Inspired by Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. We'd take nightmares at this point. Just to sleep.
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"The knights are drawing in." We know that doesn't work in any context - the days are actually getting longer at this time of year, and this is a one-player effort involving a solitary former soldier set against hordes of his fellow undead. But we like it. It sounds clever. And we're not changing it now; we've come too far. What was it Kieron said the other week about beginning with jokes or anecdotes? Well there you go. Anecdote: this one time, last night, we couldn't sleep at all. All knight.
Anyway. MediEvil is a third-person platform game update to the classic PlayStation series of the same name. Prior to getting stuck in, we were shown in graphic detail just how much of an update, as hero Sir Daniel Fortesque, a skeletal warrior with no lower jaw, was shown off having more polygons and moves strapped to his previously 32-bit frame. He certainly looks very nice now, and the team's claims that the art style was inspired by Nightmare Before Christmas and the hand puppet look of that production certainly sat comfortably with us - as did the Tom Baker voice over, which will continue throughout the game as a variety of witty, Little Britain-esque asides.
It's a game with a gentle sense of humour - typified by Dan's discovery that he has an estranged genie living inside his skull and playing with his one remaining eye, or the little incidental touches like harmless disembodied hands pattering around some of the levels - but it's also a serious platform game with a slashing temperament, and we saw some serious evidence of this. One level we encountered, an enormous and enormously detailed ghost ship, had Dan scouring around for powder kegs so that he could fire himself from the stern cannon to the bow where the captain was waiting for a kicking. That's the sort of puzzling we're told to expect, along with hunting for runestones-which-are-keys, and the platform elements in the same level were also quite typical, we were told. Cue lots of dodging of rolling barrels, spinning oars to jump over whilst simultaneously leaping black gaping holes that lead down into the ship's interior, and that sort of thing.
Combat will also play a major part in proceedings, and Dan will build up an enormous inventory of weapons as he goes on including all manner of clubs, maces and swords, all of which are easily accessed. It's also one of those platform games that adds more layers of difficulty and interest by having you search out things like secret chalices. Kill lots of enemies to find one, and then you get to go to a place called the Hall of Heroes in-between levels to gain a special weapon which, naturally, will make progress through tougher sections later on a lot more manageable.
In addition to the main single-player platforming, which, apart from some slight concerns over camera control at this point (although in fairness we didn't get to play with the game for long enough to see if this was a real issue), seems pretty decent, there's also an array of mini-games to unlock in a Carnival level. These include tasks like shooting targets with a bow and arrow, and the team members on hand told us that all the mini-games would, as well as entertaining in their own right, contribute toward skills that would come in useful later on in the game. You can also play most of them in two-player over wireless.
We'll have to spend some more time with MediEvil before we're convinced that it's the platform game to answer Mario's glorious turn on the DS (oof, eh?), but whether or not it turns out to be that good it's certainly looking like fun, and there's no question that the PSP needs good, fun platformers. With Tom Baker in them.