In 1998, an underdog action game called MediEvil hit the PlayStation. Although it didn't make much of a splash, its likable undead hero and reasonably solid play led into a sequel and something resembling minor cult status among those keeping an eye on the fringe. Fast-forward seven years and exchange the PlayStation for the PSP. MediEvil Resurrection may have a few tweaks and go a little easier on the eyes, but it's essentially the same game. The main difference? Instead of a small splash, it slips silently into the water and sinks to the bottom.
Before going any further, let me just put a couple of things out there. First off, I do consider myself a fan of one-eyed, skeletal Sir Daniel Fortesque. Secondly, I did think that both PlayStation iterations were worth playing at the time, and I'm glad that I kept my original copies of the discs. That said, I seriously question why a seven year-old PS1 game was given the green light for a quickie revamp and transmogrified into a UMD.
For those not familiar with the game, it's basically a third-person action/platformer starring an undead knight in a quest to save the fictional land of Gallowmere from an evil necromancer. The throw in a variety of basic weapons and mix with a visual style resembling a goofier sort of Tim Burton, and you've got the gist.
Ordinarily, I would welcome this kind of game onto the PSP. The slick black handheld's library is pathetically thin at the moment, and I'm a firm believer that solid platformers are one of the keystones to any console's success. However, MediEvil was already a little bit behind the curve when it originally debuted. Now, it seems positively ancient.
Although the graphics have been touched up, it doesn't look nearly as good as I would expect a PSP game to at this point. The frame rate is shaky, and only hits smooth patches of operation sporadically. Besides those two less-than-desirable qualities, the camera operation is extremely problematic. Granted, the developers only have one analog stick to work with, but someone somewhere is going to have to come up with a solution for this problem because the status quo with MediEvil Resurrection (and all the other platformers on PSP) is simply unacceptable.
By holding down the right shoulder button, it's theoretically possible to use the game's "lock-on" feature to circle-strafe an enemy or to stop the camera from rotating. I say "theoretically" because the malfunctioning lock-on disengages at random, and stopping the camera from moving only opens our heroic zombie up for attacks from the back.
The combat is just as solid as the camera, which is to say, not at all—I found it virtually impossible to kill an enemy without taking damage myself. Even after hours of play, I still couldn't figure out the correct range from which to attack safely, and opponents deal big chunks of hurt. It's possible to collect magic bottles which extend Sir Dan's life bar to many multiples of its original length, but I would much rather have a workable combat system than a sponge for sloppy damage.
As I alluded to earlier, the original MediEvil was a bit underdeveloped when it was new. The simplistic key-finding, switch-flipping, and water-avoiding that made up the bulk of its tasks are even more tiresome now than they were back then. This kind of play is as old and moldy as Dan's walking corpse, only less attractive. I took no pleasure whatsoever in doing this kind of inspiration-free busy-work, and I doubt very many other people will, either.
I honestly do think that Sir Daniel Fortesque is a good character with potential, but I would have much rather seen an all-new game with a nod towards current methodology than a rehash of something that honestly wasn't all that great in the first place. I do admit that the laugh-worthy cutscenes are top-notch, but everything else is woefully lacking. If this is the kind of stuff that PSP owners are expected to consume until something better comes along, then I'd have to say that I'm really glad that I have my DS to fall back on.