Being conceived by Justin Roiland, the High on Life and Rick & Morty comparisons are inescapable. Also, the gun sounds exactly like Morty, so that doesn’t help. However, after a hands-on preview at Gamescom, it’s clear the project has real potential in its own right and could give Roiland his first big win in a video game after the success of his shows.
Developed by Squanch Games, High on Life remembers that it is first and foremost a video game. Some comedy games forget this and instead let the mechanics take a backseat, just as another vehicle for jokes. High on Life is the opposite of this. His humor is at the service of the gameplay, telling jokes that could only work in this format, and can only be found if you take the time to explore his world. At its best, it feels like more than just watching an episode of Rick & Morty, giving you a silly landscape to run around in and film stuff.
You play as a bounty hunter, fighting aliens who use humans as drugs. In the demo, we were able to explore the state of an invaded Earth, and as you might expect from Justin Roiland’s creation, it’s a multi-colored mess. In the best way, mind. Despite not having that much time with the game, exploring the hub area was compelling. In every nook and cranny, there was a gag or just something fun to find. Even if a joke didn’t work, it all added up to a world that felt alive, and nothing helps with this more than its characters. For the most part, they were a lot of fun to chat with, but there were a few instances of “I just swore a lot. Laugh”, which we could definitely do with a lot less. But like the game itself, which will apparently take around ten hours to complete, this didn’t take too long.
Yet it’s this overbearing, even old-fashioned kind of humor that High on Life has to somehow make work. We live in a post Pickle Rick world, where if your jokes are too stupid, you’re embarrassed. To some, High on Life has already failed this test, with its dialogue criticized for being too Wubba Lubba Dub Dub and even a bit Deadpool-y (derogatory). You have to Really make sure you’re not burned out by Rick & Morty’s vicious grip on pop culture to have a laugh here from time to time.
There are a few times where High on Life seems like it’s also apologizing for itself with its self-consciousness, but it shines when it pretends the audience’s cynicism isn’t there. I loved the part where you try to shoot a kid, only to get scolded by your gun. And when enemies complain about how easy it was to kill them in the middle of battle. Taken out of context on Twitter, these lines might make you roll your eyes, but the stupid world you’re in makes it hard not to smile.
And even if you don’t, you’re not stuck with the Morty gun all the time. As Squanch Games told me, they have a lot of other voice actors lined up, playing with all the other weapons you’ll get throughout the game. I’m told there was a lot of improvisation in the cockpit as well, so hopefully there’s enough to mix things up and keep the game from relying too much on its “randomness”.
High on Life may be too late for most of its audiences, and it still hasn’t allayed my concerns that its barrage of Rick & Morty jokes is too much. But even with the writing aside, we’re left with solid gameplay, great attention to detail in the levels, and a star-studded lineup of other voice actors to deliver something new. And honestly? It’s not even that die of shame We are just burned out.
However, as fun as the combat is, this is first and foremost a comedy game. If any of the clips you’ve seen so far have made you want to unplug your PC and live in the woods, you’re unlikely to find much to help. But otherwise, this is shaping up to be a fun, short game in a wild setting with action that never stops for breath. We just have to wait and see if that works out in your favor or not.
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