PAX West 2022 was a refreshing return to the PAX experience of pre-pandemic. Not the least of which is a return to hands on demos of up and coming games that people are genuinely excited about. Of all time at PAX this year, High on Life from Squanch Games was the highlight this year.
In High on Life (“HoL”), you are fresh out of high school with no job and no ambition, but you are valuable in other ways. You see, in this colorful universe humans are used as a drug to get aliens high, and an alien cartel wants to get rich off of it. Now you, and a cast of charismatic talking guns, are on a mission to become the deadliest intergalactic bounty hunter the cosmos has ever seen.
Yes, you read that right. For those that don’t know, this game has talking guns. One of the first thoughts I had when I heard this was, “how much do they talk?” No matter how good the game is, this little part of the game could totally kill the experience if not done just right. I saw the trailer and it looked promising, but trailers are focusing on the fun highlights, so there is a lot of talking. But the game looked great, and has that distinct Squanch Games sense of humor that we saw in Trover Saves the World and Accounting+. But could they pull off a AAA FPS the way that they hope.
If the demo level I was able to play was any indication, then this game is already well on it’s way to solidifying itself on the list of great, story-driven FPS games. I played the same level shown at Gamescom this year, where you have to go retrieve a knife (a very rude, vile, and hilarious knife) and complete your first bounty. As you make your way through the level, your first gun helps you discover and learn just a small sample of the mechanics that are a part of this game. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that even through the tutorial level, where the gun will do more talking in such a short time than the rest of the game (as explained to me), I never got the overwhelming feeling, or feeling of bombardment, from your weapons, even the knife. The game was colorful and bleak at the same time. It was funny and engaging and I cannot wait for even more. For a glimpse into my experience and a look at the tutorial level I was able to play, check out the Gamescom gameplay footage below.
After my time with the game, we got a chance to sit down with Justin Roiland and Mikey Spano, Founder/CEO and CCO of Squanch Games respectively. You can tell how much passion has gone into this project from both gentlemen. To be honest, the interview felt like a conversation between old friends. This was one of the easiest interviews I have ever conducted, but also the one that was least like an interview. I asked one question and it cascaded into a nearly 40 minute adventure into the mind of Justin Roiland.
It was so interesting as we began talking about the cast of HoL, which includes the likes of JB Smoove, Tim Robinson, Jennifer Hale, and Zach Hadel. Justin talked about the time he wanted to get JB Smoove to guest on an episode of Rick and Morty, but couldn’t get him for the show. So he was amazed at being able to land him for such a bigger commitment with HoL. Knowing the actor’s penchant for improv, we talked about what amount of the dialogue we hear on screen (from all characters) was improv versus scripted. In what was certainly a surprise to us, the dialogue in HoL was much less when compared to the likes of Trover. It certainly goes to show what an impressive writing staff they have for this game, being able to capture each actor so well.
HoL feels like it will be a refreshing entry into the FPS playing field. With so many games being launched with a PVP mentality, it’s nice to see another great story-driven PVE game being released into the field. There aren’t enough AAA titles with the level of humor and gameplay in one package. High on Life releases exclusively on Xbox and PC (Steam & Epic Games) on December 13, 2022, and is a day one Game Pass title. Just in time for the avid gamer to devote countless hours over holiday breaks. I know I will be.