Cursed Painting

An interactive audio RPG for Amazon’s Alexa, in Wanderword’s Cursed Painting you explore ancient ruins in order to uncover the secret of a cursed painting hidden deep inside an abandoned castle. Choose from three different backgrounds – thief, adventurer or noble – and stop the undead curse plaguing the kingdom in this interactive role-playing experience.

Once upon a time, at the end of the world, where the mapped continent ends and the bottomless sea begins, stood a desolate castle, carved out of solid black rock far above where the salty ocean foam slams into knife-sharp cliffs. Legends speak of a great leader. But there is no one left to tell its tale any more. Fact is, there is hardly anyone left in these barren lands at all.

The castle, long since deserted and overgrown by thistle and brush, holds but one item. Left in the now silent throne room, over the stairs to the throne, hangs a large oil painting depicting a portrait of a once great leader. In the portrait’s centre, tall and pale, stands a queen, her long, black sprawling hair covers her royal armour. In her left hand she seems to be holding broken iron shackles, and in her right hand, the book of law and common rule. Behind her, an army of undead soldiers are seen to be bowing to her.

With a focus on great storytelling and choices that matter, Cursed Painting combines the best elements of tabletop gaming, audiobooks and open-world exploration to deliver a uniquely vivid and interactive experience.

Whether you’re delving deep into the mysteries of a strange village or exploring the depths of an eerie dungeon, your path is completely up to you! Choose your character type with care, as each character comes with special abilities and weaknesses, in addition to a past that impacts the character’s future.

Throughout your adventures, or misadventures, you are guided by the legendary Storyteller. She keeps track of your inventory, weapons and character stats. During intense combat she will keep an eye on your health and special abilities. As the Storyteller leads you through the game you will be immersed by layers of meticulously crafted audio paired with an original fantasy score that will pull you right into the world.


  • Character progression through equipment, perks, gold and levels.
  • Rich soundscape throughout the experience.
  • Dynamic combat system.
  • Skill checks using your character’s statistics.
  • Descriptive artwork for screen-enabled Alexas.
  • Help the struggling village together with other players through various community features.

The Cursed Painting skill can be enabled at Amazon for all your available Alexa devices. Note that it contains both the full release as well as a free demo. Roll some dice in a grand RPG-style adventure by simply saying “Alexa, open Cursed Painting” on your device.

GBN recently spoke with the team at Wanderword to find out a little more about their adventure, and to ask about what they believe is important for future development of interactive audio-based experiences.

What unique aspects are Wanderword bringing to their interactive audio stories?

Wanderword offers atmosphere building and meticulously crafted sounds, which together create a unique and rich sound-experience. With all the background noises and detailed storytelling, you’ll feel like a part of the story, not just an observer. Since the very beginning we felt that the sentence ‘Step into Your Story’ was fitting; you are not the passenger on a predetermined journey on rails with one inevitable ending. Instead, you control the journey and you’re the very centre of the story. We call our players ‘Active Listeners’ in that we strive to go beyond the basic framework of what defines a video game. We tell stories that contain puzzles, challenges that have a gaming origin or flavour, and we bring the player with us in what would be best defined as an audiobook. As such we feel that ‘Active Listener’ is the right definition. Furthermore, our sound designers work with a vast library offering multiple versions of various sounds, working through them all to find the ones that are a natural fit for the situation.

What can audio-based games offer that other formats cannot?

Audio games are the perfect medium for the everyday gamer and ‘Active Listeners’, as these stories and games can be played on-the-go; in the car, on public transport, or when out walking. Why not when at home cooking in the kitchen, or even in the bathroom? You’ll have the ability to start the game and story, and play instantly. With our GPS feature we have created location-based prototypes based around treasure hunts, but we also developed a Jack the Ripper interactive audiobook that reacts to where you are located. Therefore, if you play it in London, you will be able to relive the investigation exactly where it took place, down to a meter of accuracy, accompanied with rich audio, sound effects and a branching narrative.

Audio games also use the most powerful gaming console and computer ever built – your imagination. With our latest project, Cursed Painting, you get the perfect combination of the immersion of a rich audiobook with music and sound, combined with the exciting adventure of a roleplaying game.

How do the three different backgrounds in Cursed Painting – thief, adventurer or noble – affect the storyline? Are these character-only options, or do they unlock new branching choices?

Your character in Cursed Painting has three different stats – power, agility and toughness – and depending on which background you choose, your starting stats will vary. Nobles will start with higher power, dealing more damage to their enemies when in battle. Thieves start with higher agility, hitting their targets more easily and with more accuracy. Adventurers have greater toughness in the beginning, meaning that their health is boosted.

