This September the TechRaptor team talked with Justin Roiland at PAX West 2022, and one thing was clear: the man knows games. Normally you'd associate the mind behind Rick and Morty with television, but after playing High on Life, he can certainly hold his own in the video game sphere. Sure, Roiland's company Squanch Games has made a few other games, but there's no doubt High on Life is its most ambitious, and it seems it paid off to go big or go home.
High on Life is a comedic FPS where players take the role of a bounty hunter on an intergalactic mission to save Earth. Earth has been invaded by the nefarious G3 Cartel, a group of aliens with an army of goons and sadistic killers. Humans, as it so happens, are the hot new drug on the market (don't ask me how it works) and it's up to players to put a stop to this.
Running and Gunning with the Gatliens in High on Life
Don't get the wrong idea: gameplay is just as important as comedy in High on Life. As a first-person shooter, the main focus of this game is running and gunning around, traversing obstacles with light platforming, and taking down bosses with bounties on their heads. The gameplay loop is exceedingly simple but the depth starts to rear its head closer to the latter half of High on Life.
You'll start out with only a few pieces of equipment in High on Life, as you typically do in FPS games. Mainly, that's your bounty-hunting suit allowing the protagonist to survive shots from killer anthropomorphic ants and yellow goons with goopy slime armor. The first gun you start with is Kenny the Gatlian, a sentient alien that so happens to be a gun as well. Shooting globs of goo out of his "trick hole" launches enemies into the air and allows you to juggle them, but his main function is to act as your ol' reliable.
As you progress, you'll rescue new Gatlians and discover new components to your armor. You'll get a shotgun-like Gatlian, which functions as you probably expect. Things get a bit weirder with Creature, which launches his own children at enemies -- you'll just have to see for yourself. There's also Sweezy. Sweezy's inspiration is quite obvious and acts like a Needler from the Halo series, though her trickhole (along with all the other Gatlians) has a few tricks up their metaphorical sleeve. In essence, you have four weapons with an alt-fire mode and/or special ability.
The excellent synergy of High on Life's weapons becomes evident once you've gained all of them, though it takes time to get the ball rolling. For example, Sweezy shoots an orb that slows down time in an area. You can then switch to your shotgun, Gus, which sucks enemies in so his short-range burst can be more effective. He also shoots saw blades that bounce around enemies. Again, switching between weapons is the key to fun, since the chaos you create can really tear through enemies. There are even upgrades that adjust the way Gatlian's abilities behave, so there's a decent amount of possibilities.
The gameplay can be a little too simple and perhaps bland even during the first few missions since you're not at your full combat capability. The same goes for your suit, which will get upgrades like magnetic boots to walk on metal surfaces, and there's a jetpack, too. Again, since these upgrades take some time to gather up, later gameplay is more exciting than the opening hours. Though I can't say the gunplay isn't satisfying once the ensemble comes together, and I also have to commend Squanch Games for creating some well-thought arenas and environments to fight the G3 goons in. These areas are made to take advantage of your movement-based abilities like the aforementioned jetpack and boots. Knifey, your sentient knife, can latch onto obstacles and swing you around too. It's fun to avoid attacks and zip around while switching between weapons, utilizing all their abilities have to offer.
Enemy variety remains largely the same throughout, and this is not necessarily to High on Life's benefit. Some combat encounters (again, especially early on) lack excitement since you're shooting the same one or two types of enemies. There's only a handful of additional enemies introduced throughout the duration of High on Life, so the strategy for each combat encounter doesn't permeate much.
The Importance of Comedy and Delivery in High on Life
Rarely does a game make me audibly laugh, but High on Life certainly delivers on its promise to provide hilarity. Now, of course, Roiland's brand of humor is not for everyone and I wouldn't be surprised if it's jarring for a lot of players. Even still, there are plenty of unexpected surprises and absolutely ridiculous bits of writing. With jokes shooting off left and right almost constantly, some are bound to miss but many of them will assuredly hit as well. I can boldly say it's pretty much impossible not to laugh at High on Life.
Of course, comedy is all about delivery. High on Life pulls out the big guns for its cast -- pun definitely intended. You have Justin Roiland in the role of Kenny, with J.B. Smoove, Tim Robinson, Laura Silverman, Betsy Sodaro, and Dave Herman comprising most of the main roles. Even if these names mean nothing to you, there's a high probability you've heard or seen them in something else. I cannot emphasize enough, though, that the performance of the voice actors takes things to the next level. It's nothing different from the quality you'd expect from your favorite animated cartoon or movie. Once the whole ensemble is together, their banter is unmatched and I only wish we had more story moments with all four involved.
Supporting cast members for various random characters you meet and interact with are equally superb. I've noticed with Roiland's comedy, there's a lot of stuttering. It's on purpose, in order to create awkward characters and moments and get a laugh from the audience. A lot of these random characters are just so freakin' weird, and that's in part due to the strange but hilarious delivery of lines.
The world of High on Life complements its wacky and outlandish characters. Visually, this is a vibrant and cartoonish world that resembles Roiland's signature style but holds its own. The environments are bustling with a staggering amount of detail, from lush, alien jungles to a Wild West-like shanty town. Those with a keen eye are likely to find some funny bits here and there. Posters hanging on the walls of a city in High on Life are a trip to read. Do yourself a favor and explore a bit. These richly detailed environments beg to be seen.
High on Life Review | Final Thoughts
My experience with High on Life had ups and downs. The gameplay was mostly a fun experience and the comedy certainly added a great deal of enjoyment. On a technical level, High on Life was quite buggy. I experienced a crash in one instance and another writer at TechRaptor had at least three. Performance on a PC exceeding the recommended system requirements yielded a rocky experience, to say the least. Not to mention, the entire game had this sort of blurry look to it, making it hard to see enemies and environmental details in the distance. I speak in the past tense, however, as I have confirmation of a Day One patch fixing many problems. With that in mind, I'm excited for players to get their hands on a more polished experience, and I'm definitely ready to go back and poke around for collectibles and more.
Performance aside, I'm still hoping to see some extra options to tweak graphics in High on Life. The most notable exclusion is the lack of FOV slider, which should be a must-have for FPS games. Another inclusion would be to set my frame rate limit. That would have minimized the visual severity of frame drops throughout, but as of right now there's only an ability to enable V-sync. Besides that, this game is begging for DLSS support, though I can't imagine the difficulty of implementing such a request and I will not discredit the game for its exclusion. Even still, I'm a big proponent of this feature, and given that the recommended specs ask for an RTX 2060, it's not out of the realm of possibility.
Let's be real for a second: High on Life isn't reinventing the wheel. To the game's credit, it's difficult to do something in the FPS genre we've never seen before. Though, I am confident in High on Life's ability to provide players with a good time. You are guaranteed to laugh and have fun. If that's not the purpose of video games, then I don't know what is/
TechRaptor reviewed High on Life on Steam using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
- Having Full Arsenal Makes for Exciting Gunplay
- Genuinely Surprising Moments
- Lots of Great Comedic Moments
- Great Voice Performances
- Enemy Variety Leaves Room for Improvement
- Takes a Bit to See the Full Potential of Gunplay
- Lacking Some Graphical Options