High On Life is one of those rare video games that we get every once in a while. Where a new developer tries their hand at making a Triple-A quality video game. Squanch Games is a studio that was established in 2016 with the expressed purpose of making comedic VR games. The reason I was interested in Squanch games is that the individual that headed the company was Justin Roiland. I value games that come from people outside of the gaming industry as that can often create some truly unique gaming experiences.
So when I heard they were going to make a fast-paced comedic first-person shooter I was confident that I was gonna give it a shot. For better or for worse this game has been an exciting experience that has been a huge success for the studio and Gamepass. High on Life has been the most successful third-party launch on the service and has truly exceeded the success of its previous titles. The question I want to answer today is whether High on Life is worth your time, so strap on your best space suit and enter the wacky world of Justin Roiland.
Mission 1: Induction to Insanity
The story of High on Life starts with the player character as you play a tutorial mission making fun of old boomer shooters like Doom and Quake. Once you finish this segment, you are interrupted by your sister as you choose your appearance. You find out planet earth is being invaded by alien drug lords. Through the confusion, you befriend a Gatlian called Kenny and escape the earth with your sister. Kenny is a Gatlian, an alien race of guns that fell victim to the same drug cartel that is attacking your planet.
You escape the Earth with your sister and Kenny to the hub world of the game, Blim City. After exploring the city, you meet Gene, a washed-up bounty hunter who you convince to give you his bounty hunter suit. In exchange, he now lives in your house and helps you take down the G3, the drug cartel. After killing a local boss in the underground, you set off on your quest to defeat the G3 and save your species from being literal drugs.
The game’s premise is very outlandish and dumb, but it facilitates the comedy, so it’s alright. The story is a light presence throughout the game, only really expanding after each bounty. It isn’t until the last few hours of the game that it starts to take its story seriously. More on that later.
Mission 2: Wacky Arsenal
A first-person shooter lives and dies on its selection of weapons. High On Life gives you access to four primary weapons and one melee weapon. In comedy game fashion, every gun in the game is a Gatlian, a sentient race of talking guns, and has its gimmick that makes them unique. Kenny is your basic pistol with a good shot that allows you to juggle enemies. Sweezy is a needler-type gun that will enable you to freeze time in a specific location. Gus is the game’s shotgun that can spew saw blades that you platform onto. Lastly, you have creatures who can shoot little gremlins that attack your enemies over time. Your melee weapon is Knifey which you can use to grapple on zip lines and grapple bees.
All of these guns are fully voice-acted and have their unique personalities. It’s impressive how much they talk and the facial animations that they portray at all times. I had fun with each weapon, but I do have some gripes with the weapons. Gus in the beginning only holds 3 bullets, and you can only raise it by a pitiful one. I also feel like its range and damage output are way too small. The creature has some puzzle utility, but fails way over-classed in combat compared to your other guns. By the time you get creative, you already have your guns modded and upgraded pretty heavily.
Overall, I think the weapon choices are fun and interesting, especially near the end when you have upgraded your guns fully. I think a long-range option would be neat, and some balancing with some of the games could have been better. Kenny is so reliable from mid and close range that there was little incentive to use Gus.
Mission 3: So Much Dialogue
The game has so much dialogue that there are sliders on the options menu to reduce the number of times people talk. Now, since this is a comedy game, there is much to like about the dialogue. The voice acting is great for everyone, and there are so many funny actors in this game. I was delighted to see Zach Hadel and Joel Haver in this game, as they are amazing comedians on Youtube. Justin Roiland voices Kenny, your main gun throughout the game, and he sounds exactly like Morty. He stammers through his dialogue and makes awkward quips, which can be funny if you like that type of humor. He even has a pretty big range as he injects some drama later on in the story.
High On Life has almost as much dialogue as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which is impressive for a game this size. I will go on record on saying that I enjoyed most of the dialogue and jokes in this game, as it did elevate the overall experience and made me chuckle. The only caveat I give when recommending this game is that if you don’t like gross-out or childish humor, then this game is not for you. The way the guns are reloaded is very childish with one of the gives giving birth to his ammunition, I am not joking. Reference humor is abundant in this game, as well, since they do make fun of other games a lot.
