Review – High on Life
High on Life is the latest game to come from the bizarre mind of Justin Roiland, co-creator of the Rick & Morty and Solar Opposites television series. I’ll be frank and come right out with it- if you don’t care for the humor of either of those series, then High on Life is not the game for you. This was very much the case for Roiland’s last game, Trover Saves the Universe, as well. However, if you, like me, love the humor found in those shows, then by all means, keep on reading.
In High on Life you play as a kid fresh out of high school, with no real goals or ambitions in life. Then, out of the blue, Earth is attacked by an alien force that seeks to capture every human they can get their hands (or tentacles) on. Why, you ask? Because apparently, when smoked, humans provide one of the finest highs an alien can find anywhere in the galaxy. That’s right, humans are the top shelf drug of choice for many alien species, and Garmantuous, the leader of the galaxy’s biggest drug cartel, will stop at nothing to capture them all for his own nefarious purposes.
Thankfully, you’re able to escape from the initial attack after picking up one of the alien invader’s weapons, a sentient pistol named Kenny. It seems Kenny isn’t too keen on being used for genocide, and he helps you and your sister, Lizzie, escape to the alien metropolis, Blim City. Shortly after arriving, you meet Gene, a down on his luck bounty hunter, who introduces you to the world of bounty hunting. Before long, you and your new sidekick, Kenny, are off to visit distant planets to stop alien scum across the galaxy, and to find a way to save your fellow humans from becoming future party favors.
I know there will will be plenty of nay-sayers about High on Life out there, but I loved being able to play a comical first-person shooter for a change. Honestly, I don’t think there are enough of them out there, with Journey to the Savage Planet being the last one I can remember. There’s something to be said for being able to get lost within ridiculous scenarios on far off planets, without taking everything so seriously. That’s not say I don’t enjoy my time with Halo, Call of Duty, or Gears of War, but sometimes it’s nice to lose yourself in absurdity.
As I’ve already mentioned, you’ll start off with your first gun, a pistol named Kenny, who is a member of the sentient race of weapons known as the Gatlians. Along your travels, you’ll also pick up several other Gatlians, such as the shotgun, Gus, the SMG type, Sweezy, and an experiment gone wrong, named Creature. You’ll also get your one and only melee weapon in the game, a sentient knife cleverly named Knifey. Each weapon has their own distinct personality, and they will all argue with each other throughout the course of the game. I know this will get on some players’ nerves, but I loved the constant banter.
Admittedly, the combat in High on Life does start off a bit basic and one dimensional. For a good stretch in the beginning, it’s just you, Kenny, and Knifey. The gameplay is a bit underwhelming at first, at least until you start recruiting the other Gatlians. That’s when High on Life starts to become more varied and interesting. Each Gatlian has their own special power move that they shoot through their “Trick Hole”, which can help overcome hordes of enemies or get past certain obstacles. Once you start unlocking mods and upgrades for your weapons, and finally pick up the jetpack, it becomes and absolute blast. The new mechanics are offered at a good pace, which helps to keep the game feeling fresh.
High on Life isn’t just a first-person shooter, it’s also a 3D platformer at times. Throughout each biome, there are various collectibles to find, such as Pesos, Luglox Chests, Trading Cards, Warp Discs, and weapon mods. Not everything you see around each biome will be accessible at first, so you’ll need to expect to revisit each area more than once. That being said, many of the rarer and more valuable collectibles can only be reached with special weapon upgrades and the jetpack, which is acquired later in the game, but it’s well worth your time to pick them up.
Aside from the standard collectibles, there are also some delightful surprises to discover in High on Life. For example, after returning to my home and speaking to Lizzie, and permanent couch occupant, Gene, I turned to the living room television to see what Gene was watching. To my absolute shock, he was watching an amazingly bad movie called Tammy and the T-Rex, starring Denise Richards and Paul Walker. I was captivated by the random gem being presented to me on a TV screen within my own TV screen, and before I knew what happened, I had watched the entire damn film. It was glorious.
The gifts don’t stop with Tammy and the T-Rex, either. You can also find (and watch in their entirety) Vampire Hookers and Blood Harvest. But wait, there’s more! One of the special Warp Discs you can find will take you a movie theater. This theater plays Demon Wind, with none other than the beloved RedLetterMedia crew providing commentary throughout its entire runtime. Needless to say, Christmas came early for me this year.
As far as the graphics, High on Life has a highly stylized art style, which follows most of Roiland’s other works. The character designs are creatively wacky, the visuals are clean, and the color palette is vibrant. Each biome has its own distinct look and feel, complete with their own set of indigenous life (and all of which are equally messed up in their own way). There were only occasional framerate dips whenever there were large amounts of enemies and projectiles onscreen, but it never dropped low enough to inhibit the gameplay. Occasionally, enemies would clip into the environments too, but this didn’t really became an issue.
The sound design is where High on Life excels, at least in my opinion. Once again, if you’re not a fan of Roiland’s humor, then this might be a point of contention. Every vocal performance is solid and hilarious. The sheer amount of dialogue within the game is mind-blowing. Your Gatlian companions always have something to say (you can reduce the amount of chatter in the Settings menu, if you wish) and each character you’re able to interact with has numerous lines of dialogue. I’m pretty sure I added an extra couple hours of playtime by simply exhausting each dialogue encounter. The soundtrack is fantastic as well, providing plenty of fast-paced rock tunes when fighting waves of enemies or bosses.
Even though I know it won’t be to everyone’s liking, I still highly recommend High on Life. It’s a fairly accessible first-person shooter for those who aren’t die-hard fans of the genre, while still offering enough variety to make veterans feel satisfied. While on its surface it’s a raunchy, outrageous first-person shooter, at its core there’s a surprisingly emotional heart. There’s a ton of fun to be had in simply exploring the various planets, and even more joy when you discover something as unexpected as Tammy and the T-Rex playing in your living room. High on Life is one gaming experience I’ll never forget.
A highly stylized art style, with a vibrant color palette and clean visuals.
A bit of an underwhelming start in terms of the combat, but after gaining some additional guns and mods, it becomes an absolute blast.
The soundtrack features plenty of fast-paced rock tunes when fighting waves of enemies. Each of the vocal performances are hilarious, and the sheer amount of dialogue within the game is mind-blowing.
High on Life is certainly not a game that everyone will enjoy, but I found the humor to raunchy, yet hilarious. The combat becomes really fun after obtaining some new weapons and mods.
Final Verdict: 8.0
High on Life is available now on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S.
A copy of High on Life was provided by the publisher.