It’s like a suggestive postcard from the beach: Thank Goodness You’re Here! – a comedy game from Yorkshire.
“Thank goodness you have arrived!” exclaims a distressed customer at Rog’s Veg Hall. The proprietor has become agitated upon hearing a remark about his head resembling a piece of corn, resulting in a chaotic attack of vegetables on all patrons.
I cautiously explored the aisles, leaping over boxes and bins, before finally confronting Rog. I showed him a mirror of his current state, which led to a montage of his troubled past, including childhood bullies, first love, and a divorce from his wife after living a façade. As Rog comically broke down, the customers fled and I left to assist others in need.
Two 28-year-old men from Barnsley, Todd and Carbutt, are creating the unusual independent game Thank Goodness You’re Here! It follows a travelling salesman who receives increasingly strange tasks in a village in Yorkshire. The game is being developed in Hackney, east London, amidst a bustling community of hairdressers, tattoo artists, and other new businesses housed in Portakabins.
The inspiration for the made-up town of Barnsworth was not difficult to figure out. Carbutt explains that it was a natural decision to loosely base it on their own hometown. They aimed to have a diverse cast of characters who resembled themselves. After considering different styles, they chose absurdism and surrealism but wanted to begin with a more realistic setting. As they continued to develop the town, it naturally took on a more Northern and specifically Yorkshire flair.
The game, known as a “comedy slapformer,” was coined by Panic, the publisher behind the popular game Untitled Goose Game. However, the creators see it more as a playful exploration of the town and its characters. Players must solve simple puzzles in precarious situations involving the town’s residents, often resulting in humorous outcomes. The game is filled with clever wordplay, taking inspiration from British comedies like Wallace and Gromit. According to Todd, the show Vic Reeves Big Night Out was a pivotal moment in realizing that their style of absurd humor resonates with audiences. Their tone and sense of humor is akin to the risque postcards found at seaside tourist spots.
The unique and comical art style combines elements from traditional British comics and contemporary cartoons, resulting in a blend of the Beano, Viz, and Adventure Time. Every aspect of the game is intended to elicit laughter, whether it’s Big Ron’s Big Pie Shop, the awkward love story between Florence, the girl at the meat counter, and the sweaty delivery boy, or the food truck vendor who closes up shop whenever you slap his rear end, only to return for more moments later. The humor strikes a balance between being dark, silly, and crude.
Prior to becoming game designers, Carbutt and Todd had different careers – Carbutt was designing advertisements for Dutch TV in Amsterdam while Todd worked as a developer for a betting company. Despite their day jobs, the two friends also worked on a side project together – The Good Time Garden, a unique and dreamlike game that was released for free on Steam in 2019. The game received favorable reviews, motivating them to pursue creating a full-fledged game. They approached over 80 publishers with their idea and were initially turned down by Devolver Digital and Squanch Games. However, they later found success when US publisher Panic agreed to pick up their game.
Many people have drawn parallels between Thank Goodness You’re Here! and Untitled Goose Game, the popular comedy game released in 2019 by the same publisher. What are their thoughts on this?
“Carbutt chuckles, saying that Will does not enjoy it. Will affirms, “I do not like it.”
“I believe the game is actually quite good. Goose Game excels in physical comedy and immerses players in its setting, despite the fact that the developers had not even visited the UK during production. The village in the game is influenced by British icons, but it is actually set in a quiet town in the south east, while our game takes place in a post-industrial northern town.”
The residents of Barnsworth are responsible for creating its enchanting atmosphere. The postman, whose voice bears a resemblance to Bob Mortimer’s, eagerly looks forward to solving puzzles at home. One day, I encounter a mustachioed gardener using his hose in an unusual way. He explains that he has been trying to clear a blockage by sucking on the pipe for days.
The journey to release is still long, but Carbutt and Todd are smiling through it. “I’m creating a game with my closest companion,” says James. “What could be more fulfilling than that?”