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Monday, May 27, 2024

High on Life's Spooky DLC Has 52 New Characters and Gabourey Sidibe

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When Squanch Games announced yesterday High on Life’s first DLC, it revealed a venture into one of comedy’s most popular subgenres: the classic horror-comedy. The new paid DLC, High on Knife, which will be available sometime this October, marks a spookier tone for the game, and the teaser showcased just 40 seconds of darkness and body horror.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, that turn to spook started as, well, kind of a joke.

“We joked a lot about it while we were working on High on Life like, ‘Wouldn't it be funny if we made it a horror game?’ “ Squanch’s Chief Creative Officer Mikey Spano tells IGN. “And we were all like, ‘We should really just do it. We should do it.’ And so when a DLC came up we were like, ‘This is a perfect opportunity to try something totally different.’ “

Spano and Squanch’s Design Director Erich Meyr sat down with IGN just barely an hour after High on Knife was announced at this week’s Xbox Games Showcase Extended. They haven’t gotten a chance to look at much of the fan reaction at this point, but of course, there’s a question floating around of just how actually scary a game about smart-talking weapons can be, even if there are some tense moments in the base High on Life.

"We have chunks that are intentionally meant to be scary and chunks that are very funny.


“Yeah, the tension's real,” Meyr says. “It's not the whole DLC. We have chunks that are intentionally meant to be scary and chunks that are very funny. What people expect from us.”

Spano adds that it’s about “50/50 funny and scary,” even if a lot of it is a spoof of the horror genre as a whole. And they tease that it’s a pretty sizable DLC too, lasting at about two-three hours. Spano jokes that “we definitely shot ourselves in the foot, scope-wise” with High on Knife, and that scope extends to a whole lot of new characters – even if Kenny, the gun voiced by Justin Roiland (who parted ways with the studio after the since-dropped domestic violence allegations against him became public) – isn’t there.

Aside from Roiland no longer being with Squanch, Spano and Mery said they “always” wanted to explore new characters, and the DLC was the “perfect opportunity” to do so.

Expanding the Scope

In fact, aside from Knifey and Gene and the three guns from the base game, Spano and Meyr say High on Knife focuses “mostly” on new characters – 52 of them to be exact, Meyr reveals. A couple of them were already shown in the initial announcement: a gun named Harper, voiced by SNL's Sarah Sherman, and another gun named B.A.L.L., "a weird little pinball gun" who is voiced by Alec Robbins, the narrative director of High on Life. (Yes, B.A.L.L. is an acronym; no, they won’t say what it stands for yet).

There’s another character too, shown briefly in the teaser: a goopy new boss named Mux, voiced by none other than Oscar-nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe. And if you’re surprised to hear that, well, Squanch was a little surprised too.

“Gabourey was one of those ones that we thought was a super long shot,” Spano says. “The three of us (Spano, Meyr, and Robbins), the way we do stuff is we technically have our roles at the studio, but the three of us together kind of act as one creative director for everything. And so a lot of times one of us will be like, ‘Hey, what about this person for this role?’ And then kind of gauge each other's interest and Gabourey was everybody's top choice. We were like, ‘It's never going to happen.’ “

But as it turns out, Sidibe was indeed interested. Spano doesn’t think she had even played High on Life, but was keen to get into more comedy. And it’s true that while Sidibe broke out in her Oscar-nominated dramatic role in Precious, she’s done a ton of comedic work in recent years, from Brad Neely's Harg Nallin' Sclopio Peepio to her recent series The Prank Panel.

Still, Spano and Meyr insist she brings those Oscar chops to the role.

“She was ad-libbing really well. There were some dramatic scenes that she was just nailing,” Spano says. “We were speechless at least once or twice like, ‘Holy shit. She's awesome.’ So she plays a really big role in sort of the latter half of the DLC.”

They remain surprised about the kind of comedians they’re able to get, from JB Smoove to Betsy Sodaro to Tim Robinson. When asked if there’s a dream get for their voice cast, Spano struggles to come up with one – haven’t they already gotten them?

"We were speechless at least once or twice like, ‘Holy shit.'


But then Meyr reminds him of their white whale: Danny DeVito, who they originally wanted to voice Gene.

“That was one of the few where, I don't know that it was like a no, I just think that they didn't really even understand what we were asking for,” Spano says.

He acknowledges that now, he can’t picture anyone else but David Herman doing the voice of Gene. But the dream stays alive: “we’ll probably poke Danny DeVito again” for something else, he vows.

Cast aside, there are plenty of new features that they’re excited to show off in the DLC, even if they can’t go into too many details just yet (although they teased that they’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con in July). There will be new traversal abilities, as well as a new bounty suit.

Spano notes, too, that they were eager to get into their first non-Gatlian gun with B.A.L.L., “so technically it's not a living gun, it just has living creatures sort of piloting it.”

“That's something I've wanted to do for a while,” he says. “And with the DLC, that was sort of the first thing I drew up. I was like, ‘I want to make this gun with little weird guys piloting it’ and drew it up and it got traction right away. So that was the first new gun that went in.”

They also stress that they really want you to watch that brief teaser carefully. When I ask them about the “hyper-violent Knifey upgrade” that was alluded to in the announcement, Spano notes that “if you listen to the trailer, you could probably connect some dots and figure out what it is.”

They’ve got plenty of new ideas like that they want to squeeze into High on Life – and it’s where Squanch’s focus remains for the time being.

The Future of High on Life

Spano and Meyr both agree that, as long as there’s interest (and there certainly was interest in the base game, as it was Xbox Game Pass’ biggest third-party launch of 2022), they want to “continue this world and telling the story of it.”

“I feel like in the first one we had to pull back on so many things and had so many awesome ideas that we just have this whole backlog of things,” Meyr says. “Even this DLC was ideas that we were already brewing.”

They also say Roiland being gone doesn’t really make a difference for their future, either. Roiland, Spano says, “was just a little side piece” of Squanch, and so his absence “doesn’t really make a difference at all” internally – and they have “no plans, no desire” to work with him again anyway.

And just in terms of the content, they think they’ve built a world that they can fit all kinds of stories into – like, for instance, a horror story, and they even casually bring up medieval fantasy. But of course, it’s a business; they have to respond to how it does.

“We are a small studio, so we got to pay bills and stuff,” Spano says. “And if this DLC justifies its existence, then maybe there's more DLC. If it doesn't, then there's most likely still things for High on Life in the future. Maybe just not more DLC. It just depends on how things go.”


Alex Stedman is a Senior News Editor with IGN, overseeing entertainment reporting. When she's not writing or editing, you can find her reading fantasy novels or playing Dungeons & Dragons.

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