Game Review: High On Life

Release date: 2022
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2022

From the mind of Justin Roiland (Rick and Morty) and the team at Squanch Games comes High on Life, a first person shooter sci-fi released in 2022. Humanity is being threatened by an alien cartel who wants to use them as drugs, and it is up to you to rescue and partner with charismatic, talking guns — and a foul-mouthed, bloodthirsty, talking knife — to take down Garmantuous and his gang, and save the world!

+ the shooting is relatively standard, with each weapon having a primary attack and a strong attack with a cooldown. I personally found that in combat there was little reason to ever use any other than the first gun, which could fire as fast as you pull the trigger, had better range and accuracy than all others. The secondary attacks were fun to mix and match, however, and I thoroughly appreciated their use outside of combat
+ graphically the game is also somewhat standard, with the note that the alien creatures are intentionally weird looking; photorealism just wouldn’t make sense in this game. There are lots of bright colours and the various aliens actually remind me a lot of Monster’s Inc., albeit maybe through the lens of Robot Chicken. The environments are varied and I never got bored of the new biomes as they were introduced
+ the story — playing as a fish out of water, taking down the bad guys from the bottom up — is once again standard. It never offends or overstays its welcome, but it’s nothing special. The lack of skippable dialogue and in-engine cutscenes is the most egregious part, especially due to the incessant rambling (see below – yes, I know you can turn down or off the frequency of these dialogue bits, but it’s clear that the game was designed with them in mind). There are a handful of dialogue choices, all unspoken by your character, but these never amounted to much
+ of the few jokes that I did find amusing, most were related to breaking the fourth wall, or facetiously ‘scoring’ you for a mundane activity, like processing documents or cringe-worthy interrogations. One boss directly mentioned another famous video game boss, and I actually found the outcome of that monologue to be somewhat creative

– I experienced a LOT of technical issues and glitches, which despite a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer at the beginning of the game were not appreciated. Often, two audio lines from the same character would play over each other, and it was nearly always impossible to determine where audio was coming from, even when using surround sound headphone
– the comedy is hugely hit or miss, and for me it fell about 70/30 on the miss side of things. If you don’t like Rick and Morty‘s style of rambling long after the punchline, or you aren’t a fan of jokes about bodily fluids or swearing, there is very little on offer. As said, every now and then a joke would land, or an environmental design would make me chuckle, but it’s just not worth your sanity
– truthfully, I was really disappointed with the lack of sequence breaking (whether planned or not by the developers). At several points, the game gives you an option of what to do between two or more tasks, but the outcome was always the same aside from perhaps a slightly changed line of dialogue. For example, killing a character early could have rewarded you for replaying the game, but that was simply not the case

> it’s not a true negative, but it relates to the glitches as mentioned: upon completing the game I was given achievements for things I absolutely have not accomplished yet. The in-game tracker also seemingly glitched, and I’ve had to start a second save game just to try and finish it

Should you play this game: I had fun, and the game is available on Game Pass for Xbox and PC; so in that regard, you might as well. But if you don’t care for this in the first twenty minutes, it is unlikely the game will change your mind. You may note above that all of the positives had the word ‘standard’, and that is most telling of all. I get the sense this was exactly the game that Justin Roiland and his team wanted to make.

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