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Cart #dontdig-1 | 2023-01-26 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

Every hole digs up a soul

You must find 3 magic relics to help rid the land of evil. Use the Find-O-Meter and your trusty shovel to search the forest. But if you dig up the dead you'll need to fight them off to stay alive, so pay attention to everything you unearth...it might just save your life.

  • Find more than 30 items scattered throughout a spooky forest
  • Challenging shmup action as you fight off the dead
  • Simple and rewarding inventory management
  • Secrets and riddles abound


Playing the game

For PICO8 owners: Play through Splore or by running load #dontdig from the PICO8 commandline.

Gamepad recommended for best experience.

  • D-Pad/Arrows: Move your character
  • B Button/Z: Action button. Hold down to dig and shoot.
  • A Button/X: Inventory
  • Start/P: Pause and settings
  • Read the manual to learn more (PDF)

Explore the forest while paying attention to the Find-O-Meter. When the needle points at red and beeps, hold down the action button to dig and see what you've found. Use the items you find to power up. And keep an eye out for chests and unlock them to get powerful upgrades.

But remember, every hole digs up a soul and sends it into the wild. If you get caught by a ghost, you'll have to defeat it before you can continue on your quest.

When you find a magic relic, take it back to the old man in the village. Find all 3 and you can win the game!

Deluxe edition & strategy guide

You can also purchase the Deluxe Edition Bundle which includes a strategy guide, maps, a special in-game item, and an extra trainer cart. See the Itch.io page for details.

Thanks to the community

As usual, thanks to this great community for their support and willingness to share ideas, code, and assets that helped me make this game, especially @pahammond @Gruber @kevinthompson

This game took way longer to make than I had hoped but I'm really happy with how it turned out. It's part shmup and part exploration adventure that I think is pretty accessible overall. Your thoughts and feedback are always appreciated and please report any crashes you experience.


v1.1 (2/6/23)
Added: Total stats now show on inventory screen
Added: Any hole dug shown by an "X"
Changed: Balancing & timing adjustments for bullet battles

P#125072 2023-01-31 14:55 ( Edited 2023-02-06 20:57)


Awesome!! Never thought this creepy, twisted music would ever find a use. Fits really nicely!

P#125084 2023-01-31 19:21

@Gruber - Totally, dude, it's perfect! Once I heard it in another cart I knew I could use it here and it would bring everything together. THANK YOU so much for making your music available to us lowly hobby devs :)

P#125087 2023-01-31 19:37

I am loving this game, @morningtoast.

Gives me strong vibes of Intellivision, especially the sideways walking. Just lovely !

Gold star. Pssst ... Don't worry, I dug it up from a grave somewhere. I'm sure they won't miss it. :)

Always I would suggest for every game to add a SAVE GAME option to it for when you are on the go and want to continue later.

And if you're curious, yes, there are AI music maker websites out as well. It's a very busy world ...

P#125093 2023-01-31 20:29

@dw817 - Thanks, I appreciate it. Glad you're having fun with it. And yes, save game would have been preferred but ran out of space. The Scope Creep got me on this one and that was a casualty. As usual, my ideas and plan changes by the day when in the midst of coding.

I made the game as a single cart so space was at a premium. I only added the title screen cart as a last minute thing just for fun and learning. If I had planned the game to be multi-cart from the start that would have changed a lot of decisions, no doubt.

I know exactly how I'd have to manage save data too so maybe it's something I'll tinker with and try to shove in somehow. The game didn't go through any post-processing so if I do that successfully I'm sure there'd be enough space. Sadly whenever I try to run my games through a minifier they come out broken so I just don't bother anymore.

P#125096 2023-01-31 21:36

Here now, @morningtoast. Getting more into the game - I see when you "put something back" a spirit leaves the grave - even after a different spirit left the same grave earlier.

Unless the bodies are being stacked when they're buried - this probably shouldn't happen ... Maybe just one corpse per customer's grave ?

P#125105 2023-02-01 02:12

What a great game - but it's so tough! Losing my items was heartbreaking. I'd love a slightly easier mode or an increase to the damage that I dealt out.

P#125113 2023-02-01 09:36

@phil - Thanks...balancing was a challenge and took be forever to find a happy spot. The strength of the ghosts increases as you have more fights and dig more holes. But the items in your inventory make a huge difference so keep an eye on the stats as you dig.

The game manual has an item list in the back that can help you figure out which things to keep in your inventory to increase your damage.

Manual PDF: https://bit.ly/dontdig-help

P#125119 2023-02-01 14:14

This one's pretty neat! Thanks for making it.

Hit/collision boxes could use some polish. In combat, it wasn't super intuitive that only the player's heart mattered for hit detection. And outside of combat, I never know where the player's collision box is, and I keep on bumping into things. Especially in the trees, where you can't easily see the player's sprite in the first place.

