Cursed Caverns Game

Roger Feese

General Information

Guide the main character through many challenging levels to escape the cursed caverns. Each level presents a unique puzzle that must be solved through a series of actions. The puzzles revolve around the manipulation of objects impeding the path of the main character. Objects have physical properties that cause them to interact with each other creating chain reactions that can effect great changes to the environment.

Each level contains an entry and exit point. The player controls a character in action-platformer fashion. When the level begins, the player starts at the entry point and in order to complete the level, must reach the exit point. There are obstacles blocking the path to the exit. The player must manipulate objects in the level to make their way to the exit. Manipulation of objects is mostly performed through pushing or lifting objects. Adjacent objects can affect each other in various ways. A block of ice could be pushed near a fire where it would melt.

Through the placement of objects on the level and manipulation by the player, exciting interactions and chain-reactions could be created which would reward solving intricate puzzles. Some puzzles could be open ended and have multiple solutions.

The player's motion would be somewhat limited. The character would have the ability to perform basic manipulation of objects such as pushing and lifting. The player would not have jumping abilities but could climb on top of adjacent objects.

Detailed Description

Background story

Caveman, wanders (sleepwaks?) into a cave and gets lost. Must find way to escape. Story is not that important. Focus is on good puzzles with enough action to keep you interested.


Mildly difficult puzzles with a fairly serious atmosphere. However, humor should be a part of it, but it is not meant to only appeal to children. The player character and story are only there to fit a theme but the puzzle solving is the important part of the game.


Complete all levels. On each level the goal is to reach the exit point without dying.


The player can move the player smoothly using directional controls. If the player is next to an object, they can pick it up or climb on top of it using specific buttons. If a player is carrying an object, it can be dropped using another button. This is the action portion of the puzzle solving. The puzzle is manipulated using the third-person player character.

It is possible that a player may perform an action that will render the puzzle un-solveable. At any point the player should have the option of restarting the level. It would be nice to have some kind of 'undo' feature that would be able to undo things step by step. This would help cut down on frustration in the case of more intricate puzzles. I would consider this an important innovation if it is possible to have mulitple step undo for this game. Due to the "action" focus of the game, it may be difficult to implement.


There is no plan for NPC's at this time, so not much AI will be involved. The only possible use for AI right now may be some kind of level creation assistance or automatic level generation.


The interface will be sparse. On each level, the only information that might need to be displayed is the player's health or vital properties such as temperature, wetness, and pressure. It might be cool to display some of the physical properties of objects visually. For instance, have a little "life-bar" for objects when they are hit by something that affects their "hit-points". Presumably, when an object's hit-points run out, the object would be destroyed.


The Perspective will be that of a standard 2-D platform game. That is, the game world will be presented as viewed from the side. All objects and obstacles will exist in the same plane. There will not be any 3D aspects in order to prevent confusion over movement capabilities. However, there may be some 3D effects thrown in for decoration.


There could be multiple level sets that have defined difficulty levels. In general the first levels should be largely exploratory and obvious in order to allow the player to gain some confidence in manipulating objects and an understanding of how objects interact. If there are new objects introduced on a level, then the use of the object should be fairly obvious the first time it is seen. Many puzzles should be fairly open-ended to allow multiple solutions. The goal is to keep the player moving and not force them to spend a lot of time planning sequences of moves, at least on the basic skill level. Other, more difficult skill levels could contain puzzles that require more planning. It would be cool if the main character could, as a last resort punch and kick his way through any remaining obstacles.

Other Design Aspects


The player character should be cartoonish, but actions should not be overly exaggerated. Movement should be fairly realistic and predictable. Walking animation should be smooth and allow predictable placement. Characters need to be a certain size so that it is obvious what spaces they can fit into and through.

Single/multi player

Multi-player is something that would require a lot more planning. I would like to see this happen, but it is probably not something for the first version of the game. Two-player could introduce some interesting cooperative puzzle solving aspects or perhaps could involve races to see who could solve a level first. If at all possible, the game should be coded in a way that allows the addition of another player in the future.

For cooperative puzzle solving, it would be interesting if player characters could have special capabilities that allow them to interact with each other. Perhaps it would be enough to allow them to lift each other and pull each other up or team up to move heavy objects. If the game engine is built properly, it may be fairly easy to add a second player and adjust the properties of game objects in order to make it work. However, puzzles will probably have to be specifically designed for either one or two players.


The game world is the traditional "cave-man" prehistoric setting. All of the levels will take place in a cave. The primary objects in the game should be things that one might see in a cave, or things that might not look too out of place in a prehistoric setting. There are some obvious cave themes to consider:

The levels may gradually progress from one cave type to another. For instance, the player may start in the bowels of the earth in a volcanic cavern, make their way up through stone caves and stuff, eventually arriving at ice caves and dirt caves before finally reaching daylight. Some caves near the end may include more evidence of humans or animals. This could mean that there are more types of objects which could allow for more complex puzzles.

