PAX WEST 2022: ‘High On Life’ is More than You Expect

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High on Life

Squanch Games brought one of my most anticipated games of the year to PAX West 2022, and man was it a ride. High On Life is a weird and hilarious adventure from Justin Roiland, the man behind Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites and the team behind Trover Saves the Universe.

The premise? After a cartel of aliens invades Earth, a freshly minted high-school graduate grabs the nearest talking gun and becomes the deadliest intergalactic bounty hunter across the cosmos. And with that absurd plot comes an absurd game. With Roiland’s signature style in both aesthetic and humor, the alien invaders in High On Life are on a mission to dominate Earth. Only instead of usual water wars or general boredom, the sinister twist is that Garmantuous and his cartel goons are intent on enslaving humanity and using them as a new drug.

You’ll work with (or against) NPCs, collect upgrades, and acquire an arsenal of talking guns on your journey. Each of these guns has its own unique personality and special gameplay, and they provide their own narrative take on what’s going on. While the PAX West 2022 demo focused on a small section of the game, about 15 minutes, it does take you from your house, down to the slums, and into a boss battle. This allows you to get a sense of the game’s humor, environment, and mechanics.

When it comes to dialogue, let’s be honest, we all knew what it was gonna be. For better or worse Roiland has a style of comedy that has remained continuous through all of his projects, and that’s also the case with High on Life. This works for me as a fan of Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites, but at times the fact that humor is coming from your weapons, your environment, and NPCs makes it hard to focus.

This is especially true when you pick up a sentient knife who is bloodthirsty and really annoying. That said, my core issue with the humor was getting stuck listening to the same joke iterations. However, after speaking with the developers, this isn’t a feature, but more how the demo functions so that you don’t outpace the instructions. In the full game, you won’t get stuck on the rails as much and will be able to choose to interact with larger environmental humor or breeze through them.

High on Life (1)

While there needs to be more balancing when it comes to the overlaying jokes, there are clearly areas where the humor excels. In one section of a demo, you encounter two sentient door locks, one red and one blue. In order to access the Slums to progress, you have to choose which one is more attractive, which prompts a narrative choice option. With some of the game’s more subtle humor, this interaction made me laugh out loud.  This is followed up by an alien child that refuses to pass until you let your reluctant sentient weapon take care of it. It’s clear that High on Life’s gameplay and choices are actually really funny, even if some of the weapons’ humor can be more miss than hit.

That said, it’s the combat that makes High on Life hit more than the expectations I had going in. With a fairly difficult boss battle against 9-Torg ending my demo, I got the chance to see all of the weapons’ actions pulled together in really fun combat. You have your regular blasts, your charged blasts, and even use the gun attached to magnetized pipes and alien creatures to keep from falling into the dangerous goo when the platforms drop from underneath you. Additionally, the combat is the right kind of difficult. It pushes you to remember how you used your weapons previously while also having the sentient knife and gun give you some fairly valuable information, like blocking, to help you survive and finish the fight.

Overall, for those who like Roiland’s sense of humor, High on Life is a good get. But, that’s pretty much already known just from the trailers. The surprise here is how the combat manages to be more than just jokes and be genuinely a challenging and rewarding experience. This is one I can’t wait to see in its finished form.

High On Life is coming to Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S and PC via Steam and Epic Games Store later this year.

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