First-person shooters, at least nowadays, are usually serious business. You play stoic space marines fighting hordes of demons across alien landscapes or non-space marines fighting hordes of enemy soldiers on scorched battlefields. They also tend to have rather scarce dialogue and thin storytelling. Squanch Games certainly seems to be bent on violently obliterating these tropes with High on Life.
The game has you play the role of a young human living in a future where our species is being used as a drug by an alien cartel (yes. Literally). If this premise isn’t absurd enough, we meet another alien who squats on our sister’s sofa and decides to train us in the ways of the bounty hunter to eventually save Earth.
If that wasn’t absurd enough (yes. Again), our primary means of fighting the threats we’ll have to face during our bounty hunting career are… talking weapons. The absurdity of the plot and its devices won’t surprise those who are aware of the nature of Squanch Games, since the studio is helmed by Justin Roiland of Rick & Morty fame.
Basically, the talking weapons exist to deliver an endless stream of Justin Roiland-style humor straight in your face (since this is a first-person shooter). If you’re familiar with Rick & Morty, you likely know what I mean.
Not only do these weapon talk, but they also have faces and beautifully animated expressions, and they’re hilarious.
While the level I played was basically a tutorial, and some of the talking was an explanation of the mechanics, I don’t expect the constant cascade of perfectly-delivered jokes to slow down as the story progresses, and this must be the most script-heavy FPS I’ve ever seen or played.
I can appreciate that the absurdity of Rick & Morty’s humor isn’t for everyone, but personally, I had to make a conscious effort not to laugh out loud at several points in the demo, considering that I wasn’t by myself in the room. Other journalists were playing all around me, and I definitely heard plenty of giggling, so I mustn’t have been the only one finding the game really funny.
Of course, you can expect things to be vulgar, gross, and to defy plenty of common sense boundaries. For instance, I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that many video games don’t allow you to kill children. This one has an annoying alien kid provoke you into shooting him dead ten minutes in.
It’s a hilariously grotesque scene that certainly will remind you of the many moments in which your weapons magically refused to shoot when aimed at certain characters in many other games, made even weirder by the fact that this time around your weapon is actually sentient, and is quite shocked by what you’ve done, you monster.
That being said, absurd comedy isn’t all that High on Life has up its sleeve. The gameplay I’ve tried felt solid as well. The shooting doesn’t aim for realism, but it feels strong and engaging enough, and it’s enriched by puzzle platforming elements and even some rather unique additions that fit the game’s weird premise.
For instance, a secondary shot mode lets you launch enemies in the air, and then you can juggle them beat ’em up style for additional damage (and giggles). On top of that, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the ultra-colorful visuals of High on Life look really, really good.
While High on Life may not be for everyone due to how its specific kind of humor pervades every moment, there is a high chance that if you enjoy Rick & Morty, you’ll have a blast with this game. We’ll have to see if the quality of both the comedy and the gameplay holds up for the whole game, but the demo certainly had my interest piqued.
High on Life will release on December 13, 2022, on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC