentally resurrects Dan. Fully aware of his embarrassing defeat, Dan decides to take this opportunity to settle the score and live up to his own legacy. However, he’s nothing more than a one-eyed, jawless skeleton with armor at this point. All the gargoyles in his crypt all make fun of him as he storms out to save Gallowmere once again.
The main goal of the game is to simply make it to the end of each level, as you hack and slash enemies, platform around, and solve some puzzles along the way. If you kill enough enemies, you can collect a Golden Chalice in each level, which teleports you to The Hall of Heroes: an eternal resting ground for history’s greatest heroes. There, Dan speaks with the reanimated statues of past heroes who offer him new weapons to use. There's quite an array of weapons and each one works a bit differently, allowing you to make use of different weapons in different scenarios. There's a wide variety of enemies as well, some of which have weaknesses to certain weapon types. There’s a war hammer that you can charge, smash on the ground, and make a shockwave which perfect for crowd control. There’s a sword you can enchant to make stronger, but it loses effect the longer you keep it outside your inventory. There’s a flaming longbow that allows you to set enemies on fire and do burn damage over time. If you somehow lose your all weapons to sticky-fingered enemies, Dan can rip his own arm off and use it as a boomerang or as a melee weapon. There are also shields you can use, though they can only take so much damage before breaking, in which case, you can repair them at through a merchant. This is just barely scratching the surface in terms of what you can get in your arsenal.
One of the strongest things going for this game is its atmosphere. A large portion of MediEvil’s art style was influenced by Nightmare Before Christmas. I think a good word to describe is is “spooky,” but in the fun, Halloween-y sense. It has “spooky” locations like graveyards, castles, crypts, villages, forests, and more, yet it never takes itself too seriously and never gets truly scary. And of course, there are all kinds of classic monsters, such as zombies, goblins, demons, evil pumpkins, mintotaurs, and way more. Additionally, in the same vein as Silent Hill, the developers used the draw-distance fog to their advantage. Every level in the game is covered by a thick, black fog. In most other games, this wouldn’t look great, but it works perfectly for this game, as it makes you feel like you’re on an adventure in the dead of night and you have no idea what might be lurking in the shadows. The soundtrack is awesome and suits the atmosphere perfectly. One of my favorite tracks is the Hilltop Mausoleum
with the harsh pipe organs, horns, and choirs blaring as you explore the crumbling, haunted basement of the mausoleum. Many of the tracks generally have a “spooky” vibe, with some of them being dramatic, mysterious, or subdued. In addition, the game itself tries to lean more towards the comedic side than horror side. The writing is silly and genuinely funny at times, with many NPCs poking fun at Dan and fueling his desire to win against Zarok just out of spite.
My biggest complaint with MediEvil is the controls. Dan is very clunky and has a strange momentum to him, making him feel heavier than he should. Once you get used to it, it works fine for the most part. However, there are some levels that do not account for this, so you’re going to be dying constantly to the same jumps over and over (Pools of the Ancient Dead is the worst offender). His jump is very short and tied to his momentum so it’s sometimes a gamble if you have a tough gap to jump across. Additionally, the control layout is pretty different compared to most platformers of the time, which can throw you off when you first start. As I said before though, you get used to it. Other than that, I don’t really have many other issues.
If you’re always looking for Halloween-themed games to play in October and you haven’t played this one, I’d greatly recommend it. Aside from the controls, this game has aged gracefully and still holds up well. One of my absolute favorites for the PS1.