The newest game from developers Squanch Games, founded by the Rick & Morty co-creator Justin Roiland, is certainly not for everybody. From the brightly colored worlds that the game lets you play around in, to the constantly talking guns that will inevitably annoy some players, High on Life’s gameplay seems like it is made to divide players’ minds.
As someone who grew up in the 2000s, early YouTube humor is something that I hold near and dear to my heart. If that type of random, weird, and almost “inside joke-ish” humor isn’t your cup of tea, then stay far away from High on Life as the only thing that you’ll probably take away from it is a terrible migraine. If you’re like me, however, then High on Life will surely leave you cackling away at all of its humor and references that seem perfectly sprinkled throughout the game.
Even I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of Roiland’s work. I used to religiously watch Rick and Morty throughout the first three seasons and even played through the first Squanch Game, Accounting+, which I thought was a short, but fun time for what it was trying to be. High on Life, however, seemed to have sparked a newfound appreciation in me for Roiland’s work and humor, which I’m sure will stay with me for a while.
An Unmistakably Roiland-esque Story and Cast
The story of High on Life can really be completely understood by just reading the title. An alien cartel, known as the G3, invades Earth to abduct all the humans in order to use them like drugs and get high off of them, hence the title. You play as a kid fresh out of high school who during the invasion, stumbles across a talking alien gun named Kenny (voiced by non-other than Roiland himself) which you use to hunt and eliminate high-value members of the G3 in order to save your home planet.
Your cocaine-using sister, Lizzie (Laura Silverman) survives the G3 invasion, which means she accompanies you on your adventure across the galaxy along with a washed-up bounty hunter by the name of Gene (Dave Herman) who does little more than pleasure himself on your virtual couch and tells you which members of the G3 to kill. Along with the supporting characters that don’t follow you on your adventures, there’s also your arsenal that you slowly add to throughout your adventure. Along with the aforementioned Kenny that you receive almost immediately, you soon acquire Gus (JB Smoove), a shotgun that can shoot a giant razor disk that shreds through enemies, Sweezy (Betsy Sodaro), the only openly female weapon in the game who works similarly to the needler in the Halo games, and Creature (Tim Robinson), who uses his offspring as ammunition that can be used to control the minds of your enemies. You do get one more BFG-like weapon at the start of the game’s final level, but it is best if you know as little about that until you stumble across them yourself, or through recent TikTok memes.
Each of the weapons have their own strengths and weaknesses, and I noticed myself switching through weapons and performing combos with their abilities like I was playing DOOM Eternal. Even though the gunplay is clearly not as complex as DOOM’s, you can still clearly see the inspiration shining through, but it feels infinitely more accessible thanks to its low number of weaponry.
There are probably thousands of voice lines that I didn’t hear throughout my playthrough. Depending on which weapon you are holding, the dialogue that you hear in your gameplay can be so much different than mine. This seemingly unlimited amount of dialogue options that can be heard makes this infinitely replayable. I even found myself reloading to the last checkpoint and switching out which gun I was holding in order to see what other hilarious dialogue the game would throw at me.
Another thing that made me load to the last checkpoint was the number of glitches that I encountered during my playthrough. Thankfully none of which were game-breaking, but the fact that some doors just wouldn’t open or some boss's dead bodies clipped through the wall, making it so I can’t advance without reloading was slightly frustrating. Thankfully, however, the game's checkpoints are very close to one another, making it so I wasn’t forced to go back far at all. But that certainly doesn’t excuse the glitches’ presence.
The game doesn’t beg for your wallet
The main complaint that I have with this game is its length. For about 7–8 hours worth of story (10-11 if you're going for 100%) charging full price seems to be quite the stretch. However, if you are one of the many with Xbox Game Pass, then thankfully you don’t have to do anything except hit the download button and wait.
There is clearly so much more content here than any of the other games created by these developers, but I don’t know if I can justify spending that much money on a game that can be beaten in a single day, especially with its lack of content other than the main story. If you own Game Pass, then I think giving this game a chance is a no-brainer. If you love Justin Roiland’s over-the-top and eccentric comedy, then you’ll certainly find no problem loving this game the same as I. If you don’t, then that’s okay, there’s a plethora of other great FPS games out now like the latest Call of Duty offering, or a sleeper hit from the past year Metal: Hellsinger.
Looking past the easily patchable glitches and questionable price tag, High on Life is a refreshing take on the first-person shooter genre, and I really hope that Roiland and the rest of the Squanch Games team continue to play with this genre and give in to the sequel bait that lies at the secret ending of this game.
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Contact Conor Butler with comments or questions @cmbutlerbsu.edu .