Cursed Mountain is a survival horror title set in the Himalayan Mountains, developed by Sproing Interactive and Deep Silver. It was released on the Wii and PC in 2009. The game takes heavy influence from the Buddhist religion. The game is set during the 1980s, in an era that predates GPS and other satellite technology that is now widespread.
Frank Simmons is one of the worlds best high-altitude climbers. He is sent on an expedition to climb the Himalayan peak Chomolonzo with his climbing partner Paul Ward. Their benefactor, Edward Bennett, wants them to retrieve an ancient artifact from the mountain. After after finding the artifact, however, Frank and Paul have some kind of argument; Paul returns to basecamp alone, leaving Frank on the mountain. At basecamp, a storm suddenly blew up, and the Sherpas refuse to set foot on the mountain they call 'the sacred one' to find Frank. The player takes on the role of Frank's brother Eric, who takes on his own expedition to find Frank and figure out what happened.
Cursed Mountain's primary adversaries are spirits who are trapped in between the realms of life and death. These spirits are heavily inspired by the Buddhist religion. At the game's start, Eric Simmons begins in a small monastery in the valley beside Chomolonzo, where he is trying to gather villagers to go up the mountain with him. The villagers strongly object because they say the goddess of Chomolonzo has been angered, so Eric must ascend to the peak alone. As he gets closer and closer to the summit, Eric will start to speculate that some of the horrors he is seeing are caused by the thin mountain air and that he is going insane.
Instead of using conventional weapons like firearms or melee weapons, Eric's primary tool of defense against the spirits he encounters are Buddhist prayers and ritual objects. In the Wii version, these prayers are performed by using the Wii Remote's motion function. Other motion controls are used for such actions as avoiding falling rocks by running and swinging an ice pick.
Illusions of the Ego,
The game begins as the player takes control of Frank completing his ascent to discover a treasure that has been hidden on Chomolonzo, the sacred mountain. The player is introduced to the basics of movement and climbing. The player is also shown a brief backstory, offering vague details of Frank's falling out with his climbing partner, and his motivation to climb. The chapter ends as we see angry ghosts closing in on Frank as he ascends the mountain.
Shadows in Lhando
Elevation: 16,800 feet
The player takes control of Frank's brother, Eric. who arrives in the city of Lhando. Lhando is the highest city in the world, and is regarded as a gateway to the Himilayas. Eric must find his way through the abandoned city to Edward Bennet's house, the funder of the climbing expedition.
Here, the player is introduced to the basics of combat after obtaining Frank's old climbing axe that has its handle wrapped in sacred tapestry. With this blessed item, the player is able to use it to attack the ghosts that have taken over the city. The player is also shown how to heal by using shrines by a monk who has stayed behind to combat the ghosts.
Once Eric has found Bennet's house, he learns that Bennet had sent Paul and Frank to recover an artifact called a terma. Ancient, and supposedly mystical, Bennet informs Eric that Frank had done something wrong. Supposedly defiled the artifact, and now Eric must find the terma to be able to find his brother. He is directed to the Nyen-de-kyi-buk Monastery for information.
Facing the Yoghini
Elevation: 18,000 feet
Eric learns where he must go to learn more about his brother's disappearance. On his way there, he must pass through Cherku, a village higher up on the mountainside. He is told by a monk who is praying to stave off the ghosts to seek Jomo Menmo, the village yoghini (shaman).
On his way, Eric encounters many more ghosts. Some angry. Some sad. All hostile. These ghosts block his way to Jomo, along with the broken seal that must be used to open the gate.
Puzzles in this chapter are simple and few. One where the player is introduced to ghost khorlos, which must be exorcised in order to open magically sealed areas. Another where Eric is only able to see the ghosts he must defeat when incense is burned.
Finally, when Eric meets with Jomo Menmo, he learns more details of what had happened to his brother. What he learns is that Frank had performed a ritual with Jomo Menmo's apprentice, Mingma Yangzi. Having learned that, Eric follows Jomo up the mountainside, where Jomo claims that Eric must pay for his brother's sins and pushes him off a nearby cliff.
Into the Darkness
Elevation: 18,000 feet
Eric has survived his fall, and finds himself in a Buddhist burial ground. Making his way out, he is not deterred from his quest to find out what happened to his brother. In this level, the player is introduced to the more advanced controls of climbing, such as climbing faster or keeping your grip from slipping.
The ghosts of the burial ground attack viciously, even reaching out of the walls of the cliffs that Eric climbs to push him off.
