High on Life relies on its wacky characters and jokes

There is a lot to be said for Squanch Games. One of the truest claims is that the studio is full of unique ideas. It’s not often someone will come up with the premise of a first-person shooter full of talking guns. Shacknews was recently able to take a fresh look at Squanch’s next title and this is one where the central concept seems to go far.

We last tried High on Life at PAX West 2022, where we got to experience some of the game’s early moments. This introduced the main plot where hostile aliens led by the villainous Garmantuous invaded the earth, sending the main character down the lucrative path of bounty hunting. Joining him were talking weapons, an alien race known as the Gatliens. Gatliens act like standard weapons, but ones that will speak to everyone’s ears, breaking awkward silences.

Gus is a more lovable sidekick, voiced by the affable JB Smoove.
Source: Squanch Games

This latest glimpse takes us a few hours deeper into the countryside, where a target lies beyond the heart of the Old City. A brutal, but mysteriously helmeted leader named Douglas is the target. After crossing Old Town, Douglas sits somewhere in Dreg Town, only to be flanked by dozens of nameless goons. The henchmen are all poorly trained recruits, though they can quickly become overwhelming just because of their numbers.

At first glance, High on Life is a standard shooter. The Old Town setting gave off a distinctly Borderlands vibe, minus all the loot. After all, who needs loot when there are friends? Our latest preview got us acquainted with Kenny, the main character’s trusted sidearm, voiced by creator Justin Roiland. This last session introduced Gus, voiced by JB Smoove, who acts more like a shotgun at close range. As Kenny’s alt-fire releases a bouncing grenade, Gus fires a ricocheting jigsaw. He can also vacuum his targets to bring them closer to his blast.

What particularly stands out about High on Life are the banter. Anyone familiar with Roiland’s animated shows, Rick & Morty and Solar Opposites, should be prepared for quirky, fast-paced characters. High on Life is full of them, whether it’s the goon watching the station gate, the sleazy goofball in one of Dreg Town’s alleyways who’s a little too willing to cover you in goop, or even Douglas himself. There’s a particularly wacky character near the end of the hunt named Dr. Joopy, whose sections involve switch-based puzzles, who will never stop lamenting his family while you work.

As one can imagine, the appeal of High on Life lies in the way the Gatliens interact with all of these characters. Roiland-voiced Kenny will sound more exasperated, while Smoove-voiced Gus will sound more friendly. Even though the instant shooter feels like walking on familiar ground, the ongoing dialogue adds a fresh feel. The game is also at its best when leaning into more humorous situations. There was an instance during the demo where I was locked in a room and instructed to watch an hour-long training video. While my instinct was to escape and Kenny moaned that I should do just that, one of Squanch’s reps noted that it was possible to just sit down and watch the full video of an hour and proceed as usual.

The banter extends to the eventual boss battle with Douglas, which plays out similarly to Squanch’s previously featured. The idea is to balance using your weapons with Knifey’s grappling ability, as Douglas will sometimes electrify the ground. Gus’ alt-fire is especially useful in getting Douglas off his hanging perches and into position to eat lead… or whatever the Gatliens are shooting.

There’s nothing remarkable about High on Life’s gameplay loop so far, but the talking alien weapons are a novel idea. Even though Kenny from Roiland bitched at me towards the end, I was able to switch to Gus from Smoove for a different kind of joke. With other weapons set to be voiced by talents like Tim Robinson, Laura Silverman and Dave Herman, to name a few, it’s clear that Squanch Games is betting on their vocal talent to make this game an experience. memorable. We’ll see if it works when High on Life releases on PC and Xbox Series X|S on December 13.

Ozzie has been playing video games since he picked up his first NES controller when he was 5 years old. Since then, he has taken an interest in games, only stepping away briefly during his college years. But he was retired after spending years in quality assurance circles for THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping push the Guitar Hero series to its peak. Ozzie has become a huge fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can’t enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?