Version tested: PSP
Sometimes you can extract great comfort from a lack of change, and usually the older you get the more resistant to change you become. But in the world of videogames, change is everything. Without it, the audience gets extremely bored very quickly indeed, and moves onto games made by companies that succeed in pushing things forward in ways that make things more entertaining for us. (Well, perhaps our audience does anyway.) Cutting straight through the usual introductory paragraph pondering, Sony's Cambridge Studio still appears to wish it was 1999, when ordinary little hackandslash 3D action-adventures like MediEvil won awards.
But it is definitely not 1999 (we checked), and in terms of innovation the past six years have witnessed a lifetime of new ideas; some of which render even the best games of the era redundant. We're demanding creatures, and, to be fair, so we should be: that's what we're here for.
We're definitely not paid to paper over the cracks and try and fob you off that MediEvil: Resurrection is a "fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled action frenzy of intense combat action and side-splitting comic genius", because we'd be lying out of every unpleasant orifice you could dare to imagine, including our mouths, which are decidedly unpleasant (indeed, Tom's is a place that only the bravest and drunkest would dare venture).
But then nor are our pockets lined to be controversial for the sake of it. We're not going to try and score extra clever points with the cool kids by trying to invent a concept review in which we do a passable impersonation of Sir Daniel Fortesque for four paragraphs before removing the Satsuma from our saliva-filled gobs only to tell you what you could have guessed all along.
What we will do, though (you'll be relieved to hear), is get to the point (right on cue, four paras in): MediEvil Resurrection is not very good. It has some good bits which we'll point out in a minute, but in terms of registering on the patented Reedo-scale PSP-ometer, it hasn't fared too strongly.
Early tests were promising. In fact our patented device designed to measure gaming excitement flickered quite strongly early on with a delightful sweeping introduction and (gasp) the voice that could only be that of the majestic Tom Baker, quipping like the most eccentric man ever invented.
But more or less from the minute you're parachuted into the game - and for countless hours after that - the realisation dawns that it's simply not going to excite in the majority of cases. You stick with it in the vain hope that it might get better, but by the end of our beyond-the-call-of-duty playtest it simply felt like work.
To fill in the gaps a little, the third game in this "multi-million-selling" series once again follows the hapless misadventures of jawless skeleton Sir Daniel Fortesque. Set 100 years after his previous hackandslash romp, this 'fearless' knight is tasked with rescuing the land of Gallowmere from the evil Zarok. (Also, can we just point out that jesters are the most annoying things that human beings have every invented? Even more so than the Crazy Frog-in-Hawaii ringtone. Death to jesters. All of them. And anyone related to them or rumoured to find them endearing.)
Essentially all that means outside of woolly gamespeak is that you must kill all the enemies in each and every level you come across by whatever means you find most effective (and that we hate jesters). At the start you might get by simply flinging your bony arm at your stumbling and disinterested foes, but within a few levels you're being chased by rabid wolves and forced to think a little more strategically about preserving your precious stocks of energy.
As you pick your way through each level, you generally end up with another weapon to add to your growing arsenal, moving through wooden swords, short swords, clubs and throwing daggers, and onto things like crossbows and more powerful melee weapons that make fighting life a little easier despite the herd of life-sapping gits that get in your way.
There's simply nothing remarkable about anything going on in the game. It's a combo-based melee combat game: exactly as it was intended to be. The official E3 blurb sounded almost as bored as we're probably sounding right now: "New levels, new moves, new weapons, new story." But the problem is, that's all Sony Cambridge has tried to do. The sole extent of its ambitions has been to make a no frills sequel to a game that sits in a niche that's been so massively superseded by a huge array of incredible titles that MediEvil sits in the corner looking a bit sheepish at the young guns. It's a regional soap opera trying to compete with blockbusters. Eastenders versus Lord of the Rings. It seems pointless even attempting to enter into a discussion about it.
Party like it's 1999
But, hey, that's what we're here for. The chief point to make about Why MediEvil Isn't Very Good is that the combat is uninspired on a basic level. The enemies generally waddle around minding their own business, occasionally turning around and heading off in another direction, and as soon as you're in the vicinity they go into mindless-drone mode and head straight for you. This is literally their only strategy, only going away once you've killed them. The AI really is partying like it's 1999.
At first you're quite content to pull off charge attacks, jump attacks, and the innumerable permutations involving various stabs of the square or X buttons in varying sequences, but God of War this is not. There's a limited sense of your blows really connecting, and the loose collision detection along with the sloppy camera system makes it a real drag if enemies go off screen, only to reappear without warning. Some of the end-of-level boss encounters, in particular, aren't especially challenging, but the process of learning their very specific attack patterns never feels fun. Finishing them off brings relief and a new area to explore, but it's generally more of the same slog, hacking away at enemies, picking up keys, running over to the lock, repeat, repeat, repeat.
And given that you spend 98 per cent of your time with MediEvil going through the same repetitive, unengaging slog, there's limited incentive to really push on through.
A mini adventure
Admittedly Sony's Cambridge Studio has thrown in some pick-up-and-play mini-games. Eight-player wireless mini-games, no less, but literally all of them are so basic that we felt that prickly sense of boredom creeping over us - often before we'd finished our first attempt. Running around whacking rats or catching chickens sounds like fun, but... Hang on, no it doesn't! Plus, they're so disconnected from the main game they just feel like a means to add another bullet point onto the box. The shooting galleries are a marginally better way of diverting your attention, but having patiently slogged through every single mini-game, we can't say there was one we'd want to take away and play to fill a couple of minutes. And, to be fair, how likely are you to find anyone else to be able to play the minigames with, exactly, even if you did want to fire up some battery draining Wi-Fi action?
Even on a technical level MediEvil Resurrection is merely competent rather than inspired. It's as if someone told Sony Cambridge that the PSP was only as powerful as a PSone, so they pitched it around that level. Of course, on a relatively small screen the visuals look reasonably attractive, and we'd go as far as to say that some of the character designs are great, but we know the PSP can do so much better than this. On the other hand, such an undemanding game doesn't stress the load times too badly, although as with most PSP games it still takes its time between levels. On the plus side, the cut-scenes are far and away the best thing about the game. It's quite jarring to see the difference between those and the game engine, and suggests that if there was a PS3 MediEvil in the works it would be a mightily attractive game - but they'd have to overhaul the game mechanics completely for anyone to care these days.
The other thing we enjoyed during our time with MediEvil was the overall standard of the voiceovers and audio. With Tom Baker's show-stopping pre-level announcements, it's almost worth experiencing for his input on its own. The rest of it isn't bad too, and if there's one thing that drags you through the mediocre action, it's to see if they can keep the laughs going. Meanwhile, even the sweeping soundtrack works a treat, so clearly there was a degree of effort put into MediEvil Resurrection to make it an appealing launch title for the PSP.
I am not the resurrection
Probably the best thing you could say about MediEvil Resurrection is that it's the best game of its type on the PSP at the European launch and, errr, that you can quick-save. Judged purely on its own merits on this platform it looks like it might be vaguely interesting, but all too soon you're dragged into the real world and forced to acknowledge that despite its warm touches of humour, the hackandslash action is nowhere near the standard we expect from a full-priced game these days. A decent history lesson, then, which parties like it's 1999 but realistically never parties like it's worth £34.99.
4 / 10