High on Life Review

Dan Webb

Justin Roiland, who’s best known for Rick & Morty along with Community’s Dan Harmon, has been trying to crack the games market for quite some time now. His Burbank-based studio, Squanch Games, seems to be upping the ante with every new game, with each title becoming more and more ambitious than the last. Their aim? Comedic games that really speak to players with a random and edgy sense of humour. And if anyone has that in their locker, it’s Roiland.

High On Life sees you jump into the shoes of a young adult, moments before earth is invaded by the G3 cartel, and you get thrust into the role of bounty hunter, having picked up a talking gun - AKA a Gatlian space alien - from an alien corpse. Your task is simple: take down all the evil G3 cartel’s head honchos and save the earth from Garmantuous. In short, you travel from location to location to whack some evil aliens. And that’s the crux of it.

The core mechanic of this first-person shooter is your relationship with the game’s Gatlians - your talking guns. Each gun has multiple fire modes, and can be upgraded and modded in the main city hub, Blim City. But more than that, they effectively become the voice of the main character, constantly throwing out observations about the world around you and interacting with everyone you come across.

There isn’t really a lot to High On Life’s gameplay outside of the shooting, in truth: it’s a lot of shooting, and as the game goes on, a bit of platforming using the game’s jetpack and mouthy knife to traverse ziplines, and so on. Sure, every few hours you’ll pick up a new Gatlian and have a new gun to shoot - which will change the game somewhat briefly - but the problem with High On Life boils down to one thing: the combat just isn’t that satisfying. It’s okay, if pretty damn generic, but for a game that relies solely on its shooting, that’s not a great start.

You could probably argue that High On Life is more of a boss rush shooter, as the game pretty much plays with you picking up a bounty, fighting your way to said bounty, then killing said boss. Rinse and repeat. That would be great if the shooting was satisfying, but even putting the shooting woes aside, the boss sequences aren’t all that interesting either. It’s just a lot of jumping and shooting projectiles galore into bullet sponge bosses. It’s such a shame as well, as the creativity when it comes to the design of the bosses - in terms of looks, and their backstories, and dialogue - is exactly what you’d expect from a Roiland game. Top notch.

Okay, so there is a little more to High On Life than just shooting. If anything, where High On Life actually excels, is in its exploration and world building. Everything at every turn is trademark Roiland. Fans of the Intergalactic Cable episodes of Rick and Morty will feel right at home here with the Gatlian lines of dialogue and the enemy quips. In the main hub, Blim City, pretty much everyone has unique recorded lines, making the city actually feel pretty alive. Sure, everyone sounds like Morty (or some other voice you’ve heard on Rick & Morty), but if you’ve experienced anything Roiland-related in the last 5-years or so, you’ll know that’s just how he flows.

Aside from Blim City, there’s some pretty cool semi-open-world locations to boot too, each with their own living and breathing characters; like the Mackincheese Brothers in Old Town; or Linda, the Carebear-like Moplet secretary who seemingly keeps being enslaved on Zephyr. There’s a surprising amount of depth and plenty of secrets in the game too, like being able to warp in an entire cinema into one of the large open-areas, like in Port Terene - fresh with a movie, and irritating moviegoers talking throughout. If you like Roiland’s humour, this will be right up your alley.

That said, for a game that relies so much on its humour - because it’s clearly not relying on its shooting mechanics or gameplay - it’s not the funniest game I’ve ever played. Or even close to it, for that matter. I’d have a rye smile here and there, and there were a couple of funny moments towards the end of the game, but from someone who adores Rick & Morty, it really didn’t resonate with me for the most part. Even the classic 4th wall breaking Roiland quips tended to fall a bit flat on their face. And if you’re not a Roiland fan, good news, you can turn down the enemy and gun chatter in the main menus. Regardless of that, I do wish the script was significantly better throughout though.

My main issue with High On Life isn’t that it’s not funny or amusing - I mean, I did laugh a few times, but not nearly enough for a game so reliant on in-game jokes - it’s just that it’s not really that enthralling to play. At times it can be fun, and some of the movement stuff later on does elevate it somewhat, but for the most part the gameplay is incredibly bland, and the boss fights are more of a chore than a highlight. High on Life is the very definition of the word “okay.” It’s bang average.

High on Life

High On Life is easily Squanch Games’ most ambitious project, but aside from the environments and the world-building which match that ambition, the first-person shooter itself is incredibly generic, and not funny enough to make up for it.

Form widget
60%
Audio
80%

Perhaps one of the best parts of High On Life is its audio. Not only is it difficult to fault the voice acting or delivery, but the original score is wonderfully wacky too. Proper sci-fi vibes throughout. Colour me a fan.

Visuals
70%

Weird, wacky, and colourful. There’s some real creativity in the worlds and environments, just don’t expect them to blow you away graphically.

Playability
65%

The shooting is fine. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a very satisfying game to play, in truth, but it’s by no means bad.

Delivery
55%

Too much shooting and reliance on pretty awful boss fights, in truth. The game does break away from that formula for brief moments, and that’s where the game shines - like a certain scene where you get embroiled in a bureaucracy mini-game. More of that, less of the inane shooting next time, please.

Achievements
70%

The achievements themselves are pretty decent for the most part, but there is far too much reliance on collectibles. Hundreds of them in fact. Ugh.

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