Interview: The Holy Gosh Darn Allows Players To Time Travel To Skipped Cutscenes And Events

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The Holy Gosh Darn - via Perfectly Paranormal

The Holy Gosh Darn is an upcoming narrative-driven Action-Adventure video game that revolves around the unique aspect of time travel. Featuring a hilarious campaign, the game allows players to save Heaven by rewinding time to Hell, Heaven, Earth, and Helheim. 

To learn more about the inspiration and core mechanics, we interviewed Ozan Drøsdal, Creative Leader of The Holy Gosh Darn, over email. 

Character Dialogue
The Holy Gosh Darn – via Perfectly Paranormal

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your role in The Holy Gosh Darn.

Ozan: My name is Ozan Drøsdal, and I am the writer, animator, and creative leader of The Holy Gosh Darn. Creative leader is just a fancy word for something like a director for a movie.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind The Holy Gosh Darn's narrative and gameplay mechanics, particularly the incorporation of time travel?

Ozan: I will tell you, but then we have to dip a little bit into the first two games to get some context. In Manual Samuel, the narrator would react and comment on the player skipping cutscenes. This was a mechanic that was lots of fun to work on, so we did it in Helheim Hassle as well.

But in Helheim Hassle, with no narrator, we would have one of the characters yell something like “GET TO THE POINT!” when the player decided to skip a cutscene, and then another just quickly sort of sum up what happened in the scene. Then, after Helheim, we realized we wanted to make a game where this skipping of dialogue was the core gameplay mechanic. 

So we started to brainstorm about how a core gameplay mechanic like that would work. A game where you had to figure out what sort of dialogue you wanted to skip and gain the means to make other conversations and dialogue sequences shorter to not waste time.

So that is when we came up with the time travel mechanic, which would mean that even if the player decided to skip crucial information, they could rewind time to hear it again and learn stuff in the future that could unlock new types of skips for the conversations in the past to have those dialogues last for shorter amounts of time.

The Holy Gosh Darn - via Perfectly Paranormal
The Holy Gosh Darn – via Perfectly Paranormal

The game promises a blend of humor and adventure across various periods and genres. How did you approach balancing these elements to create a cohesive experience?

Ozan: One of our advantages of being such a small team is that when we decide to change something, be it a minor thing or a central thing like a character, plot point, or gameplay mechanic, we’re able to do it rather quickly since there are fewer people to give a heads up to. So, for the most part, we just played it by ear and changed details, both big and small, when testing the game and noticing that something felt off. 

So in short, by testing the game lots and being on the lookout for something that felt out of place. Having a very organic game where everything was subject to change at all times until we were happy and could spend time and money on things like final art and voice lines.

The Holy Gosh Darn boasts dynamically changing locations and a cast of ridiculous characters. What was your approach to designing these elements to contribute to the overall immersion and enjoyment of the game?

Ozan: We don’t sit down and decide that we’re gonna come up with a bunch of ridiculous characters because it’s a fun thing to do. The characters often (almost always) get created out of necessity. These necessities can be things like maintaining the theme of the game, reinforcing or introducing some kind of interaction, or providing some kind of contrast to the scene.

Take Biblical Eagle Creature, which is a ridiculous character and one of the first ones that you meet after the initial intro and tutorial of the game. The reason we decided that he should be -the biblical eagle creature- is that up until the point when you meet him, Heaven seems to be a regular place.

Cassiel and some of the other angels she meets seem like regular people. In an extreme case, the player could forget that they’re following an angel and that she is in Heaven.

So she meets the Biblical Eagle Creature out in the hallway, who is a seemingly normal guy as well, apart from the name and, of course, his crazy design. That’s an example of a character that comes to be to reinforce something like the theme of the game. 

The dynamically changing locations are just a matter of us not liking unbelievable characters that just stand still all day. We wanted to make them wander around and have schedules. Of course, sometimes we need characters to stay in a certain area for a puzzle or something to work out, but then we try to provide a believable reason why they hang out there (like being at work or scrolling HellTok). 

Of course, the sky also changes everywhere during the day because that’s how time works!

The Holy Gosh Darn - via Perfectly Paranormal
The Holy Gosh Darn – via Perfectly Paranormal

Considering that most of your games follow a similar theme, can players expect any crossover elements or references to these previous games within The Holy Gosh Darn, and if so, how do they enhance the overall experience?

Ozan: Yes, players who play through the whole Tuesday Trilogy (which can be done in any order the player chooses) will notice that some of the things that happened in the other games cause some of the things that happen in the current game they are playing and that some of the things that happen in the other games are caused by things they did in the current game they are playing.

The Holy Gosh Darn leans into this much more since it is a time travel game where you visit some of the areas from the other games, so you will notice that lots of the crazy stuff that happened in Manual Samuel and Helheim Hassle was something the player did all along. 

