No sense at all in acting performative and presentable about this, MediEvil stands as a crowning representation of everything I found to be appealing about video games in my youth, and is a welcome reminder of why I still spend most of my precious free time with this embarrassing hobby of mine. This goes beyond just strumming the chords of nostalgia in my old greasy heart though (this isn’t a title I grew up with), there’s simply a childlike-playfulness on display here that you don’t see much of these days. Yeah yeah I know, new game bad old game good, take a shot - this is just one of those things you just can’t really recapture in modern day man.
“But Luke!” you may be exclaiming, “This game is so outdated by today’s standards! It’s clunky and hard to go back to.” In an attempt to be charitable in response to this hypothetical (yet distressingly common) sentiment, I will say that you aren’t exactly wrong about your assessment of the game, but is that really much of a problem? I suppose most people are used to friction in games stemming from stat grinds and seemingly endless pool of meaningless dribble disguised as content to sift through, but I think there's room in the industry for games as bumbling and occasionally cumbersome as this. Say what you will about Dan “The Man” Fortesque; “clunky” this, “slippery” that, your foul words have no ill-effect on him. It’s no skin off his back, for he is literally a pile of bones.
In retrospect, It’s no wonder why my capacity for critical thought was shut off so long ago: I was smitten by this game from the very moment I laid an eye on it’s harrowing field of mindless zombies and a wall constructed from some of the most impressively poor draw distance I’ve seen on the system, but can you blame me? Many people hold up the PS1 as the system where razor sharp aesthetical visions come to life, as a canvas for gorgeous technical flexes of the highest possible calibur of the time, and as an excuse for a bunch of nerds to showcase intelligent teardowns of system OS and architecture to really make Sonic’s ass sing. But how often do you hear the praises of a game like MediEvil? I don’t want to diminish the value of the art itself, the land of Gallowmere is truly inspired and seeing the cartoonish depictions of common Medieval tropes and caricatures delights me, but there’s something to be said for how the crust layered over the vision really amplifies the whole thing. I mean this with complete sincerity, a game like this works so much better when presented with all the grace of corpses tumbling down a hill while draped in the cold moonlight.
That’s to say nothing of the actual structure of the game itself though , creatively nudging you towards cleaning out every polygon of the game’s 20 odd levels lest you miss an important item in the pumpkin patch that won’t be needed until you reach the dragon’s nest. I think it’s this scatterbrained approach to puzzle solving that really brings it all together for me, rarely being as obtuse as to necessitate a walkthrough, and only occasionally being as linear as to promote blind runs through levels. You never know exactly what's expected of you or when certain items will be needed, so I occasionally found myself stumbling over simple problems in pursuit of an answer less complex than was actually required of me. Generally speaking the game is never more complicated than “use this item on that thing” but it just makes the whole thing feel very adventurous, I adore how it feels like there’s an endless treasure trove of shit to find while being so small and compact so as to not feel overbearing.
I’m guessing that this is exactly the type of game that FELT insurmountable as a kid, sharing secrets with friends on the playground in an effort to learn all of it’s secrets and finally make it to the end, but as an adult it still holds up just as much in my mind as a quaint adventure with exceptionally low ambitions and a sharp knack for tickling all the pleasure centers in my brain. I dunno, I just love everything about this lol. I’m sure someone out there far smarter than me can piece together the little sprinkles of worldbuilding that make the world feel more alive, or write a captivating college thesis about how Zarok is an intensely compelling villain with his lofty goals of checks notes ruling Gallowmere(?) but I have no pretensions about this. I’m a simple man of simple needs. I like when the funny British skeleton with bad teeth tries to talk when he doesn’t have a jaw after a lifetime and beyond of spreading falsehoods about his name, only for him to be the one who has to put a stop to the mustache twirling villain and his dubious schemes. Truly the hero the United Kingdom needs, but not the one they deserve. Maybe in MediEvil 3 he can take down the late Queen of England once and for all, I’m sure not even Dan could resist an adventure as treacherous and deadly as that. My DM’s are open Sony if you wanna discuss this further