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Ludicity in SCE Studio Cambridge’s MediEvil: Resurrection

    In the Playstation Portable (PSP) remake, MediEvil: Resurrection (SCE Studio Cambridge, 2005), Ludicity is dealt with extreme care. Hyper and Contra-Ludicity interlock gracefully to reward the player for hard work while maintaining the game’s difficulty curve. SCE Studio Cambridge achieves this balance through a set of Hyper-Ludic systems, and a demand that the player engage with its contra-ludic systems in order to expand their safety net further.

    SCE Studio Cambridge creates a contra-ludic system that rewards the player for putting extra effort into secondary objectives, allowing them to unlock Hyper-ludic features. In MediEvil: Resurrection, players are given the option of collecting, and filling a gold Chalice with the souls of the many enemies you encounter in each level. Even when the Chalice has not yet been collected, enemies the player kills count towards a percentage that dictates how full the Chalice is. Each level has its own Chalice to collect, some are just laying around, others require the player to solve puzzles. For example, in the level “Hilltop Mausoleum”, players are required to help a ghost named “Mr. Organ” find new music sheets to play.

“I am compelled by some primal force always to play this song of fear and sadness, please bring me new music, that I may break this cycle of endless misery! Go on… Do us a favour! It’s driving me mental!”

-Mr. Organ from MediEvil: Resurrection (SCE Studio Cambridge, 2005)

    Finding the first sheet allows the player to trade with Mr. Organ for a key allowing level progression. However, later within the same level, players may find a second sheet, assuming that they explored the dark corridor in the Mausoleum’s basement. Doing so is difficult, as the player must fight off Imps, who can be hard to hit due to their speed and small stature. They can also steal your weapons off of you, effectively forcing you to use your less powerful weapons to earn your equipment back. Additionally, stained glass spikes line the basement’s floor, making it tricky to navigate. Successfully retrieving the music sheet without dying, the player may return to Mr. Organ, where a second trade enables the player to receive that level’s Chalice. Of course, the Chalice is no use to you if you haven’t killed enough enemies.The benefit of retrieving this Chalice and filling it with the souls of enemies, before leaving the level, grants the player a visit to the “The Hall of Heroes” where new equipment awaits. SCE Studio Cambridge have developed a system that incentivizes and challenges players to methodically work their way through each level, rather than rushing through them. Acquiring and filling each level’s Chalice is paramount to the player’s progression. For without new equipment, future levels and bosses prove highly difficult. In addition, this incentivises the player to explore the level and master the game’s combat system, effectively feeding into the primary gameplay loop (The Escapist, 2019).
    Additionally, SCE Studio Cambridge designs some of its primary objectives with exploration in mind, some of which require searching previous levels for items. In “Hilltop Mausoleum”, the main objective is to find and defeat the Stained-Glass Demon. However, to reach him players must first explore the Mausoleum to find a way of summoning him, as he is trapped inside a stained glass mural. Whilst exploring, you can find a book that hints at the existence of a heart made of stained glass, present in the Mausoleum. Through exploration and trading with Mr. Organ the first piece of sheet music for a key, players will find it in the basement. The player can cause the heart to burst by leaving a lit torch underneath it. After doing so, returning to the main hall and standing in the patch of light in front of the mural will trigger a fight with the Stained Glass Demon. This is an example of one of the game’s complex objectives that requires a combination of exploration and puzzle solving on the part of the player. However, the game gets increasingly more complex with some of its later objectives.
    In the level “Pumpkin Gorge”, the player is tasked with finding the Pumpkin Witch, and obtaining a Macguffin off of her. After making their way through the first area of the level, players must free a farmer from a group of enchanted pumpkin men. He will then give you a key to a gate leading to the witch’s camp. Reaching the camp, players will realise she’s nowhere to be seen. In order to progress, you must have collected a Talisman from the earlier level “Cemetery Hill”. As such, some players may exit the level early, go back, grab the Talisman, return to the camp and finally summon the witch. After a cutscene the player will learn that in order to take her MacGuffin, they will have to defeat the Pumpkin King, of whom is draining the surrounding land of life for power. Only then, will they finally complete the objective and be able to move on with the game. This mixture of exploration, Puzzle-solving, collecting items, backtracking and combatting enemies allows SCE Studio Cambridge to mix up the gameplay in Contra-Ludicious manner. This is achieved with these objectives that stretch across the game’s different levels and reward players who are prepared and thorough with their exploration early on. Players who only do what is required of them in the moment will fall victim to constant backtracking and increased risk of death, as health is not refilled between levels. For example, if you left “Pumpkin Gorge” early with 20 health points, you will still have only 20 health points when you enter “Cemetery Hill” to look for the talisman. For those players who are invested and putting in the extra effort from the beginning, it gives a sense of immense achievement and confidence.

