Announced during the Xbox and Bethesda games conference in June 2022, “High on Life” took me by surprise with its colorful visuals, hilarious tone and complete originality, it quickly became my favorite game of the show. Initially planned for an October release, the game came out on December 13th for the Xbox and PC platforms and also as a day-one addition to the Xbox and PC game pass. Developed by Squanch Games, “High on Life” comes to us from the mind of Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty, also known for his previous and equally hilarious game, “Trover Saves The Universe.”
Now, I’ll be totally honest here and say that I haven’t seen a single episode of Rick and Morty, but I have played “Trover Saves The Universe,” and what I learned from that game is that Justin Roiland’s brand of comedy is right up my alley. “High On Life” is their first AAA game, or, in Justin’s words, “Triple I” game, and takes the form of a first-person shooter. When I saw the trailer, I was sold within the first 15 seconds because the art style immediately spoke to me, and when I saw that the gun was talking, yes, you heard that right, the guns talk here—I was instantly hooked into whatever this game was. “High On Life” is a funny name, isn’t it? Well, I can assure you one thing, the developers were definitely high on something when they were making this game.
Let’s talk about the basic plot here for a second before we move on to other sections and understand what makes this game worth playing, as there’s no need to dedicate an entire section to the premise or plot here.
You play as a silent protagonist who is fresh out of college and enjoying an everyday afternoon with your sister Lizzie when an alien cartel by the name of G-3 invades the Earth. They wish to harvest humans and turn them into drugs to sell across the cosmos—who knew we were so potent? You come across an alien species known as the Galatians, which are a species of sentient talking guns, for lack of a better word, and one of them, named Kenny, joins you. From there, you venture into the depths of the cosmos, exploring different planets and taking bounties on a mission to stop the cartel and become the most renowned and feared bounty hunter across the universe. Kenny shares this “ambition” of yours and joins you, as he also wishes to find other members of his race and help you put an end to this drug-dealing cartel. That’s it. That’s the plot of “High On Life.” A simple tale lacking any emotional drama or turning you into a hero who saves the universe. The writing and presentation here are hilarious from beginning to end, and because the game is aware that it’s a video game, it never takes itself seriously. I loved every second of this game, through and through. Let’s discuss the game further without spoiling all the fun and take a look at its different facets to see what makes it worth playing. Spoiler alert, this may not be for you, but you should definitely check it out, especially if you are a Game Pass member.
‘High On Life’ Gameplay
As previously mentioned, the game is a first-person shooter, and I wasn’t expecting it to be a fast one. It may look basic and generic on the surface, and to a degree, it is, but it’s gameplay is incredibly fun and fast, and with how generously the game delivers its humor, it’s a fun ride all the way. Your gun talks to you and for you, always; they don’t shut up no matter what and have something to say for just about everything. They’ll berate you for not knowing which button to press to shoot and ask you if this is your first game. You pause the game, and they’ll swear at you, calling you names and asking you not to pause it in the middle of the action. In combat, they’ll encourage or discourage you based on how well you are performing, and so on. Basically, they won’t keep quiet, and if you are not into that, you can go into the settings and tweak how much you want your guns to talk, but in reality, why would you take away the charm of the game by doing so?
The shooting itself is very satisfying, despite the gameplay being a bit dated and throws hordes of enemies at you from all directions instead of challenging you with variety. The guns themselves can be upgraded alongside your suit and come packed with alternative fire modes and so on. Kenny, for instance, can shoot a lob shot that launches an enemy into the air, letting you juggle them, while Gus can shoot a disc that bounces off surfaces. Every gun, or Galatian, in this case, looks, sounds, and plays uniquely but is of a certain archetype, with Kenny being the pistol, Gus being the shotgun, Sweezy being the SMG, and so on. Their alternate fire modes, in combination with the upgrades you can acquire for them or your suit, add a ton of variety to the combat despite it being quite formulaic and repetitive. They can also be customized a bit by giving them new colors that suit your style, which is a nice addition.
