In the mid 2000’s, I used to play a game called Crystal Caverns. It was a 2D game that had the player dig through randomly generated caves in order to find gemstones to sell to buy upgrades, while avoiding lava pockets, cave-ins, or cave monsters which lurked in the mines. The music was fun and upbeat, and along with daily challenges, the game was really addicting. The daily challenges had the player pick one out of three preset caves in which you had to complete a certain objective. Each daily challenge had their own difficulty. Easy, Medium, and Hard. Depending on which one you picked, you could have it as easy as collecting a set number of gems within a given time, or it could be as hard as having to hunt down 5 cave monsters. The monsters alone kind of scared me. They looked like skin and bones humans, with greyish-black skin, red eyes and slightly hunched over backs, with their arms slightly in front of them, sharp claws on it’s hands and feet. They would kill you in one hit, as did everything else in the game, and they were fast. They jumped all around and if one of them saw you in an open corridor of the mine, you were screwed if you didn’t have anything to defend yourself like with dynamite or a shotgun, both of which were expensive. But like the other hazards in the game, they were well spaced-out, and there wasn’t usually a swarm of them in one area. They would make scratching sounds, which would indicate that they were trying to break through a section of rock, which they could. I remember my mother used to hate the game. She said that I wasn’t accomplishing or doing anything, and tried to get me to go outside instead of playing the game. She never did succeed.
The daily challenges were sometimes weird, though. For some of the hard challenges, I only had to find one emerald, one of the most common gems in the game. It was due to the game’s random number generator that worked with the challenges, and it never did hurt to get paid 100,000 credits for collecting something worth 10. One day, however, I saw a challenge that read “Kill them all.” The challenge consisted of the player being put in a pit with 25 cave monsters. However, I was armed with a shotgun, which was one of the only ways you could kill cave monsters. They were really effective, but they cost a lot. I had never gotten a shotgun before in the game, so I really wanted to try it out, despite being terrified of cave monsters. When I played the challenge, I happily started to gun down the cave monsters. Shooting them with the shotgun was really satisfying, but I noticed something was off. The cave monsters weren’t running at me like they usually would, instead they were fleeing. Some were scratching away at the rocks, trying to hide, while others just jumped up to higher ground where I couldn’t shoot them. I wasn’t even hurt when one ran right through me. Contact with the creatures was supposed to kill you instantly. After I killed the last monster, I was returned to the menu, with an achievement. The achievement was “Bane of the Monsters”, which had a cartoony looking miner standing on top of a pile of dead cave monsters. I was rewarded 50,000 credits for this achievement as well.
As much as I loved the game, I wasn’t able to play it as much as I wanted to. Now remember, we only had one family computer, and the only other one we owned was my father’s, which was strictly off limits. There was this one time where my mother was on it for nearly the entire day because she wanted to make a scrapbook using a program that wouldn’t cooperate with her. I still wanted to play, so when my parents were asleep, WAY past my bedtime, by the way, I snuck downstairs to play the game. I started it up, and completed the daily challenge - I decided to go with the hard challenge, which was “Grab as much loot as you can before the timer ran out with a doubled gem frequency.” I played it, and ended up getting a good amount of gems from the challenge. The timer stopped, and instead of bringing me back to the menu, with the money going into my in-game wallet, something different happened. The timer disappeared from the screen, and the music stopped. I waited for a whole minute, unable to move. I swore near the end, I started to hear scratching. After that, I was returned to the menu. Odd, but at least the game didn’t crash, which I almost thought it did. I noticed that it was nearly midnight (I had to wait until my father stopped working to go downstairs), and so I decided to wait out the five minutes so the next daily challenge would appear. I played on my mine until the clock struck 12, and I looked to see what the next daily challenge was. To my dismay, the hardest (and usually most profitable), was the same challenge as before, get as much loot before the time runs out. But since the last playthrough yielded a good amount, I did it anyways. I ended up getting a lot more loot than before. But as the timer ran out, the same thing as before happened.
I wasn’t returned to the menu.
I could move around, however this time, I did hear scratching. I swear that I did. It had to be. It was louder than normal, and pretty soon, I found out what was causing it. At first, I didn’t even see it. I just saw the blocks to the far left all broke in unison. The creature took a step forward, and there it was. A giant cave monster. Now usually, the cave monsters are as large as the player, the size of one square. There were larger variations of cave monsters, but the maximum size was 2 by 2 squares. This nearly took up the whole screen in terms of height, and I hadn’t even seen the rest of it’s body. I mined as fast as I could, but the cave monster was much faster. The stone barely impeded it’s movement. And pretty soon, it was almost at me. The monster lifted up it’s foot, and stomped on the miner. The red pixels that shot out from the sides made me go tense. I had never seen any blood in the original game. Before I knew it, I was at the menu. I wanted to tell my parents, maybe sleep in their room that night, but I knew that they would go ballistic if they found out that I was up playing at midnight. I decided to just sleep until morning. And I wouldn’t say a word. After that night, I played the game less and less, but like before, found out that nothing like this happened again. Before I knew it, I was playing just as often as I used to. I just prayed that nothing like that ever happened again.
One more thing that I loved about the game was the Halloween challenges. They all consisted of uniquely designed challenges that could be done only on Halloween. This time, the challenge was “Escape before the Tremors catch up to you.” I had no idea what tremor meant at the time, and even now, the word had nothing to do with the challenge of the game. I was at the bottom of a deep cave, and I started mining upwards. After that, “Earthquake” music started playing, which meant that you had to escape the mine before you got trapped or crushed by falling rock. Except there wasn’t any rock falling. Instead, I heard tons of rock being destroyed at once. I thought it was the giant creature from before, and I almost quit the game. But it wasn’t. I was almost at the top when I saw the cause of the “earthquake”. I was horrified at what I saw.
Rows of jagged, crooked teeth sawing back and forth rapidly, with pink gums, and two grey looking layers of flesh underneath. I tried to escape, but my miner was ripped apart by the teeth, and I don’t mean he just died when he came into contact with them, I saw him die. The teeth were stained with blood. I was returned to the menu, and this time, I decided to just stop playing the game entirely. I knew it was Halloween, I knew it was supposed to be scary. But this was supposed to be a childrens game. I couldn’t play it anymore. I had gotten chills from the large cave monster, but the Tremors monster was terrifying. I had nightmares the following night, and on two other occasions as well. I didn’t play the game for 11 years, until I got bored, and decided to see if it was still there. I looked for it on the internet, and couldn’t find it. I then decided to ask my mother about it, as she was the only other person who knew about it. She tried to get me away from the game, but she knew nonetheless.
“Oh, yeah. I think you called it Crystal Caverns, or something like that. I never knew why you ‘played’ that game.” making air quotes when she said “played.” “You would just go to an error screen and sit there for a good hour or two and press keys. I was so glad when you finally got out of that phase.”