Every character has their own background story and will receive unique moments during the game based on the player’s selection, and character choice will also determine luck with certain in-game choices; for example, a thief is more likely to succeed at picking a lock than a noble.

How does character progression change the play experience, and can you explain how the turn-based combat functions?

When the player levels up they get to pick one ability to increase: power, agility or toughness. Power lets you deal more damage; agility makes it easier to land attacks and hits; toughness increases your health. When an ability reaches 3 skill points, you unlock one extra special ability. 3 skill points in Power will see you receive the Power Attack – a hit that deals more damage but is easier to miss. Agility will give you the power of Blinding Strike – an attack that deals low damage but has a chance of blinding the enemy, effectively lowering their chance for a successful attack. With 3 skill points in Toughness you’ll receive the ability to Regenerate after every battle, gaining back some of your health. For every level-up your character achieves you gain one skill point, and for every point you put into your chosen ability it will gain power, making your attacks more powerful or your Regeneration stronger.

The combats are all regular turn-based RPG encounters. The player receives two actions, and can choose between attacking – both normal hits and special attacks – drinking healing potions or attempting to run away. Enemies will either attack twice, like the player, or once if they’re a simpler monster. When attacking, the Storyteller rolls a dice and depending on the number on the dice (between 1 & 20) as well as the agility of the character, you’ll either hit or miss your target. How much damage you do if you hit the enemy depends on the stats of your weapon and power. Once the player has used both of their actions, it’s the monsters’ turn. They cannot drink potions or run away, but only attack. If they hit or miss, the damage they do follows the same rules for the player.

The Cursed Painting demo is approximately 15-20 minutes in duration. How long is the full game, and does it have high replayability?

The full version of Cursed Painting has a storyline running for more than 2 hours, supported by rich audio and full of puzzles and mystery. Depending on how many monsters you encounter and what you decide to do in the town where you begin (and can revisit), you could play the game for several hours. The town offers a pub, a shop, the town hall, as well as a monster-filled forest.

You can always replay the game as a different character, and explore the many choices and paths you did not take on the previous playthrough. Gather up money and spend it at the pub (lemonade only!) or purchase new weapons; it’s your choice!

Is Cursed Painting part of a larger RPG world, with further adventures still to come?

Cursed Painting is an original creation with its own world, which we’ll be adding expansions to. These expansions will consist of around 20 minutes of gameplay with more dungeons to explore and more enemies to defeat. There will also be smaller updates including new town features. Cursed Painting is a subscription-based game, and we are aiming to release the extra content approximately once a month.

Can true multiplayer games be developed with Wanderword’s system, allowing for multiparty RPG experiences with family and friends?

An online multiplayer feature in Cursed Painting is not something we’re focusing on right now, but (and a big but) you’ll still be able to play it with your friends and family in the context of listening to the story and making choices together in the same room.

More excitingly, we are introducing community challenges and events where every active listener contributes to larger goals. For example, the monster-filled forest will let all active listeners/players slay enemies to help keep the town safe. Which means that you could start with 100 monsters and defeat one, while someone somewhere else playing the skill defeats another, taking the total amount of monsters down to 98.

The town also houses a charity box, which affects the mood of the townsfolk as well as the prices in the shop and pub. Both you and other players around the world can donate to this charity box. The monsters in the forest will raid the town during night, including stealing money from the chest. The contributions from the players, be it the wishing well or the forest, are totally anonymous with no tracking of players.

Many tabletop games are now featuring accompanying narration/soundscape apps in addition to standard game components. How do you as a company compete with products already offering audio immersion?

We are focused on head-up and hands-free entertainment that’s perfect for a car ride, for when family or friends are gathered around a smart speaker, or for someone on the move that wants something other than just passive audio entertainment. We are not competing with the visually driven games, including tabletop games. The voice-controlled interactive audio genre is growing fast, and many of the largest media companies in the world are investing heavily in it.

What is the future of interactive audio – is it technological advancements or quality narrative experiences that will drive new products?

Like any form of creative media, no matter if it is film, games or music, it is always the quality of the content that will win. It does, however, become a lot more enjoyable if you have better ways of consuming that media experience. In our industry, the roll-out of smart speakers, integration of voice control in cars, and good Bluetooth headsets are all giving us a helping hand. A number of the world’s largest hotel chains are already installing smart speakers in their hotel rooms so that guests can use this technology as part of the service.

Wanderword needs to make sure that we help the world’s developers so they can create the best possible interactive audio stories and games, regardless of whether that’s achieved by giving them the best platform/engine, or if it’s by showing them how to push the envelope with the existing technology.

Thanks to Wanderword’s Peter, Thomas and Cornelia for providing their time and input. Visit the Cursed Painting website to discover more about the intriguing fantasy world they’ve created.

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