When Hell Freezes Over (released with the subtitle "Return of the Phantom Stranger") is an adventure-horror title part of the Zaxinian Lifts Phase 1 lineup, being a reboot of The Reminder and all projects once associated with it. In this adventure, Black Eyes captures and imprisons Devina Kilmister, setting up a creepy stageplay that would eventually wind up in him being able to marry her and possess her rarely talked about family fortune. Devina must escape his capture and try to escape the Hisplit underworld named "Channel X", where everything is put to the advantage of horrifying gods such as Black Eyes himself and other beasts such as The Echeno and Ghasja, whom she must also try to evade on her quest as well as other horrifying creatures. All the while attempting to escape Black Eyes' re-capturing and the evil world around herself, she must also protect her baby Larry Kilmister from the creatures while also trying to break through hallucinations. Her objective is to hand the baby over to her friend Pierce Hazel and escape a lethal fate.
When Hell Freezes Over prioritizes story over gameplay, detailing Devina's quest to escape Black Eyes and Channel X, the main location. This world is located in Hisplit and is filled with demons, linked to a nearby metropolitan capital named "Blackstar" and a once-abundant town of devils. Along the way, Devina must put up with constant threats of starvation and thirst... in other words, escaping Black Eyes is about as hell of a task as it is to cope with him. If freed, however, Devina can truly make a run for it and kiss her old life goodbye. But can Hell ever truly freeze over? It is ultimately up to the player who controls Devina throughout the course of the game. The game was created and released by scorpistar⭐ for The V².
The game is divided into eight "Plays" with four "Acts" each, with each "Act" representing a level. Each "Play" has its own significance as a chapter in the story, with the circumstances of the story changing with each one. Throughout the game, Devina must work to survive each part of a play, and must keep this up until Black Eyes wraps up the eighth and last one. To survive an Act, Devina must carefully navigate the levels without triggering alarms that would bring Black Eyes or any of his comrades / affiliates to her presence, and must work to keep her baby's crying and temper under control. If things are impossible for her to do in her natural state, Devina can pick up and ingest pills that can change and dramatically change the form of her body temporarily; though these can give her awful side-effects that she'll have to put up with until they wear off, they can grant her strange supernatural abilities that can parallel some of Black Eyes' very own. There are no NPCs, so the player must work out everything entirely by themselves without help. Once the player escapes their current location or accomplishes a certain task, the Act ends.
The game centers around controlling Devina through the game's thirty-two levels, carefully steering the control stick so to keep Devina nice and calm. If the control stick is pushed forward slightly, Devina will comfortably begin taking a small jog. If it's pushed forward quickly, however, then she'll panic and run at a faster speed, flowing with worry. The control stick influences Devina's mood; sharp changes in direction can slightly fill up her Heartrate Meter as it gives the impression that the player, like Devina, is panicking. Things must be done in a rhythm between slow and quick so that Devina can make careful getaways from enemies while not risking being scared to death. The goal is to fulfill a certain task, usually involving Devina escaping her current location.
The red action button is used to jump, although the player should only jump when it's actually necessary so they don't tire Devina out. Pushing the green action button allows Devina to use her weapons, but it should only be used when the player really needs to, as it can also aid in exhausting Devina. The blue action button allows Devina to use a drug she has on hand, while the shoulder buttons allow her to alternate between the different ones she has. Pressing the purple action button allows her to interact with an object. Circling the right thumbstick will allow Devina to feed her baby, Larry, through a bottle. It should be done at a careful pace so that the baby doesn't die, and they must pull out the bottle at a good time to prevent suffocation on the item. Feeding Larry will result in the chances of him crying at scary moments decreasing, which can be very helpful at times.
The "Acts" are rather large in this game and don't feature any checkpoints, making this a rather hardcore type of game. The player must use their instincts to make it through the levels, checking out odd places or finding suspicious objects/areas in levels. While poking around for items to get past certain areas is very wise, the chances of coming across the varying beasts increases. These enemies often lurk in the shadows or attack in open spaces, and need to be carefully avoided by Devina. If they approach, they will take up the entire screen with a scare and quickly fill up a large portion of the Heartrate Meter, and will get Larry to cry immediately. The player must run in these scenarios and work their way towards feeding Larry to shut him up and attempt to distract the enemies if she can. If she comes across Black Eyes and gets scared by him, however, it's an immediate game over. Alien heartbeats often alert the player of their presence.
