Originally published at: Review | High on Knife - XboxEra
When High on Life from developers Squanch Games released last year, it was a genuine surprise. While I acknowledge the humour isn’t for everyone, it was a bright, bold and imaginative FPS and was a bit of a viral hit, particularly because it released straight on to Xbox Game Pass at the end of a very dry 2022 for Xbox fans.
9 months later, Squanch Games are now bringing us a sizeable expansion with “High on Knife”; a story focused almost entirely on everyone’s favourite sentient serrated blade, Knifey. Is it worth your pennies?
Two Years Later…
The story of High on Knife is set two years after the events of the main game. Gene is still legless and parked on the sofa in our house, and we’re still a bounty hunter, doing what bounty hunters do. Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room – with Justin Roiland’s departure from both the game and the studio, Kenny has been replaced with a new version of the same gun, called Harper, voiced by SNL’s Sarah Sherman. The in-game explanation is that we ‘accidentally’ dropped Kenny somewhere while bounty hunting, and we should really be more careful – Gatlians are sentient beings after all. Aside from that small acknowledgement, that’s all the time that’s spent on introducing Harper, and the game suffers not one bit from Roiland’s absence.
In fact, it’s as funny as it ever was, and I’ll touch on some of that off-beat humour in a moment. For this expansion, the focus is squarely on Knifey, voiced by Michael Cusack. While we were out on our last bounty hunting mission, delivery and shipping company Muxxalon tried to deliver something to Knifey from his home planet. Excited about what it could be, we embark on a journey to Peroxis, the planet on which Muxxalon is headquartered.
A Pinch of Salt
Peroxis is a world of salt flats, hilariously populated by a group of slugs residing in Salt Lick City, who absolutely refuse to believe it’s making them ill in any way shape or form. In a similar vein to the main game, it acts as a hub world of sorts, with plenty of amusing characters, collectibles and skits to discover. One particular highlight was a race against Slugstar, the self-proclaimed “fastest slug in Salt Lick City”. The par time I had to beat was 14 hours, and Slugstar’s reaction to my inevitable victory was, well, profane.
It’s also here you collect a new gun, called B.A.L.L, powered by 3 very naked, gibberish speaking aliens. It again shows some serious imagination from Squanch games, as it acts like a pinball – time your shots and you can reflect the ball again and again, until it has enough kinetic energy within it that it simply explodes. It’s a blast to use, and became the weapon of choice for most of my time with High on Knife.
Sci-fi spookiness and whacky humour
There are bunch of standout hilarious and “WTF” moments as we make our way to Muxxalon, from talking to a giant alien named Toxxo and having a relaxing bath in toxic waste, popping parasites, an utterly mental riff on the sitcom Cheers (located next to a giant anus, also featuring a definitely unlicensed Kelsey Grammer as Frasier) and lastly, taking on ant poachers who keep raiding a humble duffalo ranch. Things happen with a duffalo that I don’t think I can get into in writing. You’ll find out for yourself.
High on Knife was billed as having some horror tropes, and while that is kind of true, I wouldn’t say I was particularly unsettled once I made my way through Muxxalon HQ. It does have Squanch Games twisted take on some of the tropes of the genre, with plenty of body horror and a nice nod to Xbox franchise, Gears of War. Perhaps the real horror is working in a packing factory under indentured servitude, pressing two buttons to just ship packages across the galaxy for all time. Sounds plenty horrific to me.
If you loved High on Life, you’ll find plenty to love in this expansion, with new areas to explore, a host of new achievements and a fairly sizeable piece of narrative to go through. My biggest criticism comes from a lack of good reminders on how things work until you’re quite a good way in to your time on Peroxis – it’s been nearly a year since I last played High on Life, and I’d completely forgotten almost everyone’s unique abilities. The game does start delivering mini-tutorials and reminders on those abilities eventually (literally 3 minutes after I wrote that note down during my playthrough). The expansion does feel a little rough around the edges when it comes to performance on console, and with so many varied mechanics to contend with, later fights against enemies can become more than a little chaotic.
All in all though, I had a great time with High on Knife, and I do plan on going back in to clean up some undiscovered items, which thankfully, the game allows you to do, even after completing the main questline. If you loved the off-beat humour, gross body horror and Rick and Morty style humour of the original game, you’ll hardly be making a mistake picking this mini-expansion up. It’s Knifey’s time to shine (or stab everyone)…or both.