Sometimes, a game enters your life that is just so strange and charismatic that, even if you don’t quite fully understand it, you can’t help but smile and love it. That basically sums up how I felt after recently demoing Thank Goodness You’re Here, an upcoming comedy adventure game that feels like a Cartoon Network show come to life in all the best ways.
In Thank Goodness You’re Here, the player guides a yellow little fellow through a quaint British town, performing tasks for residents and business owners that straddle the line between moderately helpful and mildly unnecessary. Publisher Panic calls the game a “comedy slapformer”, with feels accurate; as players explore, they’ll use their character’s tiny hands to perform odd jobs for a quirky cast of characters that feel straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon.
My demo began with my little man-child stuck in a chimney; a chimney cleaner seemingly mistakes me for a toad and pushes me down the chute (as one does). I plop into the living room of an older lady, who, while annoyed at the mess I’ve made, politely offers me some bread on my way out. I tumble through a window and face plant into a backyard, where a gardener has the spout of a non-functioning hose in his mouth; all the poor fellow wants is to be able to water his flower, which he has named Tomantha for some reason.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” he proclaims enthusiastically “I’ve been sucking this pipe all morning and I haven’t got a drop out of it!”
William Todd and James Carbutt, who both lead the game’s creative direction, said they originally envisioned our quirky protagonist as a sort of traveling salesman, to represent his status as an outsider to the town, just as the player is an outsider to this new game world. I asked them about the very unique design of the player’s character – namely, why is he so small compared to everyone else?
“I don’t really know,” Carbutt said with a laugh. “I think we like that his age is not clear, like is he fifty?”
“He’s a forty-year-old boy,” Todd added.
“And then he’s got a big yellow melon head because that’s funny,” Carbutt laughed.
Without hesitation, I drop the unlikely hero down a well to figure out the hose situation. A talking worm – voiced by one of the developers – peeks his head out and starts telling me a silly story about the last time it rained. I run past him, through an underground tunnel, and climb up through a grate to find myself in a fish market, which is apparently where that hose ran, for some reason.
After turning it on with a slap, I walk out into the market square, where neighbors are discussing the drama of the day – Big Ron’s pie shop has apparently run out of pies. What a travesty! On the way to investigate the issue, I meet a pudgy boy trying to enjoy an ice cream cone – I “accidentally” hit the slap button to see what will happen. The poor lad gets a dollop of ice cream on his face, his expression contorted in shock. I can’t help but laugh at the sequence; he remains frozen in this state of pure bewilderment for the whole demo, and this remains very funny to me again each time I walk by him.
The market area is just one of many locations in the game, and it’s filled with folks to listen to (I almost wrote “talk to,” but our hero doesn’t seem to speak) and little moments of physical comedy to discover. I’ve been enamored with the art direction of this game ever since it was revealed, and the more I see of the world, the more impressed I am. Each scene is detailed at or above the caliber of a high-quality cartoon, and I can’t fight my instinct to slap every little element just to see if something silly will happen.
“In terms of the art style, I think it’s a mix between old UK comics like The Beano and Viz, but it’s also inspired by Adventure Time,” Carbutt said. “But the humor is like, just kind of our humor that we grew up with.”
Apparently everyone in town knows who I am by this point in the game, and expect me to help at each opportunity. “Lad! Thank goodness you’re here,” says Big Ron, who runs a meat pie shop in town that has unfortunately run out of meat. I take a stroll to the butcher shop, Sam’s Hams, where the owner chortles at me for needing his help, literally slapping a ham as he teases me. “Well, well,” he says, “I never thought I’d see the day where the big man would come to me for his meat!” I chuckle as a comically large slice of ham falls on the melon-headed man. A few moments later, I’m back at Big Ron’s shop, loading pie ingrediants into an oven as I listen to a teenage girl who works there awkwardly flirt with the dough delivery boy.
“The creative process is just trying to make each other laugh in the office – work it out from there, and kind of pull gameplay out of the jokes and bits of stuff that we come up with,” Todd said.
“Which is not a good system,” Carbutt added.
“Terrible way of making a game,” Todd laughed. “I mean, I think we’ve got there, though.”
The pie cooks for far too long, and puffs up so large that it blasts through the windows of the shop. Big Ron climbs out of the pie, and starts breaking the fourth wall; now, suddenly, we’re watching a commercial for Ron’s shop. The camera pulls back even further – we’re in a living room, where a grumpy man wearing an apron watches the ad on his home television. His face scrunched up, he glares at the screen in envy, his eye twitching. Apparently there’s a rivalry in town… Big Ron isn’t the only piemaker with a stake in the game.
My demo cut off here, and I wasn’t nearly ready to put down the game. I’m not exaggerating when I say I was smiling and chuckling the whole time, at one point laughing loud enough that a person nearby looked over my direction. Crowds were clustered around the demo booth, drawn in by the charming art direction. Thank Goodness You’re Here has quickly shot up the top of my list of must-play indies, and I can’t wait to see more when it launches on Switch in 2024.