    Moving on to the Hyper-Ludic features of MediEvil: Resurrection, SCE Studio Cambridge allows an evolving safety net for the player from the beginning.
    SCE Studio Cambridge implements a gameplay mechanic centered around potions. Throughout the levels, players can find two types of potion bottles: Vials, and Bottles. The Bottles effectively act as extensions to the health bar- whenever the health bar hits zero, if players have a full Bottle, it will completely restore it. Players then keep the empty Bottle to refill at a later time. This is done by collecting Vial potions, which immediately heal the player’s health bar. If there is any left over in the Vial after healing the player, it will then begin filling the empty Bottles. This can also be done by finding Health Fountains: stationary columns of green particle effects that perform the same function as the Vial, only they give more health than Vials. If it fills all of the empty Bottles before it runs out, players can always come back to the fountain and use the remaining health it has. There are eight different Bottles you can collect in the game, however, a couple are only obtainable through the Chalice system, and some require players to be thorough with their exploration of the game’s levels. SCE Studio Cambridge design the potion mechanic this way, so that the player is prepared on a base level for the game’s difficulty, without being overtly detrimental to the game’s difficulty curve. It allows the player more margin for error, but only allows a large portion of the Bottles to those who do the extra work for them.This hyper-ludic feature will seem necessary for certain levels, such as “Inside The Asylum”, where the player is locked into small rooms with large amounts of enemies.The potions allow the player to feel like they have the capacity to complete the game without extreme labour, while still requiring them to feed into the contra-ludic Chalice system.


    However, SCE Studio Cambridge is forced to be hypo-ludic in MediEvil: Resurrection’s presentation. The first of these Hypo-Ludic features is the Heads-Up Display itself. On the left is your health bar, with a number dictating how much health you have left at the bottom, adjacent are the Bottles you own. On the right, it shows the status of the Chalice: whether it’s been collected or not, and at what percentage of capacity it’s at. Below that, is a number dictating how much gold you have. Again, below that, will be your equipped weapon and shield (if you have one). If they have durability, another number will dictate how close it is to breaking. Due to the fact these numbers are in a standard white font, and sit on top of the player’s view, it becomes a persistent reminder of the game’s number crunching elements. It reinforces the idea that the world is not organic, and grounds you back in the real-world, de-gamifying itself. However, the icons and health bar themselves are stylised in line with the rest of the game. The health bar is a decorative, hollow marble piece with green liquid from the vials in it, and the player character’s face at the top. Whom, for context’s sake, is an undead knight missing their lower jaw and left eye. Yet, he is able to contort his upper jaw in such a way that it looks like he is smiling. Similarly, the Game Over screen quite literally reads “Game Over” on the screen in a font that looks vaguely crooked and worn, as the game’s interpretation of Death voices his disappointment in the player off-screen.
    SCE Studio Cambridge does, however, try it’s best at making an engaging Main Menu. The game’s title lights up on a series of headstones that the camera pans by. The camera then passes by a gate that is opened by ghosts, leading to a singular headstone with the menu’s options engraved on it. Crouched behind it is a skeleton, using his hand to point at which option is currently highlighted by the player. While by its very nature as a menu being Hypo-Ludic, the presentation does it’s best to establish the game’s art-style and setting. We know how the game will visually look- like a creepy, twisted cartoon- and we know we are in a fantastical, european setting thanks to the cemetery, ghosts, skeleton and visible forest in the background. The hypo-ludic features that are in the game serve not only to convey information pertinent to the player, but simultaneously establish the game’s mood, setting and themes.


Citations

SCE Studio Cambridge, 2005, Playstation Portable, ‘MediEvil: Resurrection’, Sony Computer Entertainment.

The Escapist, 2019, ‘Yahtzee’s Dev Diary Episode 4: Shooter Loopy’, June 25, viewed 1st May 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh26jd9UqRw>.

Glossary:
Contra-Ludic: A way of describing something as making the game harder.
Hypo-Ludic: A way of describing something as De-gamifying the game.
– Hyper-Ludic: A way of describing something as making the game easier.

Image Source: Medievil: Ressurection’s Fandom Page, under Wallpapers.

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