Sony's PSP isn't lacking for much. It's certainly not lacking for racing games, or sports games, or games featuring apes and astonishingly poor loading times for that matter. Where it can be accused of being somewhat lacking is in polished platform titles, unless you count the illicit emulators that currently run on 1.0 and 1.5 firmware PSP's, of course. Medievil seems to be Sony's own internal step to provide platform and action game fans with something to redress the balance, but what it offers is pretty uniformly bland stuff, heaped upon a game that hasn't aged well at all.
Medievil starts off well, though. You can't fault a game that begins with the weighty tones of Tom Baker and a script that apes his Little Britain performances at their best, and in fact if there's somewhere that Medievil does suceed it's in raising the odd wry smile out of even the hardest and most cynical game reviewer's heart. It's not really a laugh out loud kind of game -- but it does have its moments. It's more or less a clone of a PSOne game that came out roughly in the middle of that console's lifespan, with a few polished edges, better sound and visual effects but the same core gameplay.
Medievil casts you in the role of the long-deceased Sir Daniel Fortesque. Now, normally being deceased is exactly what you don't want in any game, as that's typically game over territory. Medievil hinges on Daniel's less than lively state, however, as he's a walking skeleton hell-bent on a path of revenge against the evil sorceror Zarok, who has risen from the grave himself. Clearly, the undertakers in the land of Gallowmere just haven't been doing their job properly. Zarok's brought up a zombie army with him, along with a variety of evil creatures all hell-bent on making Dan's deceased nature rather more permanent. Dan's answer to this is to slaughter each and every one of them, starting out with only his left arm to sling at foes, but moving on to more pointy and dangerous weapons, from spears to warhammers, crossbows to flaming clubs, and so on. There's a light smattering of puzzling, keys-which-are-called-runes-for-no-adequately-explained-reason to find and timed jumping sections, but for the most part it's just a matter of wandering around the very linear levels, whacking all and sundry until you complete the level. Repeat three or four times, take on an end-of-section boss, and then start all over again.
What makes Medievil a turgid game rather than a triumphant one is in the combat itself. Collision detection is extremely sloppy, and there's some inexcusable stuff, like ranged weapons that fail to register solid hits because they're still busy registering the previous shot, and a camera that's very mercurial in its performance. Chief criminal in making Medievil less compelling is the enemy AI, simply because there isn't any. Your largely undead foes simply shamble around in predetermined patterns, stopping only to rush attack you if you wander into their sphere of giving a damn about you. Sometimes, they don't even do that, perfectly content to let you slice and dice them while they ponder the grainy pixels that make up the wall in front of them unto their very death. End of level bosses are all, to a beast, pattern-based affairs of the simplest type, which leaves you largely just fighting the sluggish and unresponsive combat controls in order to secure victory.
Medievil can't even be said to be pushing the PSP on any technical level, although the pre-rendered cut scenes are quite pretty. Predictably, there's a load time penalty associated with them, although to be fair it's by no means the slowest loading PSP title currently available. Otherwise, Medievil looks almost exactly like its PSOne predecessors, which is to say immensely dated. There's a certain charm in its 3D Ghosts & Goblins style, and back in 1999 that carried some weight, especially as Maximo was still some time off. Last time we checked, however, it was 2005, and six-year-old visuals just don't cut it any more.
Medievil works on an acceptable level as a portable title -- mainly because it offers quick saving anywhere within the game -- and there's enough length there to keep absolutely determined players going for some time, unlike, say, Spider-Man 2. On the other hand, the original PSOne title, while lacking the cut scenes, tepid minigames and superlative Tom Baker, goes for around ten bucks on eBay. We're just pointing that out for the purposes of comparison, you understand.
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