Playstation 1 Medievil - Review

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Medieval follows the adventures of Sir Dan Fortesque, a rather bony knight who's on a quest to prevent the evil Zarok from taking over the scenic lands of Gallowmere through zombies and black magic, whilst, on the way, proving that he is a real hero. I feel that this game deserves a bit of review attention, as it was, in my opinion, unfairly neglected, and even given pretty lacklustre reviews by certain Sony-oriented magazines on decidedly thin grounds - i.e. the platform sections were "too fiddly" and the jokes relied too much on puns. The same magazine has proven itself capable of giving higher scores to games with such bloody-minded controls that you need to be a member of the rare six-fingered Obooboo tribe to gain any real enjoyment from them. The developers obviously managed to upset them - perhaps they didn't invite the hacks to enough "product launches" (read "lunches").

The one criticism of the game that I must concur with, however, is that it is too short - but the reasons as to why this might be are not the standard ones. I finished the game without buying it - by renting it three successive times, but it would have been worth it even if I had paid full price. Put simply, I played this game obsessively - I could not put it down. The beautifully detailed arenas and stunning graphics, plus the fact that the game offers puzzle solving and RPG elements in a genuinely free roaming 3D environment - not the weird, disorienting flat set up often found in such games, where you get a top down view but with any objects viewed side on - meant that Medieval was a truly enchanting game. The gameplay, also, was superb - controls easy to handle and flexible, movement smooth and natural. I must also mention the fact that Medieval is a great game to watch someone else play - each level within the game has its own character, and there is a constantly high level of visual interest, with enjoyable set pieces nicely integrated into the gameplay proper - none of the "oh, it's a video, let's stop and watch this for a minute and then get back to actually doing something" that in some games can irritatingly break up the action, although there are good FMV sections at the beginning and end of some levels. For instance, in the Sleeping Village section, a bunch of guards arrive and have a conversation between themselves. Then you have to fight them. This is done with humour and wit, and uses the same standard of graphics throughout. When the guards' banter is over the action segues seamlessly into your battle with them - and you can run away if you want.

The game is very varied in the elements it includes - puzzle, combat, platform and RPG elements are all present, and they are well balanced - rather than stretching all of them at once, or having one element but not really using it to the full (c.f. boring fight sequences in Alundra - watch the boss's pattern, get out of the way, hit it, pattern repeats over and over again), each element is given full use in one or another part of the game. So, in the Asylum Gardens, the action is puzzle based, answering riddles (through action) set by a smooth talking gargoyle. There is a very sweet little mouse in this section. Variety is apparent in the puzzles also include - rarely are two puzzles solved in the same way, or by the same sort of action. Inside the Asylum, in stark contrast, is highly combat based, with hordes of lunatics (somewhat un-politically correct - they gibber and wear straitjackets!) attacking you from all directions. The combat generally is great fun - and as an added incentive to wreak carnage, you collect souls by doing so, which allow you to get a Chalice and enter the Hall of Heroes at the end of a level. Here you get insulted, chatted up or ranted at by a variety of ancient heroes, who also donate weapons -the range and variety of which is superb. This device also adds a great deal of replayability to the game - it's often possible to get through a level without getting the Chalice, but you can always go back and do it later.

I will end with a few final comments, highlighting the best bits and expressing any (few) drawbacks. The audio is, as has been said before, fantastic - deeply atmospheric, haunting, and well chosen to enhance each level. One of the best features of the game is the amount of variety it manages to without threatening the overall integrity and feel of the game. What keeps me playing games is not so much the thrill of success or a will to win but an overpowering need to see what comes next - and hope it's something interesting. Medieval perfectly fulfilled this desire - it's good looking, sounds great, is charming and amusing - why all the rubbish reviews. The one drawback - it isn't long enough! It should have been a five disc game! It can never be long enough! Waaaaa! Get working on Medieval 2 you developer guys.

Reviewer's Score: 9/10
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