Each Galatian has its own personality, but I want to give a special mention to one of them to summarize the kind of humor this game is going for and how truly funny it is despite being crass and very juvenile. You’ll meet and acquire Knifey soon in your journey, and as the name suggests, he’s a knife, and boy, is he unhinged and has a bunch of screws loose. Knifey is—I don’t even know how to describe him properly—a knife that has a never-ending hunger and lust for stabbing people. He constantly spouts some of the most obscene things I have ever heard in my life and wants you to stab people in a variety of places, most of which I can’t even talk about here, in grotesque and horrendous ways. His lust for murder is never satisfied; he always wants more and more and more, and he will nip at your ears constantly with the pottiest of mouths. He also helps you with traversal by acting like a whip that you can use to swing yourself across gaps or pull enemies close to you. As crass, crazy, and cooky as Knifey is, I swear he sums up the entirety of this game when it comes to the tone and the humor they were going for, and I absolutely love this fella. Knifey is my spirit animal.
Finally, let’s talk about the gameplay loop a bit. There’s a story you follow that asks you to pick up bounties from across the different planets and go eliminate your targets to stop the cartel. The bounties themselves are boss battles, where each boss has a unique and pleasing design accompanied by their own humorous quips that they throw at you mid-fight. The boss battles are serviceable at the best despite the uniqueness of them all because bosses essentially act as giant bullet sponges that you shoot over and over till their health goes down to zero, with some minor mechanics sprinkled in. Despite that, the banter your guns and bosses have mid-fight, with them talking smack and your guns retorting, keeps the fights entertaining throughout. The worlds you explore are designed to be somewhat like metroidvanias, with hidden paths and areas you can access only after getting certain upgrades. While the game is not open-world, the worlds themselves can be explored at your leisure, and you find chests hidden across the landscapes. The worlds are beautiful, every last one of them, and they pack tons of personality and charm with the vistas and the characters that inhabit said worlds. The self-aware nature of the game also helps here; for instance, you’ll come across a kid who’ll block your path and is really annoying and taunts you that you can’t kill him since it’s a video game. If you pull the trigger, your gun even mentions how killing kids is wrong and how they’ll lose their rating if they do so. Once you kill the kid, you find his mother later, and she tells you that he was a fully grown man who annoyed everyone by acting like a kid, and this day was sure to come sooner or later. I don’t have the words to describe how much this game made me laugh across the board with stupid stuff like this sprinkled all over. You can even watch full-length movies and ads across the world that Justin Roiland made specifically for this game. That’s some serious dedication.
All in all, “High On Life” is a first-person action shooter with fast-paced gameplay that acts like a platformer or Metroidvania with crazy fun humor and the game is incredibly fun to play.
The Technical Stuff
Technically, the game is very solid and runs at 4K resolution at 60 fps on the Xbox Series X, and I encountered no major bugs or glitches that hindered my experience. The game is very well made, knows what it is, and does its job wonderfully.
The sound and voice department deserves special praise for how well the voice acting is done and how much of it there is. The cast is full of talented comedians like Justin Roiland and JB Smoove, among many others. The sounds themselves are mixed well and feel authentic despite everything being completely alien, and the music is a blend of weird techno-alien jazz mixed with electronic. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe, but the music here is fantastic and fits the world perfectly.
The art here is also amazing, with colorful and vibrant vistas, and everything looks like it was made out of clay. The look they went for is as cute as it’s weird as it’s convincing when imagining a cartoony alien world. Nothing looks or feels out of place, and though it’s not a “next-gen” game, it’s a very beautiful game.
“High On Life” looks, sounds, and plays just as it was intended to, and the game exudes confidence in every department, be it writing, visuals, or performance. A solid package throughout.
I have not played a game that is this self-aware and hilarious since “Sunset Overdrive” came out for the Xbox One all the way back in 2014. “High On Life” goes a few steps further from that game and cements its identity as a game to be remembered. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a sequel out of it; they did self-consciously sequel-bait us at the end. In my opinion, everything just works for this game. From the plot to the very original setting and concept, despite being a first-person shooter under the hood, to its crass and genuinely hilarious humor, this game is a work of art, a very juvenile one but art nonetheless. I will not forget how much this game made me laugh for years to come and how much fun I had playing it. It’s not for everyone, and yet everyone should give it a shot, especially if you want to play a good comedy and laugh your tail off while doing so. I’d recommend you check out “High on Life” at the very least, especially if you are a Game Pass member, in which case you have no excuses. In an era of battle royales and games constantly trying to copy each other in order to make more money in an already saturated market, indie games and games like “High On Life” push the industry forward and show the players that innovation isn’t dead and that there’s always something new and unique coming out. I loved this game, and despite its deceiving appearance, it’s not a game for children and should be kept away from them; everyone else though? Go and play this game; you won’t be disappointed.