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High on Life review - gaming Marmite

High on Life was never going to push the envelope, but fans of Justin Roiland will enjoy the senseless humour, arcade gunplay, and appealing visuals

High on Life review : Bounty Hunter holding Kenny Gatlian at an enemy

Our Verdict

High on Life won’t be for everyone. However, those who love Justin Roiland’s comedic style will find a game that offers humour and a silly narrative with arcade-like gameplay, sometimes to its detriment.

I’ll be honest straight away and say that I’m not the biggest Rick & Morty fan. I did enjoy the show’s first few seasons, but my interest waned after the release of the fourth season – its humour had run its course for me. I’ve been meaning to go back, but haven’t found the time, and it’s not something particularly high up on my to do list. That being said, High on Life feels like it offers better jokes and writing than Rick & Morty, for better or worse.

Let’s start with the story. You’re a teenager with very little life prospects living in the suburbs with your parents and sister. Shortly after the game opens, a group of aliens called the G3 Cartel, led by Garmantuous, land on Earth with the idea of turning humans into drugs. You find a talking gun – a Gatlian – called Kenny, who helps you warp your home away from Earth and to Blim City. Here, you find Gene, a low-life homeless bounty hunter who gives you his gear in exchange for your house if you die, and you go on a journey to kill the G3 Cartel.

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The plot comes off as serious, and it is, but the whole experience is given the Rick and Morty treatment, with a shocking amount of crude and cringey jokes sprinkled in there for good measure. That’s not to say they aren’t funny – High on Life has some hilarious moments that made me chuckle out loud – however, not every joke is fortunate enough to land.

These serious moments juxtaposed with downright absurd situations make for some very memorable moments within the story. One that stood out the most to me was when one of the Gatlians is telling us a secret that he has lived with for years, a cause of much trauma, while we sit at a Space Applebees. However, throughout his telling of the story, an Applebees employee keeps interrupting, as you order food and drinks for your stay.

Of course, the story and humour make up for much of High on Life’s antics, but the gameplay also hits some fairly great notes. Combat is shaken up throughout the game enough to see you through the runtime, without bringing anything too drastic to the table. It feels Halo-esque in nature, with drop-pods of aliens coming in, and a scaling of enemy grunts arriving in set orders and numbers. The gunplay, though, as expected, feels distinctly arcade-like – and that’s not a bad thing.

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Being able to pull off a combo of Trick Hole shots from your arsenal of Gatlians, while dodging around using a jetpack never tires me out. Even when the story’s pacing slows down in the middle, the comedy keeps it going, offering just enough of a reason to push on to the end.

That brings me to the design of the Gatlians themselves. Their specific abilities are always fun to mess around with, and their distinct personalities make them even more of a blast to play with. If you don’t use them for a period of time, they’ll insult you or thank you for going back to them, while making comments at killing anyone in your path. It’s a shame, however, that past the first two or so bounties, that Knifey doesn’t get much of a show outside of collecting DNA from dead bosses at the end of each mission.

Speaking of bounties, I do wish that the High on Life bosses were more experimental. You have some incredible Gatlians at your disposal, yet anything goes in these boss fights. It would be interesting to have to use Trick Holes against certain bosses or phases, just to spice up what is otherwise some basic battles. They aren’t terrible, they just never fully stretch you to your limits.

High on Life review - Nipulon boss fight introduction in High on Life

Thankfully, the thing that saves these fights overall are the design and performances of the enemies. They’re all usually pretty funny encounters – except for the odd forgettable one – with both the Gatlians and the G3 members going for the jugular in the banter department. Usually this comes from Kenny throwing insults and enemies, which fills the void between the sound of bullets and gunfire.

I played High on Life on PC, and while I’m aware of performance problems on the Xbox Series X, I can say that my experience with the game was great. I had some minor bugs, but my frame rates were steady, and my loading speeds – even from a hard drive – were fairly quick. This is probably helped by the fact that High on Life doesn’t push for new heights when it comes down to graphics, instead sticking to a stylised and cartoon-ish looking universe. Everything from the strange and phallic looking aliens or objects, to the beautiful neon lights in Blim City are perfectly designed to match the aesthetic, and I’m all for it.

In short, High on Life is the gaming equivalent of Marmite. It does what it says on the tin, and if you like the Rick and Morty-style humour, then you’ll love the game. If you don’t, then you might struggle. It doesn’t innovate and it occasionally falls short in places, but it’s still bloody good fun to play.

And if that isn’t enough to stop Roiland calling The Loadout out in his next game, I don’t know what will.