Drugs are scattered all over the game's levels, each carrying a strong benefit but a number of poor advantages. These drugs each have three uses before becoming null and unusable, and often mutate some bits of her body to give her something powerful for a short period of time. Shall too many be taken at once, however, the "Master of Puppets" (a beast) will be after her soul, and upon being captured by it, she will die with a disturbing, melodic death sequence. Some drugs, for example, can allow her to stretch her limbs out far distances and grab things she normally wouldn't be able to, and some others can change her gravity. Weapons, while being present, are restricted to being used to make beasts back away, as none of them can do the beasts any harm and are meant to just push them back and give the player a chance to live. They can, however, be used to trigger switches via their extra weight. Dumbbells and iron bars can be used to press down on switches, for example. Helpful other tools can be found in the levels, which can aid her in future scenarios (i.e. grappling hooks).
The Heartrate Meter is a major mechanic in When Hell Freezes Over. If Devina is scared at any point or she moves quickly, the meter will rise, especially if she encounters beasts like the Echeno. If she has taken too many scares, she will collapse and receive a game over, forcing her to restart from the level's beginning. Doing calm exercises or simply walking around peacefully can help drain the Heartrate Meter to improve progress in the game's levels. The game is saved for every level that's completed by the player, and depending on how filled the meter was prior to completing it, Devina's portrait on her save file will show a different expression. If the meter was near filled, it'll show a very frightened, completely weak Devina who shudders and shakes in the portrait. If it's empty, she'll look somewhat relaxed, breathing slowly. Should the player get a game over in any level, the portrait will be replaced temporarily by a laughing Black Eyes.
Throughout the game, the player will have to watch Devina's "Heartrate Meter". If Devina is scared at any point or she moves quickly, the meter will rise, especially if she encounters beasts like the Echeno. If she has taken too many scares, the meter will shatter and Devina will collapse out of fear, resulting in a game over. Doing calm exercises or simply walking around peacefully can help drain the Heartrate Meter to improve progress in the game's levels. The game is saved for every level that's completed by the player, and depending on how filled the meter was prior to completing it, Devina's portrait on her save file will show a different expression. If the meter was near filled, it'll show a very frightened, completely weak Devina who shudders and shakes in the portrait. If it's empty, she'll look somewhat relaxed, breathing slowly. Should the player get a game over in any level, the portrait will be replaced temporarily by a laughing Black Eyes. Keeping Devina calm is VITAL.
Devina also possesses a flashlight. It can be clicked on and off to scare most villains away (or in the Echeno's case, provoke him) and can be aimed in any direction.
Devina tends to react differently to each presented location in the game, each bringing a fear to Devina that the player should try to remedy. In each location, despite their generally shared tranquility, Devina will feel bothered by a different fear in each. This fear can make the Heartrate Meter rise higher than usual if she gets scared by one of the various enemies and make her vulnerable to heart attacks, which only occur if the Heartrate Meter sees a massive increase. For example, in the level Waxen Earth, Devina is sensitive to being around bloody figures after witnessing Black Eyes tap a frozen resident, which peeled apart and spilled blood everywhere. To get her over this fear, the player needs to find a way to make Devina happy and to help make approaching such figures way less dangerous to her altogether. If Devina runs around a little in the "snow", she will pile up in it and feel a little more cheery about it -- this new joy overpowers her fears temporarily and makes going by those obstacles more of a breeze if anything. Joy also turns off all of the opposing characters except for the Echeno.
The way to receive joy highly depends on the level in question. Different fears are caused by different scenarios, and some levels can have more than one fear for Devina to try and overcome. Sometimes she outright refuses to go somewhere because of how scary the sight is, leaving her behind and therefore making her more vulnerable to the game's antagonists. Free joy, however, can be provided by the sparsely positioned "Outhouse Wormholes", where she can visit one and visit a bar to order drinks for herself to use. In bars, she can fill herself up with joy before having to go back out. As souls have to be pure and innocent, evil ones cannot travel through the wormholes to follow Devina, except for the Echeno if she happens to be in any enclosed space. Some bars can be traps however, with pure red color schemes and a lack of anyone in sight. If the player chooses to venture into the ominous bar, the door shuts behind them, and they will be prey for the Echeno. But these are rare and are often triggered by being near the Echeno to begin with.
