High On Life preview: Plenty of funny business - MrLiambi's blog


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Monday, 29 August 2022

High On Life preview: Plenty of funny business

There's nothing like a sub-par trailer to play with your expectations - we simply weren't enthused by the High On Life gameplay 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 major reversal. With the game's profane script and tone, it's actually shaping up much better than we worried.

A vibrant world

High On Life sees you play a silent character thrust into a weird galaxy of bounty hunters and colourful creatures, all from the minds of of the creators of Rick and Morty. It's an influence that is writ large all over the game.

Our demo opened in our character's house, suddenly invaded by a bounty hunting handler called Gene. He was sitting on our couch with only two of his three eye-ended tentacles working. It's a weird world out there, guys.

In the course of a conversation with our utterly baffled older sister, Gene arranged for us to take on a low-level bounty, one that would see us venturing into the slums under our home city, Blim.

Then we were free to walk over to the underworld, first stopping for a few minutes to watch an in-game TV showing ads and shows straight out of the Interdimensional Cable mould of Rick and Morty. It's this sort of attention to detail that really won us over during the demo - stop and pay attention to the environment and there were jokes basically everywhere.

In just a two-minute walk from our house to the entrance of the slums, we stopped for two great conversations. First, to convince two vain pipe-snake-things to let us into the sewers by choosing who was the hotter, then again when accosted by a snotty kid.

This kid gloatingly told us to shoot him, and upon trying to do so (sue us), our talking gun Kenny admonished us for our brutality and stopped us from firing. Trying again, though, let it happen - cue Kenny spending a couple of minutes being shocked at the guaranteed loss of the game's E For Everyone rating.

Heading on a few metres, the joke's hidden punchline landed when the kid's mother greeted us. It was the last in a series of escalations that worked superbly and had us actually chuckling aloud, something all too rare in even deliberately comic games.

If High On Life can maintain this hit rate through a 12-15 hour game, we'll be hugely impressed. But, if this slice is anything to go by, it might just manage it.

Shoot from the hip

The game's actual core gameplay, though, is not just walking around watching jokes - it's a first-person shooter with the fun twist that your weapons talk to you.

We only had access to Kenny throughout our demo on the shooting side, voiced by Justin Roiland himself and full of sass and punchlines. Later in the demo, we found a talking knife (also Roiland, with a very different voice) for melee.

Each had a secondary ability - the knife let us grapple onto certain hooks and ledges, while Kenny could shoot a squidgy grenade, and combat was another pleasant surprise.

It's quick and arcadey, a bit like a first-person Ratchet & Clank in the way you can generally move more quickly than your enemies' projectiles, but with a heck of a lot more swearing.

With only the single gun to try, we're relying on the assumption that High On Life will have a more expansive arsenal the further through you get. If each talks to you as much as Kenny though, it'll be a riot of weird characters and personalities.

The demo ended with a boss fight against our bounty target, and one sour note was that she had a pretty inflated health bar that made it feel just a tad grindy - something that Squanch might be able to rebalance before the game releases in a couple of months.

That aside, we enjoyed the combat encounters we played through, which were nice and smooth and presented just enough challenge to have us moving around plenty.

Source : https://www.pocket-lint.com/games/reviews/xbox/162398-high-on-life-review

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