Also, all 3 games have minor mysteries that get answered or explored across each other, so the more of the trilogy you play, the more context you will have for some things. 

But we are talking minor “aha!” moments. You don’t need to have played one game to understand what’s going on in another. All 3 games, including The Holy Gosh Darn, are very much stand-alone even though they are “interquels” in a series.

Could you elaborate on the Metroidvania-style progression mentioned in the game's description? How does this progression system enhance the player's journey through the game?

Ozan: In Metroidvania, you might walk past a ledge you can’t jump up to, then find a locked door that leads to a power-up, and then find a key in a later area, go back to the door, get the power-up and jump up the initial ledge you walked by.

In The Holy Gosh Darn, the door and the ledge are characters, and the key is a piece of information that unlocks a certain dialogue option with the “door” character, which gives you the power up, which is another piece of info that you can use on the “ledge” character to access a new area or just more pieces of info. 

Point-and-click games often work in this way too, but even though the whole thing is dialogue-based, we find it more fitting to compare it to a Metroidvania given the pacing and the overall movement mechanics of the game. 

Since THGD is a platformer in a way, we have included some traditional Metroidvania segments with actual keys, doors, items, and power-ups just to mix it up a little bit, but the main focus is the dialogue and the different ways you can interact with it. 

We also have some traditional adventure game item-related puzzles because it fits well with the time travel theme. You can’t bring items with you back in time (or can you??? Not gonna spoil), so item-related puzzles add an extra layer of figuring out stuff, so we had to include those as well. 

But we have always tried to come up with new ways to make the dialogue interactive, taking it further than just having 3-4 dialogue options to pick from, so with the focus on that we felt it would be more fitting to center challenges mainly around dialogue.

Detailed World Design
The Holy Gosh Darn – via Perfectly Paranormal

Can you discuss any challenges or interesting moments that arose during the development of The Holy Gosh Darn, particularly regarding its time-travel mechanics and narrative structure?

Ozan: The biggest challenge is having the main character not forget what she’s been through even though you’ve traveled back in time, but having all the other characters reset. The main character has -heaps- of additional and alternative dialogue for each conversation so that it doesn’t feel like she has been reset too.

She might get more and more annoyed or bored based on how many times she has told someone that her name is Cassiel of Celerity. 

Another challenge… alright, I guess I’m spoiling, came with the clock upgrade that allows you to bring one item to the past. It took a lot of work to figure out the details of a mechanic like that, and we had to be careful not to cause any paradoxes in the game or the real world. At a certain point, we were scared of causing a ripple in the actual fabric of reality.

I know it sounds easy to just bring items back in time but trust me, it has a lot of moving parts, especially when you (spoiler again) introduce items that don’t get affected by time and timelines.

A demo of the game was re-released. Can you shed light on the community feedback and how it has shaped the upcoming final release of the game?

Ozan: Most people have been happy with the demo. The community found some bugs that we fixed, and one person requested that vomit should stain the floor, which we wholeheartedly agreed with and implemented immediately.

We tried to be on the lookout for confusing puzzles or stuff that is too hard to do, but we tested the game a lot before the demo release, so there wasn’t too much of that. It will probably (hopefully not) show up when the full game comes out.

We always have one segment that slips through the cracks of QA that all of a sudden turns out to be near impossible for some people to nail, so I am curious what that part will turn out to be. We will probably fix it when enough people complain though.

The Holy Gosh Darn - via Perfectly Paranormal
The Holy Gosh Darn – via Perfectly Paranormal

How long has the game been under development, and how many developers have actively worked on it?

We’ve worked on the game since late 2020. The core team has consisted of 4 people -Me on the narration and animation side of things, Gisle Sølvberg on everything that has to do with the technical parts, Øystein Sanne on the concept, props, textures and whatever else that has to be drawn and Håvard Haugrud who joined us last year to deal with paperwork and management.

Other than that, we’ve had freelancers help us out with 3D, sound, music, grammar, localization, marketing, QA, and the heaps of voice actors on voice acting.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Ozan: Thank you all for showing interest in the game! If all this sounds interesting, but this is the first time you’ve heard of us, I’d recommend checking out the previous entries in The Tuesday Trilogy (Manual Samuel and Helheim Hassle). Also, any wishlist entries on The Holy Gosh Darn on Steam and Xbox store help us immensely and are the best kind of support you can give us right now! 

Oh also, join our discord! We love to hear your thoughts, help out with complicated puzzles, check out fan art, and discuss head cannon (me especially; I can discuss head cannon for HOURS!) I love the lore of the Perfectly Paranormal Universe, and I love seeing different takes on it.

The Holy Gosh Darn is an upcoming 2D Action-Adventure Metroidvania, under development by Perfectly Paranormal. The game is planned to be released on PC very soon. Join Discord now to receive the latest updates/announcements directly from developers.

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