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(Pocket-lint) – There’s nothing like a mediocre trailer to change your expectations. We just weren’t thrilled with the High On Life teaser shown during Gamescom 2022’s Opening Night Live showcase.
But sitting down with Squanch Games for a hands-on demo at Gamescom itself led to a pretty significant turnaround. The game’s profane story and tone actually turns out to be much better than we feared.
We’re now very curious to see how High On Life will fare when it hits Game Pass in October – it’s a game with huge creativity behind it, and a humorous style that’s already taken the world by storm.
If it manages to keep its hit rate jokey and present enough weapons and interesting stories to last an entire game, it could be a real surprise hit.
High On Life preview: Lots of humor
- Really funny at times
- Excellent voice acting
- Funky visuals.
- Can become creaky
- The boss fight needed improvement.
A living world
In High On Life, you play as a silent character immersed in a strange galaxy of bounty hunters and colorful creatures, all from the creators of Rick and Morty. It’s an influence that runs throughout the game.
Our demo opened with our character’s home suddenly being invaded by a bounty hunter named Gene. He was sitting on our sofa and only two of his three eye tackles worked. It’s a strange world out there, guys.
During a conversation with our confused older sister, Gene arranged for us to accept a low-level bounty that would have us venture into the slums of our hometown, Blim.
We were then free to enter the underworld, first stopping for a few minutes to watch an in-game TV that broadcasts commercials and shows straight out of Rick and Morty’s interdimensional cable form. It’s this kind of attention to detail that really won us over during the demo – stop and pay attention to the surroundings, and there are jokes pretty much everywhere.
In just two minutes’ walk from our house to the entrance to the slum, we stopped for two good conversations. First to convince two vain pipers to lock us in the sewer by choosing who was hotter, then again when we were accosted by a snotty brat.
This kid asked us to shoot him, and when we tried to (sue us), our talking Kenny scolded us for our brutality and stopped us from shooting. Trying again, we missed it – Kenny spent a few minutes shocked at the game’s guaranteed E-for-all loss.
After walking a few meters, the child’s mother greeted us and told us about the fall of the joke. It was the latest in a series of escalations that worked brilliantly and made us laugh out loud, which is all too rare in deliberately comedic games.
If High On Life can maintain that success rate in a 12-15 hour game, we’ll be very impressed. But if this part is to be believed, he might get there.
Pull the hip
The heart of the game is not to walk around and see jokes, but to shoot in first person, with the special feature that your weapons talk to you.
Throughout our demo, we only had access to Kenny, whose voice, performed by Justin Roiland himself, is full of sarcasm and punchlines. Later in the demo we found a talking knife (also from Roiland, with a very different voice) for melee combat.
Each had a secondary ability – the knife let us grab onto certain nooks and ledges, while Kenny could fire a concussion grenade, and the fight was another pleasant surprise.
It’s fast-paced and arcade-like, kind of like a first-person Ratchet & Clank in the way that you can usually move faster than your enemies’ projectiles, but with a lot more swearing.
With only one gun to try, we assume High On Life will have a more extensive arsenal as you progress through the game. strange characters and personalities.
The demo ended with a boss fight against our bounty target, and a bittersweet note was that it had a rather bloated health bar, which made the game feel a bit cranky – something Squanch might be able to rebalance before the game releases in a few pieces of months.
Other than that, we enjoyed the matches we got through, which were nice and fluid and provided just enough of a challenge to keep us going.
High On Life was a surprise: the trailers didn’t excite us, but playing the full, R-rated version for half an hour gave us much more hope for the outcome. If you like Rick and Morty, it’s actually a bit of a safe bet.
Written by Max Freeman-Mills. Edited by Rik Henderson.