High on Life Review

A drug's life.
High on Life artwork Header

An alien cartel has invaded Earth, and no, they’re not looking to enslave the human race, they want to snort and consume mankind like a psychotropic drug. Thankfully, you happen upon a talking alien gun, manage to borrow an alien bounty hunting suit, and start to dismantle the cartel from the bottom up. As you can see, High on Life is full of thoroughly standard video game stuff…

The first thing that really stands out about High on Life – after you get past the game’s brief alien invasion intro – is the art direction. Stepping out into Blim City for the first time has the same glimmer of brilliance that Cyberpunk 2077 promised. This plaza is a relatively compact space, but it’s luridly colourful, the alien designs you immediately run into somewhere between genuinely inventive and Futurama-esque dorkiness, while the Gatlian aliens that are your ever-present talking guns look back at you in a manner so reminiscent of the live ammunition critters from Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath.

These guns are the real heart and soul of High on Life. They’re ever-present on screen, each one having a different and quirky style, chatting to other characters on behalf of your silent protagonist, commenting on things you’re doing and offering suggestions and hints along the way. Conversations have a different tone depending on which weapon you have equipped at that time, as each one has a different voice and personality – they also have different primary and special fire modes, as well as their increasingly wild living-gun-alien designs.

High on Life Blim City

High on Life feels like an ode to the size and scope of games of the early 2000s in other ways as well. As you take on jobs as a human bounty hunter in an alien world – did someone find the lost design documents for the cancelled Human Head Prey sequel, by the way? – you’ll venture through portals to alien worlds to find the various G3 henchmen and try to take down the cartel. Bounty rewards in hand, you can then go and buy upgrades for your suit to enable a jet pack, magnetic boots and the like.

You’ll be sent round in a cyclical fashion, returning to each of the three main planets with new abilities that allow you to reach new areas, while there’s a new story beat that lets you get to a new G3 goon to take down. It helps the game feel a little larger than it is at times, the light metroidvania element of each gun’s abilities opening new areas, and there being a smattering of collectable crates to find.

It’s similarly economical with the enemies and combat. The Gatlians become successively more daft, from the standard shooter with a looping gloop shot that can bounce enemies up into the air, through to the one that shoots out its children to go and gnaw on enemies, and can even mind control them to your side for a few moments. You’re kept on the front foot as enemies drop shield top ups that you’ll want in order to survive.

High on Life Time Bubble

There’s only a handful of enemies that fit into the most basic archetypes, though, and there’s annoyances in often having to fight ankle-biting burrowers and flying drones with guns that aren’t hitscan. It give the combat a looseness that’s uncommon in modern shooters, but also means it’s a struggle to get the best out of the weapons. It’s only really with the boss battles that you get to use the Gatlian abilities with a real sense of purpose… but then you’re sometimes contending with bullet hell mechanics that can be a real struggle to dodge past while aiming.

From the incessantly babbling characters, to the high school crudity and the way that a joke is wrung for every single morsel of comedy it’s possibly worth, it’s impossible not to immediately recognise Justin Roiland’s creative style. Sure, there’s different characters, we’re on different worlds, but show five minutes of this to anyone and they’ll go “Oh, it’s like Rick and Morty?”

High on Life makes a good effort to send up video game tropes and how people play games – your gun might comment on how you’re just sprinting past NPCs, there’s some light fourth wall breaking, and so on – but that’s just part of the spaghetti of comedy that the game throws against the wall. A lot of it does not stick.

Jokes run on and on and on to the point they become actively annoying, and it’s these that really stick in the mind. Like the floating alien that follows you around for a 5-10 minute stretch and simply does not stop talking – just because your gun comments on how annoying that alien was doesn’t make it funny or any less obnoxious. Or there’s the kid that blocks your way until you shoot him, and then your gun calls you sick and twisted, and you immediately meet his mum who’s apparently told him not to block people, but actually he was 30… but that’s adolescent for this species…. but actually…

High on Life Slums Shotgun Gatlian

I just became numb to a lot of it after a while, tuning out the blathering and just getting on with the game – characters will call after you as leave, but I wasn’t about to turn back around. There’s options to reduce the amount of chatter, which might help a little here, but I personally feel that Roiland’s style of writing and improvisational comedy lends itself better to the shorter, sharper 20 minutes of a Rick and Morty episode.

And that’s pretty much all you need to know for whether or not to play High on Life. If you like a slightly old school shooter and love Rick and Morty, then it will be right up your alley. If you only like one or the other, then it’s worth a try on Game Pass. If you like neither? Then absolutely do not play this game.

High on Life is a conflicted game. On the one hand it's a solid shooter that often feels like more than the sum of its parts, and comes with an engaging art style and ideas, but the sense of humour is just so subjective that it's hard to recommend to anyone that isn't a die hard Rick and Morty fan.
  • Great visual style and an inventive concept
  • Solid combat the evolves with each gun and ability
  • The writing and dialogue will be like marmite
  • Combat is fairly limited
  • A little buggy and crashed a few times
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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!

1 Comment

  1. I’ve never seen Rick and Morty, but I watched some gameplay of it on YouTube and was in stitches. Hilarious stuff!

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