Let’s get the important bit of this High on Life review out of the way first: you can eventually shut the guns up in the game’s audio settings. Each weapon is keen on spouting as much nonsense as possible, and depending on your tolerance level for meaningless drivel from your firearm friends, you may want to stick a silencer on them.
High on Life is the latest game from Squanch Games, whose founder – Justin Roiland – is a co-creator of the mega-popular Rick and Morty. This new game is just as out-there with its premise. Earth is suddenly under attack by aliens harvesting humans. However, thanks to a chance encounter with a prattling pistol, the nameless main character escapes this cruel fate by transporting his house, and older drug-addled sister, to an alien planet. With no other options to get back home, you become a bounty hunter attempting to stop a drug cartel from consuming the human race.
Levels are split across several bounties, meaning High on Life is a mostly linear FPS game where you have a small amount of freedom to explore each of the different worlds. I’ve explored a base inside an asteroid, a jungle filled with parasitic mites, and a desert with a Mad Max-like gated town, and these open-ended levels have paths that lead to different bounties. It just about strikes the right balance between cleverly reusing levels without becoming too stale.
While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed looking around these areas, the enemies that occasionally warp in to stop me prove to be nothing more than cannon fodder. This is mostly down to how helpful your guns are with their alternate fire modes, from charging powerful blasts to spitting goo that launches enemies into the air for you to gun down. The difficulty only really escalates when there are huge numbers of enemies, but even then, it’s just a case of hunkering behind cover to refill lost health. This is a shame as the boss battles against your bounties are where High on Life gets a bit creative, as your targets will manipulate the arenas to fill them with poisonous goo or emit electrical shocks, among other devious schemes.
While the game isn’t massively long, clocking in at about ten hours, it does suffer greatly from a narrow FOV. As one of those who suffer from simulation sickness, this did impact how much time I could spend with the game without needing to take a break to calm my stomach down. However, what’s infinitely more problematic are the crashes and soft locks I ran into with surprising frequency. For example, one soft lock could only be resolved after spending 20 minutes getting back to the beginning of an area, quitting and reloading the game, and then walking back to where I’d come from just to get a boss to spawn. These are, by far, High on Life’s most significant problems and ones that sealed its fate, in my eyes, as a disappointing experience.
It’s perhaps for the best that High on Life tries hard to distract me from the lacklustre shooting and constant crashing. One minute I’m blasting away at hordes of aliens with my talking guns, and the next, I’m sitting down on the sofa watching the 1994 B-movie Tammy & The T-Rex. It’s far from the only licenced film available as one of the unlockable Warp Drive disks can summon a movie theatre from the aether showing the shlock horror film Demon Wind, complete with Mystery Science Theatre 3000-style commentary, which coincidentally, Roiland also had a hand in writing with its 2017 reboot.
Fans of Roiland will find a lot to love here. High on Life spurts its AdultSwim DNA everywhere with its recognisable voice cast. However, as I play through the campaign, I increasingly detest the leading companion and default gun, Kenny. Voiced by Roiland using much the same cadence as he does with Morty, he sounds as if he has the confidence of a teenager who constantly pees his pants, so it quickly becomes tedious to listen to. In addition, he continually complains whenever I sprint as he thinks I should take in the scenery, which, while admittedly pretty, is nothing outstanding. But his biggest offence comes during a particularly obnoxious bit towards the end of the game where he forces me to leave the other guns, take him to ‘Space Applebees’ and listen to him waffle on for so egregiously long that I flat out refused to use him in combat again.
Thankfully, other weapons have their own personalities, such as the knife who really wants to stab everything or the chill tones of the frog-like shotgun. You also meet many alien species on your journey, and those familiar with Smiling Friends and The Eric Andre Show will recognise some of the voice cast. While jokes seldom land, some of the cast at least make an honest attempt to be funny.
If you’re a fan of the delivery of Roiland’s previous work, most notably Rick and Morty, you’ll probably get a lot more out of High on Life than I did. It shows faint glimmers of being a good shooter now and then with some creative boss battles and powerful weapons, but other than that, it’s a tedious, run-of-the-mill shooter that relies on its attempts to be crudely zany. Whether you find something funny is subjective, but it’s much harder to forgive the constant crashes and soft locks.
You may get a laugh or two, but it’s an otherwise poor shooter that thinks large numbers of enemies are difficulty spikes and distractions will make people forget about the soft locks, crashes, and lack of accessibility options.