In When Hell Freezes Over, Black Eyes plays a very prominent role in the game, his presence being super strong. In fact, the game is coded in a way that he has a lot of control over it. If the game detects unusual coding or altered data, the game will become corrupted and lead the player to a screen where Black Eyes asks the player if they want to acknowledge their "sins" and start over. If "yes" is chosen, the game will start with completely wiped save data. Otherwise, the game becomes completely corrupted and the player will have to download an entirely new copy of the game. Usage of legitimate cheats will result in a black-and-red version of the character rising up from the ground to immediately murder Devina and bring their amount of lives down to just one. If the player is idle too long, the game will make a check to make sure that recent browser history around the specified area doesn't indicate walkthroughs are looked up. If so, Black Eyes will ask the player if they are using a walkthrough. If they answer honestly, they can continue. If not, they will immediately lose a life.
Black Eyes will also act as a permanent navigator on the game's main menu and elsewhere, where he will speak to the player and instruct them on how to play. If the game detects that his voice is off and also low, he will immediately demand that the volume is raised so they can hear his voice; if the player gives a legitimate reason why they shouldn't have the volume on, he will let them pass, but if it's just so that they can't hear him, he will lock all of the other modes until the volume is raised by at least one bar. He also manages the game's save data and eliminates save files if they have been tampered with. If the player receives the bad ending, the entire main menu for the V² becomes corrupted, showing a Black Eyes skin and only allows them to choose When Hell Freezes Over or play the minigame associated with it: Black Lust. The menu becomes bloody red and plays a remix of the "Giygas' Lair" theme from Earthbound, with an added heartbeat. Terminating the save file or getting the good ending will restore the V² to its proper state.
The game does not save where the player has been and only searches for information related to itself. The player is also told of all of these in the game's instruction manual just to prepare them for what the game offers.
Throughout Devina's journey in Channel X, she will receive calls from an unknown entity that had grabbed ahold of her phone number and a lot of her information. This entity will explain the world of Channel X, the dangers that lurk within, and its mechanics by using old recordings left by the last manager of the channel, who had been mysteriously murdered in recent times. When not discussing the properties of Channel X, the entity will talk about Black Eyes and share notes of him and his gang, which can aid the player in gameplay. They may also talk about Devina herself and try to help them, especially when she talks to them through the phone. The entity starts out rather quiet and just spreads out just a little bit of advice while Black Eyes is stalking Devina and not malevolent around her. When the game changes so that Black Eyes tries to get Devina back and the others try to murder her, they become much more active and become notably more helpful, especially as the game's plot progresses. Sometimes Devina may lose connection with the entity and will be replaced with static noise or Black Eyes' own special, distorted garble.
This mysterious entity is not the only person who will call Devina or at least transfer messages to her. Black Eyes may instead speak through it or Mallory's Ghost (as she can hijack it) with the purpose of scaring her as well as distracting her overall. Other characters from the Zaxinian Lifts may also try and get in contact with Devina regardless of the situation she's in, with Pierce Hazel, Snickers Caramel, Syi Wyne and Waxy being the most frequent. These characters don't actually add much to gameplay overall, but can send either support or tips they know about the beasts, with their tips often being very useful. For instance, Snickers points out that Black Eyes hates it when people lurk underneath lights as he finds it difficult to get near them, and Waxy suggests medication to help drain the Heartrate Meter, which can help her recover if she's in a safe place. Their support only comes rather rarely, but when it does come, her Heartrate Meter depletes and she overall becomes happier and a lot of things can suddenly become less risky.
The player can choose to answer phone calls or not, with the screen of the phone giving a slightly blurred out version of the character's name. If garble is shown, then it is not anyone she should trust. For the main entity calling her, the name is just "???????".