Mission 4: Bounty Hunters Life
I brushed past this subject earlier in the review because this is where I wanted to talk about the mission design of the game’s story. The game is split up into two distinct gameplay sections. You can either explore Blim city, your hub world, or you can take part in one of the many bounty hunter contracts of the game. Each contract has you hunting a dangerous criminal that is part of the G3. You are given two contracts to choose from at any given time, which provides you with some freedom to pick which mission suits your fancy.
Each contract allows you to travel to new planets and meet the locals, which usually involves shooting bad guys. In High On Life, you are either engaging in big arena shooting encounters or you are playing one of the many gimmick mini-games. For example, one of the mission has you investigating where one of the G3 bosses are, and you have to activate detective mode. It’s a very tongue and cheek gimmick that makes fun of the detective mode in the batman games.
I enjoyed each of the planets in the game, as they had plenty of open space for you to maneuver and explore. The game even lets you explore them later in the game once you have access to more guns and movement abilities. It’s a natural way to entice the player into exploring the limited world that they created.
Mission 5: Bosses
The peak of the game’s combat has to be the numerous bosses you fight. Each boss has a great lead-up as you learn about their personality and the threat they pose. Most of the bosses are found in these giant arenas, where they give you grapple points to maneuver around. There were very few instances of me dying during these encounters, but they still had plenty of charm to make them enjoyable. My favorite boss encounter in the game has to be with Dr. Giblets, where he accidentally kills himself before the boss fight. This then transitions into an underground battle arena where he plays a recording of him coping with his death. It made me laugh so hard and was a well-handled joke boss.
Mission 6: No FOV Slider!
This has been burning through me ever since I started playing the game. Why is there no FOV slider in a first-person shooter in 2022? This is just annoying and unacceptable, especially since FOV sliders have become standard for PC gaming. The rest of the settings are pretty standard, letting remap your controller buttons, which is pretty neat. The ability to reduce enemy and gun chatter is a nice addition as well. It helps the people who enjoy the core gameplay but cannot stand the constant dialogue.
Mission 7: Collectible Galore
Collectibles are the main incentive to explore the game world. You can collect gun upgrades, collectible cards, and forum posts. Upgrade parts and cards are found in these treasure chests littered throughout the different planets in the game. Some chests are only accessible once you have certain guns and suit upgrades, so it requires you to come back later. When I played the game, I took the time to explore the game map and find all the different collectibles the game had to offer.
Mission 8: Performance
My biggest complaint about the game has to be the performance of the game on PC. My PC is no monster rig by any means, but there were times when the game would have inconsistent performance. I had to reduce the graphics and some of the extra graphical details. I even had it crash on me twice throughout the play through.
When playing the game for this review, I ran into some weird bugs. During the second boss fight of the game, the boss would randomly turn invisible. There were also long stretches where every time I died and respawned, the game would unequip all of my gun mods. Hopefully, some patches in the future may fix these issues. The Xbox Series X version is way more stable, and I would recommend you play it on Game Pass.
Mission 9: Endgame Content + Extras
I was also disappointed by the lack of endgame content. There is no new game+ option or even a hidden difficulty. The only thing keeping you from playing the game is finding the collectibles and buying all the upgrades. Not to say these are not fun to do, but I would have some end-game challenges to test my mettle. There is a possibility for DLC in the future since there is an empty spot on the menu where you select your bounty.
Before I forget, there is some other side content that is weird. When you are in your house, you can watch three different movies on the TV. No kidding, full movies are included as a weird extra to keep you playing the game. There are also warp discs you can get that allow you to engage in short little comedy bits. I don’t want to spoil them since they are pretty funny the first time you witness them, but they are a welcome addition to the game.
Game Over: The Results
High On Life is the most successful Third-party title on Game Pass. The gameplay is solid, with some good additions to the FPS format. The comedy can hit home if you enjoy Justin Roiland’s sense of humor. With a few missteps regarding game balance and an overabundance of dialogue, which doesn’t overshadow the fact that this game is worth your time. You should support Squanch Games, as they prove that creator-led video games can be successful in modern gaming.
High On Life is available on all current Xbox consoles and PC. The game is currently on Game Pass, so give it a shot.