It would also be nice to see, in the game, the effects of individual items on stats. I know I could write them down, or check the manual, but I'm lazy.

P#125143 2023-02-01 22:57

i think the game is super cool but when you die once, you lose all of your items + the sleepers are harder and now it's slow going and impossible. i mean balance i guess and that's difficult to find but awesome game.

P#125148 2023-02-02 03:01 ( Edited 2023-02-02 03:03)

@Ummmm_ok I agree regarding death. You are pubished twice for dying and it can be hard to get back to decent stats.

I think @morningtoast really does like to punish players for dying :) I had the same criticism about one of his other games, BuzzKill : https://www.lexaloffle.com/bbs/?tid=3877 ( Quick aside: BuzzKill is such a good game - just right for a quick 10 minute stress relieving session, but when you die you are immediately at a disadvantage )

P#125161 2023-02-02 09:07

Man...just pile on, lol. But fair :) Dying does set you back. I'll see if there's a nice way to reduce that penalty a smidge. However, there are ways to avoid that difficulty within the game so that's part of the quest/challenge too. Remember...you can bury any item from your inventory at any time.

But dying should incur some sort of penalty. Like any game, the more you play, the more you'll memorize and the better you'll be. Not unlike Gradius or any other shmup where you're all powered up, make it a few levels in, and then die and start from there completely underpowered. Frustrating but doable.

Thanks for the feedback. I'll see what's possible with what room I have left in the cart.

@cmounce - You're right about the frustration with not seeing item stats after it's in your inventory. That was a casualty of space and tokens.

P#125176 2023-02-02 14:53

Okay, so to help a bit with the limited view of item stats in the game, I launched a Inventory Calculator web app. It's the full item list and lets you see the stats for combinations of items.

This has all the same info that is in the manual but it might be more convenient on your phone while you play.

Inventory Calculator: https://bit.ly/dontdig-calc

P#125180 2023-02-02 15:37

"the more you play, the more you'll memorize and the better you'll be" I don't think you've made a fair enough game for this to apply. I never actually ran out of hearts, but I frequently went down to 1 heart due to how many attacks come out right as the one before it with timing that makes it impossible to deal with. To give an example, the clusters of dots are optimal to dodge from the middle of the field, but I twice got that followed by the shots that completely cross the field and then get bigger. In one of those cases, the shot that hit was barely even on the screen.

That said, I didn't beat the game either. I played for at least half an hour, then stopped. The reason was that I got tired of digging. It's quite a chore to go back and forth over and over between spots to dig and the person in town who tells you your stats, which is why I didn't, but even without that the game feels really slow to me. The shots and movement during combat are fast enough, but neither the combat nor the digging gave me a feeling that anything pressing or exciting was going on.

One other thing: the full screen palettes swaps are really irritating and I don't understand what purpose they serve.

P#125183 2023-02-02 16:07

The best I've managed to do is 21 items, 2 relics, and 35 holes, but then I died once and it was hopeless to recover. I got lucky and got 2 excellent items at the start, and just kept burring everything else, only looking for keys and relics. It worked well... until it didn't. But that was, again, pure luck.

A couple of things. I know you have the PDF and and spreadsheet, but it would be nice if when you looked at your inventory you got the stats, and maybe your total stats as well.

Another thing that would help is if you swap things in a hole if the hole could be marked, like holes that you dig wherever.

Though, honestly, I don't see why you'd need to dig them up again. Just leave them on the ground or in the exhumed hole. Our character seems to be part squirrel or dog, insisting on covering up their nuts when they should just leave them out. Reexuming something shouldn't involve digging a new hole and releasing a new walker ghost IMHO.

@kimiyoribaka I thought the palate swaps were to indicate how far you were in the game. Though, if there's an associated difficulty spike, I don't know.

P#125189 2023-02-02 16:59

Thanks for the feedback...all of it totally fair and true. It's not an easy game and I wrestled with balance, as you've found out. But I'll take all the ideas into consideration as I go to make fixes and updates.

@kimiyoribaka - Digging can be a grind, true. I ran into that myself as I developed and so I added items and mechanics to help relieve some of that but several of those things are "hidden" in the riddles and clues of the game that you need to solve and discover.

The pacing/timing during the bullet fights can also be adjusted pretty easily so I'll see what I can do there. I had a hard time determing what was too hard/easy for those battles.

@joealarson - I'm seeing if there's room to add the total stats when inventory is open. A lot of feedback has been around this aspect so I need to address it somehow.

The palette changes during the bullet battles shows their health stages and also when bullet patterns changed. It's not so much signalling a difficulty spike as it is just a shift in attacks so you know something new is coming.

