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High on Life preview at PAX West 2022: Compelling chaos

During the demo for High on Life we watched an ad on an in-game TV about electrocution, then went around and stabbed a bunch of aliens in The Slums.

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At PAX West 2022, I had the opportunity to demo the latest offering from Justin Roiland and Squanch Games, High on Life. What I found during my time with the game was that it packs in a lot more depth, wealth of optional content, and dark humor than previous trailers and gameplay clips suggest. It also boasts plenty of “what the heck is going on” type chaos as well, as you’d expect from a game with aliens and eccentric talking weapons.

Something I found interesting is how the first thing that grabbed my attention in High on Life wasn’t the gameplay, setting, background information, or character dialogue in the opening area. Rather, I was drawn to a TV playing in the main character’s living room. If you played Squanch Games’ previous release, Trover Saves The Universe, you may remember being able to watch a number of unique TV features and commercials in-game.

High on Life is similar in this regard, however, it seems to offer a lot more content of this nature both in terms of what’s shown on TV and what’s presented to you dialogue wise as you interact with different characters and NPCs. 

Screenshot from High on Life showing an alien on a couch in a living room shrugging its shoulders.
© Squanch Games

One standout for me while watching TV in High on Life was a hilarious ad featuring electrocution via a cattle prod-like device, with the character in the ad getting shocked mid-sentence every so often as they described its uses and benefits. I found this quite entertaining, and it made me a bit reluctant to leave the TV area because I wanted to see what else might pop up.

In asking Roiland and the team more about this TV-watching feature, it was revealed that there are actually four full-length B movies that you can watch in the game. You know, if you want to take a break from slaughtering aliens with your Morty-sounding gun and bloodthirsty, always eager to kill, knife with a thick Australian accent.

Screenshot from High on Life showing gun combat in The Slums area.
© Squanch Games

Speaking of guns and knives, combat in the game felt wonderful, snappy, and responsive. The demo primarily featured exploration of an area called The Slums, with a number of enemy encounters sprinkled throughout. I had a real blast messing around with different ways the game lets you eliminate enemies here from shooting exploding barrels, to simply running up and stabbing them all with my aforementioned kill-happy knife.

Jokes were made with the team during the demo about having an achievement tied to only using melee in the game, and as I stabbed every foe in sight I couldn’t help but agree. I really hope they do end up putting that achievement in before the game’s release. Not just because it’s funny, but also because melee is legitimately fun in High on Life and it’d likely encourage more people to give it a try.

Melee-focused combat was something I enjoyed quite a bit in High on Life, especially given how the game doesn’t punish you for using melee by making it weaker, or as something that feels like a less exciting secondary option. Stabbing enemies feels just as effective as shooting them, and equally satisfying, if not more so.

Screenshot from High on Life showing additional gun combat with the gun looking concerned as it shoots aliens in a forest.
© Squanch Games

Interactions between combat and campaign scenarios were also delightful in High on Life, even the ones with dark humor like a guy who’s not really fishing but is instead contemplating whether or not to drown himself. Another scenario features an obnoxious child-sized alien that you can choose whether or not to murder.

If you do end up pulling the trigger, there’s another NPC nearby you can talk to that will actually reassure you that while the alien is a child to them, he was also 30-years-old so he’s not exactly a child to you. Technically. Choosing some of the more ridiculous dialogue options when given the opportunity is something the game rewards you for in kind as well, and makes the game feel like something that’ll be well worth replaying.

And even though I kept failing the final boss fight at the end of the demo over and over again with Justin Roiland casually eating a Subway sandwich on a couch behind me (which is extremely funny to me for some reason), I sincerely enjoyed my time with High on Life and am very much looking forward to playing it in full once the game is released later this year.

For more on High on Life, be sure to check out the game’s official website. High on Life is currently slated to be released on December 13 and will be available on Xbox One, Series X|S, and Windows PC. For more from PAX West 2022, we've got other great articles for you to read through including our preview of Goat Simulator 3, and our interview with Monkey Island's Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

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