|32 Acres of Hell is the primary mode of "When Hell Freezes Over". Devina must survive eight different Plays, each consisting of four separate Acts, and make it out alive. Through the player's trials, they must evade the beast known as Black Eyes as well as his comrades. This is the only mode initially available at the beginning. If the player enjoyed a level, they can return to it at any point upon its completion, whereas they can attempt to get a Gold Star by completing the level without getting jumpscared and without letting the Heartrate Meter raise above 50% or fall below 25%.|
|Satanic Superstar is the game's postgame quest. With [REDACTED] in mind, Devina shall follow the commands of Black Eyes and aid him in setting up "the ultimate horrifying trap" to capture "a certain something" within it. Afterwards, Devina must feast on the said prey with Black Eyes. In this mode, there are only two Plays for the player to try and finish, though they retain having four Acts each. If this mode is completed, the game's plot is finished and there's (honestly!) nothing more that awaits in regards to the story, though the player can try to Gold Star this mode as well.|
|Infinite Haunting is the "Endless Mode" for When Hell Freezes Over. It is unlocked by completing the first Play in the mode "32 Acres of Hell". Devina must survive for as long as the player can make her survive, taking advantage of the custom map "Blackstar" to evade getting in her enemies' way for as long as possible. The player's score is tallied by how long they've survived, how many times they push back enemies, how many objects they break, and for miscellaneous things like stopping Larry from crying before he even moves his mouth. The player can share their final scores online. The game ends if the player loses a life.|
|Dreaded Nightmare is the essential "Hard Mode" for this game. Devina's heartrate is twice as unstable, almost all jumpscares are immediately fatal, and the beasts appear much more commonly. Distractions happen more often in levels, Black Eyes calls much more frequently than before, and the pills' side-effects are even more hurtful. Not to mention, Larry cries a hell of a lot more often! This mode is designed to bear nearly impossible, but still beatable in every sense of the word. This mode is only unlocked if the player has earned a Gold Star for every "Act" in the game's main campaign and postgame.|
|The "Zonas Campaign" is a DLC-acquired mode that features Zonas B. Trayd. Zonas gets his own two Plays, but has a few twists to his gameplay style. Firstly, he wields a baby incarnation of Phoebe, and his sensitivity is doubled. While his doubled sensitivity can be a pain, with him being more vulnerable to being scared or getting killed, he does have the edge of not being so scared via just moving around, and doesn't need pills as he can use his from-the-get-go grappling hook and Freezer weapon to make some obstacles more of a breeze. This is effectively "32 Acres of Hell", but shorter and on steroids.|
|Dragged into "Channel X" by the notorious Fandraxorcist beast, this fearsome young mother must protect herself and her young from the clutches of evil, all the while running as fast as she can. What she needs to do is escape the underworld, but this is made tricky with the top-notch villainous security keeping the place locked down and the constant lurking presence of her worst enemy yet. What you need to do to keep her alive is to get her baby to shut the hell up, drug her up if you have to, and steer her through the lands at paces she's comfortable going at. You got me?|
|Self-proclaimed "cruelest person alive", the Fandraxorcist set up a deadly play that's intended to be the ultimate forced wedding between himself and Devina! ...Supposedly because he's lonely and has nothing to do really, but can we really trust him with his gang of top-notch associates trying to track down and kill this little lady? He is the most common villain Devina will find lurking about, and appears the most out of them all, really desperate to get his little robotic hands on her... fortunately, he makes up for his creepiness by his wacky, joke-telling phone calls.|
|A master of puppets and the beholder of negativity, Ghasja is a "Superbeast" to be feared. Commanded by the Fandraxorcist with its commands of terror, its newfound purpose is to evoke fear in and bring down Devina Kilmister even if it means having to go to the extremes. It holds no remorse and no memory, only feasting off of the positive energy of others and strengthening itself over the fear it beholds over the human race. It is a threat to Zaxinian society and politics in general, given that over the course of its thousand-year existence, that's what it's been targeting... with success.|
|The embodiment and source of evil attacking the Zaxinian Lifts. For five thousand years, it had been attacking the most vulnerable family lines to suck up their power and motivation, forcing them to fear even its own name. It is said to be so devious, that in nightmares of those where it appears and attacks their minds aggressively, they end up becoming evil just to serve its mischievousness out of fear. With such rashness in its personality, it is an enormous threat within the Lifts. Its ultimate goal is to destroy the Zaxinian Lifts, unlike its partner Ghasja, who instead wishes to control it for its own desires.|
|After her failed conquest in the past to capture the Zaxinian Lifts for herself, she ended up instilling fear within the millions of residents. While she does not physically appear here, a ghost of her was formed by the Fandraxorcist to control the minds of the weak. She is immoral, rowdy, and generally disturbing rather than truly being threatening, but what she wants to do with Devina's baby... is so disgusting that it cannot even be explained here in this public manual. All she wants is to get revenge on those that made her journey collapse, and she won't go down without a fight...|
- The concept for "Channel X" was derived from the message and theme from the Rob Zombie song "What Lurks On Channel X?".
- Similarly, the subtitle for the game was taken from Rob Zombie's song of the same name, "Return of the Phantom Stranger". Coincidentally, both songs are featured on the same album (Hellbilly Deluxe) and the Phantom Stranger comes right after Channel X in the listing.