When I previewed High On Life at Gamescom earlier this year, I came away with a little skip in my step. Justin Roiland and Squanch Games might be on to a winner, I thought. The talking alien guns weren’t that irritating and the gun fights seemed solid! And it appealed to my juvenile sense of humor too. Poo and wee? Yeah, you’ll get a cheap chuckle from me. I understood then that it might not be for everyone, but hey, I can roll with that if the FPS bit is good.
Having now spent a few hours with the final game, I’ve concluded that my mind must have been chemically altered by the doner kebab I consumed the night before. You can switch off your gun’s verbal diarrhea through the in-game menu, but what you’ll find behind the brown curtain is a very unimaginative shooter. For a world so colorful and zaney, it’s a shame the FPS side can’t match it.
If you dislike Rick & Morty, you will despise High On Life. The game is a vessel for Justin Roiland’s humor to assault your senses for ten hours, like one time where you put on your new bounty hunter’s suit and malicious pop-ups invade your vision. “Widen your shoulders by 10 INCHES” and “Milfs in your area”, with the MILFs bit standing for “Malware Infecting Lots Of Files” (ha). Periodically, you’ll bump into bulbous aliens called Clumnugg or Burpywurpy and they’ll either swear lots, comment on how they’ve just shit themselves, or rag on the game’s mediocrity, as if drawing attention to it somehow makes said mediocrity fine – an intentional joke.
As someone who doesn’t mind Rick & Morty, there are times when High On Life does make me chuckle, and I appreciate the wider scope of you, a bounty hunter, zipping between these bizarre alien planets to carve the soft flesh off a partially melted ballsack. A great sense of adventure kicks in whenever you step through a portal to a dust-caked desert world filled with sand toads with spleens for tongues, or peer over a railing to see hover-cars soaring across a gray metropolis. It may be difficult to swat away the incessant buzz of your guns, but I genuinely believe the world is an exciting place to inhabit.
The problem with the guns is that they’re effectively grafted to your wrist, and they rarely stop yammering. Turn “Gun Chatter” off in the settings and it doesn’t make much of a difference. Your pistol Kenny might not comment when you’re reloading, but he’s still hardwired to interact with each story milestone of pitstop – of which there are many. The most grating are those with Gene, a haggard ex-bounty hunter octo-man who bickers with your sister, and these interactions are like nails scratching against a chalkboard repeatedly smashing into a knife scraping against a plate. Often, I zone out and browse TikTok on my phone during these moments. Yes, that truly cursed social media platform supersedes High On Life (go watch JJ Curry Reviews, though, they create true cinema).
But if you strip away all the swearing and blaring and it reveals an FPS that’s only mediocre at best. Despite Roiland and Co.’s capacity for dreaming up bustling Martian mega-cities and islands of gloop, you’re only ever really fending off the same handful of baddies as you warp between each planet. What’s most disappointing of all is your arsenal, which – besides one gun – is so eager to conform to beige FPS standards. Kenny is a laser pistol, there’s a shotgun, there’s a rip-off of Halo’s iconic Needler. Only one actually acts like a bizarre, extraterrestrial species, giving birth to ravenous blue babies that cling onto enemies and chomp them to death.
Each of your guns has an alternate fire that mixes things up a bit, I suppose. Like Kenny, whose Glob Shot sends enemies flying into the air so you can ‘juggle’ them with more shots. But really, you can only shoot them a couple of times in what’s a rather unsatisfying juggle. Mods can alter the ways your guns behave too, but these are all rather tame adjustments that focus on efficiency. I don’t care for efficiency and damage! Give me an irradiated bladder that hoses enemies down with boiling piss. Give me a girthy meat-truncheon which gorges on skin and burps out pools of acidic jello with every swing. Just give me something a bit spicier; we’re in an unhinged universe, no?
I’ve now reached the point where I sigh whenever the game expects me to fight. For an FPS, it’s not ideal when the thing you’re meant to do lots of becomes a slog. And it’s not ideal when everything that surrounds it also tires. A shame.