High On Life is the latest game from Justin Roiland’s studio Squanch Games, and takes everything they’ve learned from Accounting+ and Trover Saves the Universe to lofty new heights. Talking guns, alien cartels and a fresh out of school loser kid with zero ambitions who’s humanity’s only hope.
High On Life
Developer: Squanch Games
Platform: PC / XSX
MonsterVine was supplied with a PC code for review
Be sure to check out our interview with Justin Roiland from earlier this year
High on Life opens with humanity being assaulted by an intergalactic drug cartel known as G3, with their leader Garmantuous, who are kidnapping humanity to turn into hyperbongs that they can use to get high off of. It’s an incredibly silly setup that ends up working incredibly well, due in part to Squanch Games’ commitment to the game’s world. It feels lived in, and while every inch of it has a degree of absurdism to it, it all feels coherent to each other and not just random one-off gags. The game also features a standout cast of actors with folk like Zach Hadel, Tom Kenny and Michael Cusack just to name a few.
The stars of the game however are the talking guns (known as Galatians), four of which you’ll acquire that are voiced by Roiland, JB Smoove, Betsy Sodaro, and Tim Robinson. Each feels distinct from another (both in personality and function) and you’ll quickly find a favorite. These could have easily been gimmicks that quickly wear out their welcome, but instead they each have their own fully realized personality. I found myself particularly endeared to JB Smoove and Tim Robinson’s characters and found it difficult to decide who I wanted out at any particular moment because whoever you have out is the one who’s spitting jokes. Roiland’s gun is the only one who might chime in from the sidelines during particularly story heavy conversations, but that only happened once or twice; for the most part your experience with the game is mostly shaped by the gun you stick with the most and I can very much see folk replaying the game with other guns out to see what they say during particular moments.
High On Life is particularly ambitious, not just narratively but mechanically, compared to Squanch Games’ previous titles. This game is a full blown metroidvania in every sense of the word, with some surprisingly large worlds full of areas to stick your nose in and explore. From loot, to a silly little encounter, there’s usually something to find off the beaten path. You start your adventure in the game’s hub, Blim City, before you’re quickly thrown into a grimy undercity, a western desert town with heavy Tremors vibes, and a forest teeming with critters that need saving. It’s here where you’ll hunt down the various members of the G3 cartel as you work your way up to Garmantuous. The game does a pretty great job at setting up each bounty as you make your way to them as well, and the fights are pretty entertaining for the most part.
What probably surprised me most about the game was how smooth the combat was. It’s very easy to assume a game like this would’ve left combat as an afterthought, but as much effort was clearly put into it as was the story. Each of the four guns function differently from each other with your standard pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and a sort of “grenade launcher” that shoots out little carnivorous monsters that attack anything in sight (think the agents of doom from Ratchet & Clank). On top of that, each one has its own unique secondary function, and a third ability as well. The shotgun for example can suck up smaller enemies to bring them closer to your blast radius, while the machine gun functions similarly to Halo’s needler but instead you can cause the needles you fire into an enemy to explode with a well-timed melee attack. Each gun’s third ability also functions as a platforming ability as well, with the shotgun’s disc blades being useful for creating ledges to grapple up to for reaching higher areas for example. From the moment-to-moment shooting, to the platforming in-between, all of High On Life’s mechanics effortlessly flow into each other.
You’ll be able to upgrade your weapons as well, with upgrade boxes you’ll find hidden in levels or purchasable with the money you make from killing bounties at the pawn shop in Blim City. These vary from increased reload speed to more health for your little gremlins. On top of this, you can also acquire mods that can alter how a particular gun functions. One gave my gremlin cannon the ability to allow my little monstrosities to bring me back health anytime they ate an enemy (a particularly useful ability during some of the game’s more hectic fights), while another will make your pistol’s shots ricochet whenever you use it to air juggle an enemy.
Your fresh faced bounty hunter moves with some decent speed as well. You’ll quickly acquire a dash ability that’ll allow you to weave between enemy fire, and your trusty knife that also functions as a whip that you can use to grapple around arenas or platforming segments. It’s very easy to have written this game off because of its presentation, but I really can’t stress enough how much High On Life absolutely nails everything it’s going for.
The game is even littered with really silly extras to discover that were treated with as much effort as the rest of the game. There’s an “achievement” system that’s dressed up as a bounty hunter forum board. You can read posts from other bounty hunters, unlocking new replies by doing things like killing a certain amount of a particular enemy or getting enough knife kills, and each of these forum posters are given as much thought into their character as the main cast. Getting to read the latest replies I unlocked was always a treat, hoping to see what some of my favorite posters in the forum were going to chime in with next. High On Life even features four full length movies you can literally sit there and watch; some of which features commentary by members of Red Letter Media. Again, every aspect of this game was given full effort with their commitment to the game’s premise and it really shows.
The Final Word
High On Life is easily one of the funniest games I’ve played in a while and is a great game to close the year out with.
– MonsterVine Rating: 4.5 out of 5 – Great