High on Life might have a big name like Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland at the helm, but the gameplay stands on its own. It's hilarious, it's action-packed, and it's just a damn good time. We checked out a hands-on demo of High on Life at PAX West, and we have a lot of great things to say about it.
We also had an opportunity to speak with Justin Roiland about High on Life. Keep an eye out for the interview!
High on Life Preview: Action and Comedy Collide in a Cacophony of Fun
You're a bounty hunter in High on Life, and like any reputable gun-for-hire, you have a, well, gun. I am immediately drawn to the ridiculously awesome talking gun. It shoots but also acts as a vessel for both story and comedy. Talking guns, while not wholly new, is a rare sight indeed, so I am all for this theme to be explored. Armed and ready to roll, I set out to hunt a preying mantis alien named 9-Torg.
Stepping out into the city in High on Life actually takes your breath away. It's richly detailed and inhabited by many weird and sketchy aliens. These aliens are going about their daily routine; meanwhile, I set out to find my target. Taking a few moments to soak in the details of the city itself is highly suggested before getting into the action, though. The cartoonish style really pops and has an incredibly polished look, and both Rick and Morty fans and sci-fi enthusiasts will find it to be a treat for the eyes.
The next segment of gameplay takes me through several encounters with some wildly wacky aliens. The comedy in High on Life will, understandably, not be for everyone. For me, I found it easy to laugh at the jokes. One instance in the demo takes me to a laundromat where an arms deal was about to take place -- a talking knife would help me with my quest, so I needed to retrieve him from this location.
Rather than barging into the room, I waited and listened to the dialogue on the other side of the door. My gun proposed we try to negotiate with the goons in the room beyond, resulting in dialogue choices that were all four quite different from one another. This wasn't the only instance of dialogue choice, and the prompts you choose in each situation actually alter a lot of the script. It's not just a bunch of singular jokes strung one after another, it's a game that is especially witty in the way it approaches dialogue and variation in narrative.
That said, gunplay in High on Life stands on its own and doesn't rely on comedy to be enjoyable. The talking gun is awesome -- and looking at his big ol' eyes staring into my soul as I aim down his weirdly organic iron sights is a great attention to detail -- but the gunplay also feels just so good. On mouse and keyboard, I was able to take out these bug-like goons out left and right with smooth-as-butter aiming. An alt-fire mode shoots a gob of goo at the baddies and launches them up into the air; you can then juggle enemies in the air with your bullets. The potential down the line, with more weapons and abilities, is definitely an intriguing prospect and as a shooter fan, I'm very impressed. Let's also just say that shooting the goo isn't just advantageous in gameplay. There's definitely a comedic aspect to it too, and I can tell the gun is having a rather pleasurable time shooting globs out of his... er... "trick hole."
I used my gun to solve small environmental puzzles and traversing perilous gaps with my talking knife's long tongue, and eventually made my way to 9-Torg. Being an early point in the game, it was a very fair fight with manageable mechanics and enough challenge to satisfy the shooter junky in me. 9-Torg shoots out beams of energy and dives in and out of a pool of toxic sludge. I took pot shots at her when I could and whittled down her health.
9-Torg periodically floods the circular boss room with more sludge, and I had to use my knife to fling around like a grappling hook and travel on ziplines around the room to avoid damage. Eventually, the mantis revealed herself again and in one last, triumphant effort, gave the kill to my bloodthirsty and sadistic knife.
Although my time was fairly brief with High on Life, it left a mighty strong impression on me. Taking a comedic approach to any game is a daunting task, and even more daunting for shooters. I think the concoction Squanch Games is cooking up will be one of the biggest surprises this year. According to the developer, there are so many different avenues with dialogue, so the creative approach to High on Life's endearing and wild alien world promises many twists and turns. Stay tuned for the full game when it launches on December 13, 2022.
TechRaptor's High on Life preview was conducted on PC via a demo at Pax West 2022.