Halfway through, Eric must solve a puzzle to activate 3 sacred statues. Doing so summons a garuda, which viciously attacks.
After the boss fight, the garuda is driven off, leaving Eric to continue his escape from the burial grounds. The garuda attacks again and chases Eric the rest of the way out of the burial grounds, all the way back to Jomo's tent, where the spirit will not enter.
Jomo forces Eric out to fight the garuda again, hoping that he will die and appease the goddess of the mountain. Eric defeats the spirit once more, this time for good as he impales it on a prayer spear. With the spirit dead and Jomo placated for the moment, Eric resumes his journey up the mountain.
A Ritual Disturbed
Elevation: 18,200 feet
Eric arrives at the terraced fields that are located above Cherku, still looking for the Nyen-de-kyi-buk Monastery.
His ascent takes him through the farming fields and storehouses, where he finds that he must complete a ritual that the inhabitants were in the middle of performing, before he is able to proceed. Along the way, he discovers a new weapon that he is able to use against the ghosts in the form of a kila.
However, he finds that the ritual involves him more deeply than he had once imagined.
Cutting Through Ignorance
Elevation: 18,400 feet
Eric has discovered the monastery, and when he arrives he finds that it is just as deserted as the town and villages before. Ghosts have taken over the sacred grounds, and are defiling the monastery.
A relief of the elephant god is needed to enter the monastery, so Eric must take his search through the cellars and storage rooms to find the needed key. Along the way, he has visions of his brother yelling for help, and sees him opening an ornate box. Also in the basements, Eric finds a lag pa to use as a weapon against the ghosts.
After making his way to the upper levels of the monastery, Eric meets the monk who helped him back in Lhando. His name is Thod-pa, and he reveals that a year before the game's events started, he discovered a hidden document that described the location of the terma that Frank and Paul had been sent to find.
It seems that during the rituals that Frank was performing with the apprentice yoghini, something had gone wrong. For as soon as he started his ascent, the enraged spirits of the dead had started to appear.
Eric is then taught Buddhist mantras and learns a more powerful technique for defeating spirits. He is then directed to the grand lama in the Dege Gonchen monastery further up the mountain.
Elevation: 18,700 feet
Eric arrives at Dege Gonchen, and finds that even this place is infested with ghosts. Though he is skeptical that abbot Khenpo Jigme Lingpa will be able to help him, he feels that it is his only lead to rescue his missing brother.
He fights his way past the ghosts who have taken residence even there. Because the monastery is barred up from the inside, Eric must climb across the outside of the buildings and across the rooftops to make his way up to the abbot.
Before meeting the abbot, Eric overhears an argument in his chambers. Bennet has arrived at the monastery before him, and learns that he believes that the wielder of the terma will become immortal, though abbot Lingpa disagrees.
Eric learns from the abbot about the process of life, death and reincarnation. How when a person dies, their soul must pass a series of trial in the bardo. If they fail these trials, they are reincarnated into the living world. Frank, however, has used the terma to enter the bardo while still alive. This has thrown the natural cycle out of order and trapped him in the bardo. To learn more, Eric must meditate deeply and send his living spirit to visit the bardo temporarily.
Twilight of the Bardo
Eric suddenly finds himself in a surreal and unusual place, so similar to the world that he knows, but terrifyingly unreal. The ghosts there are more numerous and hostile than the ones he has previously encountered. All the while there, he is harried by a one-legged spirit.
After avoiding the one-legged spirit, Eric makes his way through the bardo, encountering some spirits who he had already defeated before. Finally, he reaches the mirror of karma, which was once wielded by a six-armed spirit who used it to judge whether a soul was worthy of enlightenment or doomed to reincarnation. Now, the six-armed spirit is as angry as the others and attacks Eric.
After the boss fight is finished, Eric is gifted a khorlo to use as a weapon. He then learns that his brother is still alive at the top of Chomolonzo. With that, he is given permission to climb the sacred mountain.
Elevation: 19,300 feet
Following Bennet's trail to the Chomolonzo base camp, Eric once again has to fight his way past the ghosts who have taken residence on the path there.
Along the way, he discovers the dead body of Mingma Yangzi, who had participated in the rituals with Frank. A vision shown by the spirit of Mingma shows that she was to participate in a sexual tantric ritual with Frank, though she was in love with Paul. When the ritual was ended, she was chased down and murdered by Bennet. Why? Eric does not see, for Mingma's spirit is interrupted by the approach of several ghosts.
The rest of his climb is made difficult by a lion-headed demon, who whips up strong winds by flapping its enormous wings. By taking cover from the winds, Eric is able to continue onward.
