The game marks new territory for Goddess Studios, with the objective being to safely navigate the provided levels while being careful with how they move her or otherwise suffer jumpscares that build up her Scare Meter. Enough scares will cause her to faint and lose a life, usually ending with an animation that takes over the screen in an attempt to frighten the player. Not only must they keep Devina safe by moving the control stick in precise, careful motions, but they must prevent her baby Larry from being scared or the beasts will come after it, attracted to its wails for help. The taking of drugs found throughout the game's levels can help Devina push forward in the levels, but these often come with side-effects that can severely hamper gameplay for a short amount of time. Weapons can be picked up, although they're mostly designed to distract opponents or push them away. Interaction with NPCs is non-existent: Devina must work alone using her instincts.
When Hell Freezes Over prioritizes story over gameplay, detailing Devina's quest to escape Black Eyes and to find Pierce Hazel so she can fix up her own life. Channel X, the main location, takes place in Hisplit and is filled with demons, linked to a nearby metropolitan capital and a once-abundant town of devils. Along the way, Devina must put up with constant suffering and new "elements" of gameplay, such as starvation, thirst, poison effects...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 arrest his ass and save not only herself, but others who are victim to this violent beast. But can Hell ever freeze over? It is ultimately up to the player who controls Devina throughout the course of the game.
The game centers around controlling Devina through the game's thirty levels, carefully moving 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, overfilled with worry. The control stick influences Devina's mood; sharp changes in direction can slightly fill up her Scare 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 frightened to death. As Devina goes, the player must be careful to not alarm the baby in Devina's arms, or they will draw attention. Each level ends when Devina makes it from the starting point to the ending point safely.
The red action button is used to jump, although the player should only jump when 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, 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.
Levels are rather large in this game and don't support 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 antagonists 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 Scare 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 present all over the game's levels, and each usually has a great benefit and a number of small issues. Each drug has three uses before being considered null and unusable. Taking too many drugs at once, however, can kill Devina and result in a disturbing, melodic death sequence. Some drugs can improve her bravery and make her less likely to get taken down by enemies, but those kinds of drugs can make controlling Devina more difficult or reduce her speed when feeding Larry, which can prove troublesome. Weapons are present too, but they're generally weak and should be used only for fending off enemies or triggering switches by providing extra weight. Dumbells and other weights can also be used to activate those switches. Some helpful tools can be obtained in levels -- such as grappling hooks -- to help push Devina forward and through the levels.
The Scare 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 Scare 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.
The Black Eyes Gimmick
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.
The game that When Hell Freezes Over is has jumpscares all over the game. Many of them are lethal, but those that are often can be avoided by going away from the source of "alien heartbeats". It is also possible to evade non-fatal ones, but it's harder to do such due to the faster speed of non-lethal attacks.
Given his extreme prominence in this game, Black Eyes has the most amount of available jumpscares, with a total of ten different ways he can grant the player an ugly game over. All of his jumpscares from the original game return, and six more are added to them, giving the player a wide number of ways to be scared.
This dark, scary robotic abomination based off of Flare appears as a minor character who has a total of six ways of scaring the player. While all of Black Eyes' attacks are lethal, Dysini has only one fatal one and most of them just fill up Devina's scare meter. Dysini's scare effects include temporarily reversing Devina's controls.
Ghost of Mallory
Mallory wasn't really available for helping out Black Eyes, so he created a hideous version of her that appears an evil spirit. She has six different ways of scaring Devina, but only one of them is fatal. Like how Dysini can make Devina dizzy with her scares, the Ghost of Mallory can poison and weaken Devina for a short time.
The literal embodiment of fright and evil itself, the Echeno has a total of eight ways to scare the player, with four of these methods being lethal. While the easiest to avoid when the timing is right, its effect is the nastiest: all of its non-lethal jumpscares can paralyze Devina and leave her open to other enemies.
A serial killer that was resurrected by Black Eyes to track and harm Devina in case she tried to escape. Two of his attack methods are lethal, but the other four are relatively harmless. When Devina receives a scare from Jefferson Jackson, she loses her ability to breathe properly for a short period of time and stumbles in her movements.
- The concept for "Channel X" was derived from the message and theme from the Rob Zombie song "What Lurks On Channel X?".