A few things are certain in life. We are born, we die, and comedy as a concept is inherently subjective.
Nowhere is that perhaps more clear than in the works of Justin Roiland. The animator/voice actor/comedian has inspired the love of millions of fans around the world, and the loathe of a smaller, but notable collective. So, when it was announced his team at Squanch Games would be making an FPS game with talking guns, people were naturally split. For some, it looked like the breath of fresh air the genre needed. For others, it looked like a single joke stretched to a full game’s length.
However, regardless of the debate, High on Life launched to a very divided response. Where do my thoughts lie? Let’s find out.
Beginning with the humour, as it seems to be a massive point of contention, I’m not going to mince any words here. This game is hysterical. Meta, self-aware but sharp jokes are delivered with superb timing from a multitalented cast. Video game conventions are inverted and played with brilliantly, meaning the humour isn’t solely reliant on the writing. Tiny details and atmospheric storytelling bring an extra level of comedy to the game. High on Life is laugh-out-loud funny.
However, this comes with an immediate caveat. I think Rick and Morty is one of the funniest and freshest shows on modern television. Roiland’s stream-of-consciousness style elicits heavy, heartfelt laughs from me. If you find his work to be unfunny or grating, there is a distinct chance this game will not be for you. This is Justin Roiland’s style in an eight-hour package, and the guns talk, a lot. It will not be for everyone.
The story complements the humour well. It tells the tale of a high-school dropout who is tasked with saving the world from evil aliens who smoke humans as drugs… and hopefully getting their life together in the process. In the process, your character will meet several different “Gatlian” weapons that have a lot to say. From the shotgun-like Gus to the blood-crazy knife Knifey, these Gatlians will serve as your companions and the drivers of the game’s comedy.
The story itself is simple but effective, although some characters are not given as much attention as I would have liked. Least of all the scene-stealing Knifey who is woefully underutilized. Still, what is here works well on the whole and has a surprising amount of heart to it.
The gameplay is perhaps where High on Life is most interesting. Going into the game, it was my number one concern. It is one thing to make a game funny, it is another to make it fun. Thankfully, my worries were unjustified. High on Life is a slick, fun DOOM-like shooter with Metroidvania style levels. The gunplay is strong and varied, the level design and battle arenas are strong and the traversal mechanics are particularly fun. While I’m not saying Squanch are the new Bungie or Id, I will be the first to happily admit that this game far exceeded my expectations here. This is a really fun shooter!
In terms of the aesthetics, High on Life is a stunner. The game looks great, with lush vistas and strong art direction. A stirring lo-fi score elevates things even further. The performance, after a day one patch fixed a major issue, was also great across the board, with no bugs and limited frame drops. High on Life is clearly polished.
In terms of content, it is somewhat of a mixed bag. As mentioned, what is in the game is really quite good. However, High on Life does reuse levels and has moments of padding to fit out an eight hour runtime. This is understandable, given the likely lower budget the game was made on, but it is nevertheless a tad unfortunate. This would make the full pricetag a bit questionable, but given the game is available day one on Game Pass, I still think it is well worth trying out. What is there to lose?
All in all, it would be rather foolish of me to say that High on Life is for everyone. It is not. High on Life is crass, vulgar, excessive, padded and features a comedy style that is incredibly subjective. However, it also has a ton of heart, strong gunplay, surprisingly good level design, a unique tone and, above all else, it’s just plain fun.
Whether High on Life truly works for you or not will come down to your thoughts on Justin Roiland’s signature brand of humour. As someone who is a fan of Rick and Morty, I was laughing, out loud, constantly – when you couple that with the existing strengths of the gameplay and experience, I found this to be a trip well worth taking.
High on Life is on the Xbox Store
- Comedic brilliance for Rick and Morty fans
- Strong level design and gunplay
- Great artistic direction
- Just plain fun
- Padding on an already low runtime
- Story doesn't do right by all characters
- Humour is destined to be subjective
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Squanch Games
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 13 December 2022
- Launch price from - £49.99
I’ve NEVER played a game that made critics more divisive. Well, there was Postal 2, but I think it was universally agreed upon that it was bad on purpose. I am playing it right now and I really enjoy the humor and gameplay. HOWEVER, I think without the low brow jokes, it probably wouldn’t be doing so well. I just wish they had a fast travel option to get back home faster after exploring or even a map so you can orient yourself (I get confused easily)