Questionable Comedy Undermines High on Life’s Solid Gameplay

High on Life is the latest game from developer Squanch Games, a studio you might know for titles like Trover Saves the Universe or Accounting, but you’d probably know it better as the game studio that Rick and Morty creator, Justin Roiland created. High on Life is a surprisingly competent puzzle-platforming first-person shooter that just so happens to be mired in some of the most divisive, hit-or-miss comedy I’ve ever seen.

High on Life is a first-person shooter blended with a Metriodvania that places you in the bounty hunting shoes of a human who manages to escape an alien invasion of Earth thanks to the help of constantly chattering alien pistol that you find during the attack. Your whole house becomes your spaceship as you’re transported across the galaxy to the city of Blim, where you set out on your quest to hunt down and kill those who invaded your home.

I’m not a fan of Rick and Morty, which isn’t to say I hate the show or anything, I just don’t like it enough to want to watch it. It’s fine. But with my limited knowledge of the show, it’s already clear that a 22 minute episode is a much better platform for Roiland’s humor than a 15 hour video game. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the chatter coming from the NPC’s quickly devolves into expletive-laden ramblings about jerking off.

To use my favorite idiom, High on Life throws a lot of spaghetti at the wall, except in this case the spaghetti is jokes and you’re the wall. While I’ve found most of it doesn’t stick, some of the jokes land, eliciting a chuckle or chortle here and there. But a lot of it hasn’t really connected with me, because Roiland’s sense of humor involves making a joke at you and then continuing that joke for way longer than it needs to go on for until you feel uncomfortable, almost as if the joke says, “certainly I’m funny now, right?”

The humor being so divisive really undermines the fact that there’s a pretty decent game being underneath it all. The gun play, while nothing special, is serviceable and satisfying, with more weapons and upgrades being layered in at a steady pace. High on Life offers players a good amount of variety in how they can dispatch enemies by giving them weapons that have multiple functionalities. For instance, the second weapon you unlock, Gus, operates as a standard shotgun, but when you aim down sights it sucks in enemies like some murderous vacuum, making it perfect for dealing with scurrying or flying enemies. It also has another ability to shoot out saw blades that both act as platforms for you to climb to, but as normal saw blades that’ll cut dudes down.

The two main issues with High on Life stem from its rough humor and slow building introductory sequence. It makes a bad first impression from a gameplay perspective because of how limited you are in your abilities. It takes maybe about an hour or so to unlock a melee attack and grappling hook, which doesn’t sound bad until you realize that most of that hour is spent listening to Roiland’s cast of characters do comedy at you, cursing and making dick jokes the whole time. That first hour really tested my patience with this game, but now that I have more options at my disposal, things are getting slightly more tolerable.

One thing I can say for sure is that everything in the game, not just the talking weapons, talk way too much. I get that Roiland’s thing is making very long running gags, but everything in this game is just far too verbose for their own good. Every conversation is infinitely longer than it needs to be, which is a problem when everything has something to say at you.

Game Pass is the best place for a game like High on Life to launch, because your enjoyment of it will hinge on whether you’re either into or can tolerate the humor enough to trudge forward. While decent already, I imagine the gameplay can only improve the further I progress thanks to additional weapon and ability unlocks, but I’m really curious to see how the humor holds up over time. I hope it gets better, but judging by how things are right now, it probably will go the other way. It’s kind of like watching a train wreck that you just can’t look away from, except the train is constantly saying “fuck” and is shaped like a ding dong.

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