High on Life

High on Life

A genuinely funny video game, that unfortunately is no fun to play.

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It sounded like a lot of fun, when a sci-fi game with first-person action designed by Justin Roiland, one of the creators of the already cult Rick and Morty, was initially announced. What we saw beforehand hinted at a colourful and rather unique game with a talking gun, and I've actually been really keen to sink my teeth into the adventure. Something I finally got the chance to do a few days ago.

High on Life
The graphics and presentation are for the most part very charming.

To summarise the review, I have good and bad news, and I'll start with the former. The fact is that Roiland has managed to do something few others do, and that is to create a genuinely funny game. For some reason, the combination of games and humour rarely works well, but anyone who enjoys Roiland's other work will no doubt appreciate this one as well. In practice, that means some pretty clever and quick-witted humour combined with a lot of less politically correct elements and some drug-infused romance (the title also suggests this). Definitely not for everyone, but as I said, if you like Rick and Morty you'll find this enjoyable too. If you don't, you won't like this either. This easily gets a bit dudebro, but well written it undeniably is, and there's nothing quite like it in the gaming world.

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In the game's opening, aliens attack our beloved planet, whereupon our protagonist and his sister are transported away into space by a minor miracle to a city located somewhere in a far corner of the universe. Talking guns play a pivotal role and act largely as a fluffy narrator throughout the adventure, where we assume the role of bounty hunters and embark on a journey to try and make it back to Earth, becoming as powerful as possible with many new abilities along the way. All while bizarre things happen all around us.

High on LifeHigh on Life
The upgrade system is cool, but pretty useless.

A contributing factor to the humour is that the design is absolutely first class. The worlds are enjoyable to explore, varied and feel really well thought out. The animations are also great, and several times along the way I just stood and looked around. It makes it a joy to progress and there are always new bitter comments from our snappy guns to be made about what's happening on screen, often stuff that breaks the so-called fourth wall.

But then there is the bad news. And it concerns the gameplay itself. Because High on Life is not a good game. In fact, if it hadn't been so colourful and well-designed, I would even have called it a bad game. The problems are many but the worst is that the game controls are really mediocre. It's like I have syrup in my sights and I never feel like I have full control over what's happening. I don't demand that everything feels like Halo Infinite with millimetre precision, but in High on Life it's often so bad that I want to stop playing. It's also annoying that the level design isn't very good and it's hard to know where to go next, and it's not helped by the fact that the help function that's available, usually rather just baffles you.

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High on LifeHigh on Life
Boss fights are at the center of the game. It's too bad they are all terrible.

This is at its worst in battles in confined spaces such as boss fights. By the first battle I'm already throwing the controller at the wall in anger, not because it's particularly challenging, but because I'm expected to swing around with a duck-hook-like function without the game controller really allowing for it. This means I never really get control of what I'm doing, and when I do manage to do something, it's as much luck as skill.

Unfortunately, the various weapons available aren't very entertaining to use either, and the enemies I'm expected to fight are all of the stupid bullet sponge variety. Sure, they're well-designed and fun to look at, but there's no challenge, no distinctive behaviour that makes them stand out from each other, and mostly they just shoot wildly at me while I'm expected to do the same in return. The developers have tried to spice up the dish with combo systems and the like, but it all falls rather flat unfortunately as a result of the game controls being so poor that it's no fun trying to immerse yourself in the game system.

High on LifeHigh on Life
The hub world and the character's you'll encounter are easily the highlights of the game.

On top of this, the first-rate presentation is certainly not accompanied by a first-rate soundtrack. Quite the opposite. Several times while playing High on Life, I've reached for the remote to turn down the volume. The music is simply mostly annoying and monotonous, contributing to that urge to turn it all off that I feel so often during this adventure.

While the presentation and humour are consistently good (again, as long as you like Roiland's brand of humour, otherwise you'll really hate this), the playability is so weak that it doesn't help that there's a pretty decent system for upgrading, a pleasant hub world, and plenty of secrets to go around. To entertain whomever is holding the controller is always the single most important quality a game has, regardless of genre, and while High on Life does made me chuckle a little now and then, for the most part I felt nothing but frustration and boredom, unfortunately.</p>

04 Gamereactor UK
4 / 10
Typical Roiland humour. Beautiful presentation
Poor game controls. Lousy soundtrack. Horrible boss fights. Frustrating gameplay. Mostly boring.
overall score
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High on Life

REVIEW. Written by Jonas Mäki

A genuinely funny video game, that unfortunately is no fun to play.

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