The enemies don't really get any more or less challenging as the game progresses, they just get more health. But the longer they take to kill the more bullet patterns you'll have to deal with.

P#125192 2023-02-02 17:42 ( Edited 2023-02-02 17:42)

I need to stop coming back to this. It's just too hard. Seriously, if the monster's life gain could be reset when you die it would help a lot. And, like I said, please mark found dig sites.

Also, it would be great if you could skip the old man's dialog. I know what you're saying, give me the shovel already.

I found an interesting behavior. If you're standing on a dig site, but haven't started digging, and a monster gets to you and you win, you get the stuff under you without having to dig, and with no chance of accidently waking the dead. I mean, you fought one anyways. Not sure if I want to call this a bug because it's more like a really useful trick actually.

P#125277 2023-02-04 04:17 ( Edited 2023-02-04 04:18)

I appreciate you giving it another shot. I'm working on updates that address some of the feedback folks have given. Look for that on Tuesday hopefully.

Interesting discovery of that "bug" for the no-dig fighting. I kinda like that as a trick in the game so I'll probably just leave it. Not sure it really gives you any big advantage anyway.

A big part of my intent for this game was to have those little moments in the game where you find tricks or figure out clues...or just come up with a strategy that works and you have some sense of accomplishment even if you don't finish the game. I tried to engineer some of those moments but it's really great to hear people are finding ones I didn't plan on.

P#125311 2023-02-04 16:26

Awesome game. Challenging in a good way.

P#125396 2023-02-06 05:42

Updated game to v1.1

Your total stats now appear on the inventory screen. This was suggested a lot and makes sense. However, don't forget to talk to the Old Man because he does provide help and tips.

Any hole you dig now gets an "X" to mark the spot. This will help you remember where you've been as much as where you buried something. But the "X" is the same whether you buried or dug up, so pay attention.

Adjusted some balancing and timing for fights. I didn't change things too much, mostly on the timing side so there's some breathing room between enemy attacks.

Thanks again to everyone that provided feedback to help make this game better. This is one of my most successful games and I appreciate all the support and playtime.

P#125434 2023-02-06 21:03 ( Edited 2023-02-06 21:19)

Cool game and nice use of Speako8!

P#125683 2023-02-10 18:55

Thanks :) My original plan was to use the speech within the game...have the ghosts make spooky whispers as they went by on screen, but the speech lib was too many tokens at the end of the day. But when I decided to add the title screen I knew I could slide it in there for some effect.

P#125689 2023-02-10 20:25

Found what I believe to be an easter egg?

P#125967 2023-02-16 20:11

The flower? I'm not sure I'd call that an Easter egg simply because it's talked about in-game but it's cool that you discovered it!

There's a small handful of items in the game that will do "special" things. The Old Man gives you some clues and then you just need to think & try and see what happens. (Or get the Strategy Guide, lol)

I should have put some sort of egg in there if only because the game kind of lends itself to it, but I'm not a great planner for most of these things :) A lot of features happen organically as I'm building and are also dictated by the tokens/space I have left. I had several items on my idea list that got chopped but that's part of the fun.

P#125991 2023-02-17 15:39

I've found a couple of these special items, but others I've seen hinted at, but haven't figured out yet.

When you bury the flower, it puts a blue flower on any digging spots around it, and (I think) prevents you from having a fight when you dig it up.

The pitchfork makes your shot split so you don't have to be lined up straight with your enemies. However, if you only have one dart, you might not have seen it.

The flashlight is suppose to lead you to... something magical, but I don't know how it does it. I just dug up 2 magic relics while holding the flashlight and I couldn't tell any difference.

The teddy bear is OP. Never give it up when you find it.

And if you need extra of speed to dodge an attack, let go the attack button.

I've made it to the final boss twice, but never beat it yet. It's a long fight and tricky.

By the way, I love when you get hit in a fight and the monster goes "Well, hold on, I didn't get to finish my attack. It was gonna be a good one. Here, lemme just finish it up" and it shoots out like 1 ball.

P#126028 2023-02-18 16:10 ( Edited 2023-02-19 04:08)

Top notch. I've had a great time playing it. Thank u for making such an excellent game! The battles are solid arcade action and add to the exploration so well. Interesting ai art story too. I have also found that ai is great for inspiration.

P#137614 2023-11-18 18:40 ( Edited 2023-11-18 18:40)

Thanks for playing, I'm happy to hear you had fun with it. The basic explore+find with minimal inventory management is something I like in games, so I'm glad you saw that as well.

Shameless plug, but if you get the Deluxe version of the game it comes with a trainer cart that lets you practice the battles and boss rush. You can get it on the Itch.io page: https://morningtoast.itch.io/dont-dig-up-the-dead

P#137678 2023-11-20 14:43

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