He is later met in a sacred ritual ground by the demon, who challenges Eric to a fight. After the boss battle is complete, the demon throws Eric into an icy crevasse, just as it is exorcised.
Liberation Through Hearing
Eric awakens in a crevasse, which is in danger of collapsing if he moves too quickly. The player must move slowly through this area, or else cause a cave in that may kill Eric.
At times, the cave collapses, which triggers a quick time event, and must send Eric running anyway.
In the crevasse, Eric finds a two-way radio, and finds that it is tuned to Frank's climbing partner, Paul, who guides Eric out of the crevasse toward the Chomolonzo base camp.
Dark Spots in the Clear Light
Elevation: 20,300 feet
Eric has made it out of the crevasse and found his way to base camp, still guided by Paul on the radio.
The base camp is as bereft of life and filled with furious dead as the rest of the places on the mountain.
Paul has taken up refuge in a safer part of the camp and continues to guide Eric. He directs Eric to find high altitude gear to go any further up the mountain. While he is searching Eric discovers that during the ritual between Frank and Mingma, Mingma could not finish due to her love of Paul. In a rage, Frank went climbing up the mountain anyway, caring not for the ritual and only for the conquest of being the first to scale such a mountain.
After retrieving the high altitude equipment, Eric finds Paul in a heated argument with Bennet. Upon learning that Bennet killed Mingma, Bennet reveals that he too had been learning to manifest a spiritual form in the bardo by taking the form of the one-legged demon who Eric had fought before.
Bennet kills Paul, then turns on Eric. Eric, who is more experienced and equipped to fight demons, takes on Bennet and exorcises him the same as he had. With his spirit fled from his body, Bennet dies and his body turns to ash.
Into the Void
Elevation: 23,600 feet
Eric is now on his way to the summit. The player is introduced to a new gameplay mechanic where they will need to monitor their oxygen, in order to not suffocate in the high mountain atmosphere. Oxygen can be harvested from the dead bodies of other climbers who can be found on the mountain.
As he climbs, he sees more visions of Frank. Only, these visions are revealed to be conjured by a hideous red spirit, who is able to summon the spirits of those who have died on the mountain to attack.
After escaping the wrath of the red spirit, Eric continues his way up, still tormented by visions of his brother. Whether they are real or conjured by the spirit, Eric cannot tell, but must press on. As well as Frank, he is mocked by the disembodied voice of Jomo Menmo, admonishing him for his foolish attempt to climb the sacred mountain.
He finds the hiding place where the terma had been kept, and discovers evidence of Frank's trail there. Following it, he encounters the red spirit again. This time, he faces it directly and exorcises it. Upon being defeated, the red spirit leaves behind a paper describing a technique for tantric breathing, which allows those who practice it to breath in high altitudes without the need for equipment.
Gone Way Beyond
Elevation: 26,000 feet
Eric is amazed that he no longer needs oxygen tanks to breathe so high up in the mountains. He keeps on Franks trail, knowing that he is nearer his brother now more than ever.
He is guided by more visions of Frank, which show Eric how to traverse the treacherous and nearly invisible path that is near the summit. On his way up, he hears Frank's disembodied voice confessing how he was jealous of Eric his whole life, and saw his chance to climb Chomolonzo as a way of finally outdoing his older brother. Eventually, Eric finds the trail that Frank took at the beginning of the game.
At 27,200 feet, Eric finds Frank's pack. In it, he finds Frank's climbing equipment, winter clothing, a picture of him and Frank after their first climb, and the terma itself.
The summit is finally reached. There sits Frank, unresponsive and in his ritual clothes. Though Eric tries to talk to him, a sudden voice tells him that Frank will not respond, as he is still trapped between worlds.
Eric is horrified to find that the owner of the voice is the goddess of the mountain, Chomolonzo herself. She and Eric fight furiously. Though she is powerful and tries everything she can to kill both brothers, Eric is able to weaken her to the point that he is able to return the terma to her.
Chomolonzo is defeated. The spirits return to the cycle of life, death and reincarnation and Frank's spirit is returned to his body. Eric tries to convince Frank to return with him to civilization. Frank, however, has learned much of himself in the bardo. He feels that he has learned what he can from his life and decides that it is time to start over and try again in his next life. He allows himself to be exposed to the elements and dies in his brother's arms.
Eric sees fit to leave Frank's earthly body atop the mountain. He cares not for any magic treasures or prophecies. And as he leaves the mountain, he says that the goddess can take care of her own treasure, instead of leaving it to mortals.