Game objects should all roughly be of the same size, and roughly the size of the player. This should make designing puzzles easier and make manipulation of the objects more obvious. Here are some objects that a player might encounter:

*Metallic Ore
*Wood block (portions of trees, stumps, roots)
*Ice block/chunk
*Coal lump



The main game interface will be manipulating the player character. The player character is manipulated like a standard action-platformer character. All interaction with game objects is performed through the player character.

There will be a simple menu system developed to allow the setting of game options, choosing level sets, etc. Game saves could happen automatically. Once a level is completed, that should be recorded so that the player could continue from that point.

Basic vital statistics for the player could be displayed on the screen during gameplay in a small overlay in the top corner of the screen. This would not be an interactive display, it would only display real-time statistics.

Another aspect of the game engine will be an in-game level editor. This is going to be important for development and testing. It could also be an interesting feature for advanced or interested players.

The in-game editor would be a combination of a tile-map editor for the game level and it would allow one to position objects on the game map and set ambient properties of the level such as temperature and gravity. There would be two modes to the editor, editing the static tile-map of the level and placing objects in the level. Tiles and objects would be presented in a pallete and can be placed on a grid-like level map. Tiles would be restricted to a rigid grid structure and each grid square would have a property defining whether or not it is solid (walkable). Objects could be placed more arbitrarily on the level (they would have absolute pixel coordinates).


No message...This is just a puzzle game!


The graphics that make up the levels should be fairly colorful, but objects that can be manipulated should stand out so that the player can identify them fairly easily. This should probably be achieved by using brighter colors for objects.

The player character should be fairly detailed and have good animation sequences for walking pushing, lifting, climbing onto, and dropping objects. The sequences should be consise enough so that they do not slow down the action and generic enough so that they can be used on a variety of slightly differently shaped objects and not look too strange.

For proper character/object interaction, it may be necessary to either do separate animations for different conditions (walking, walking while carrying an object or object overhead) or perhaps player animations could be composed of more than one sprite.

Objects should be roughly square in order to have some consistency when stacking and interacting. Objects can have animation, but in most cases, animation will be limited. Object animations would mostly involve changing states or transforming to other objects. Objects should be easily identifiable so that it is easier to predict the outcome of object interactions. Ice should look cold, fire should look hot and wood should look flammable. It would be nice if the objects could look somewhat like natural objects though, and not just a square item that is made of a certain material. For instance, a block of wood could be a section of tree-trunk, an old log, or a tree stump. Each of these would be rendered in a fashion that would make them fairly square-shaped. Bounding-box collision detection could allow objects to be slightly larger or have protrusions outside of the standard square shape.


Sounds should be subtle, but descriptive. Many sounds will be heard repeatedly, so they should not tire the ears of the player. There could be some ambient sounds to add interest or set a mood.

Music should be ambient and not overly heavy or melodic. It should be something that could be listened to for a several minutes of puzzle-solving without getting tired of it. I liked the ambient sound/music of the Fallout games because it seemed to set a mood and did not seem overly repetitive.


Levels could have multiple independent "environments" or caverns or compartments with their own ambient properties. Then the player might be able to move items between compartments to cause changes that otherwise would not occur. This might be needed if it is hard to maintain certain circumstances within a single set of environmental properties or if we want it to be possible to change the ambient properties of an environment.

Would be cool to have parts of the level environments that the player could interact with like lava flows, water streams/falls or pockets of lava or water.

Visual indicators when properties are being affected:

Warming up: red streaks or red hue overlaid on object
Cooling off: blue streaks, snowflakes/crystals overlaid on object
Pressure: cracking, shaking, chips fly off

Game level map. Levels are mapped together via a large graph of which only completed areas are visible. This would be displayed in-between levels to allow the player to choose which level to try. This could be maze-like with multiple paths for the player to choose.

	         |     |
	   +--*--+     *
	   |     |     |
start	*--*     *--*--+--*--+-- finish
	   |        |     |  |

Short games could consist of automatically generated game maps based on a set of pre-defined set of puzzle levels.

Game objects should not be limited to "realistic" items. This will make the puzzles more interesting. Things like ladders, ropes, or vines are going to be important.

The really interesting aspect of the game is the object interactions. What can we do with these? How can we make them fun?

Fire - burn objects
Heat - melt ice
melt ice - put out fire, make mud, weaken wood,moss?
weight - crush objects


wood -> burning
ice -> melted
stone -> cool|hot
egg -> cook - become hard, explode?
object -> broken object

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