High On Life Review – A Galaxy of Gabby Guns

High On Life Review

The thing about Justin Roiland is, he’s a creator with vision. It’s a very specific, gooey, rambling vision, however. The upside is that you likely already know whether you’ll like High on Life, the latest release from Squanch Games. This is a distinctly ‘Justin Roiland’ type game, no doubt about it. Assuming you’ve overcome this first hurdle, welcome! We’ve got a lot to talk about. Let’s start with the writing.

Roiland writes dialogue like the script was left on the bus and we’re recording now, yes NOW, go, whatever you’ve got is fine. It feels genuine and extremely human, but it’s also a lot to absorb over a long period of time. Your weapons all have distinct personalities, namely several varieties of ‘chatty psychopath.’ You can turn down the chattiness level, but it’s sort of a central pillar, one of the big hooks of High on Life. Taking it away leaves you with a colorful, simplistic shooter that’s more icing than cake. The writing, divisive as it is, is an essential part of the experience.

Turns Out Knives Love Stabbing Things

Which isn’t to say that the writing is all bad, merely that certain elements of it start to wear on you. Things like background dialogue and flavor text make excellent additions to the larger world. I loved hearing a politician’s speech in the background about uhhhhh, dangerously horny senior citizens. I also enjoyed all the collectible cards, one of which is Frasier from Frasier. On the subject of quirky background noise, you can watch whole movies within the game. Feel like taking a break from your quest to sit through Tammy and The T-Rex? You can do that.

High on Life Review

There are other bits of quirky scaffolding that hold this game up. The visuals, for example. Every surface is drenched in vibrant colors. The characters are equally saturated, with a wild new wonder/horror accosting you at every turn. It’s a simple decision, but one that had me routinely impressed. The G3 goons, the standard cannon fodder for much of the game, are a lemon yellow. Your first gun is a hyper-toned gradient of blues and reds. The poisonous waters are radioactive green. It’s all just, nauseatingly delicious.

A Cavalcade of Incredible Colors

And let’s not forget about the guns. While the weapons look great and sound alive, they also feel rather unique. By which I mean gross. Which might be a good thing? Listen, I have strong opinions about gooey shots and biological attacks. ‘The gun that fires goo’ has a lot of potential, but you have to make sure it feels good to use. Somehow, certain guns in High on Life don’t quite do it for me. Maybe it’s the way they impact enemies. Perhaps it’s about recoil, or precision. Either way, I found combat to be a very mixed bag. On the other hand, if you’ve always wanted gooier, chattier guns, than this is the game for you.

High on Life Review

If the weapons don’t feel powerful enough, there are solutions in play. You can buy and apply various upgrades, for one thing. More ammunition, different shot qualities, greater strength – all of these can get you feeling more badass. On the other hand, the natural difficulty escalation ensures that this feeling never lasts. Much like your character, you’re meant to feel a bit overwhelmed most of the time. Which is fine, from a narrative perspective. You’re a single human fighting off hordes of fantastic monstrosities. It should feel a bit overwhelming! But the shooting can suffer as a result.

To be fair, not every weapon feels this way. Gus is pretty lethal at close range, for example. Meanwhile Creature (voice by Tim Robinson!) is both inventive and incredibly dangerous. His tiny, sentient children act as guided missiles, wreaking utter havoc on the battlefield. Though the pistols are pretty bogus, there are other highlights within the weapon roster. It’s merely a matter of finding them. My stance on goo shooters remains firm, though.

The Boss Fights Are A Blast

My misgivings about combat don’t extend to the boss fights. While the regular battles can feel a bit draining, the boss battles are downright invigorating. You’ve always got several paths forward, and your failures never feel undeserved. Plus, tools like the grappling hook and the shotgun feel iterative rather than abandoned. I always felt like every piece of my arsenal was potentially useful, so long as I could figure out how. The boss fights acted as a soothing balm, something to cure the pacing problems encountered elsewhere in the game. The numerous fetch quests and shopping activities threatened to wash out the combat highlights. Thankfully, they don’t make up too much of the overall runtime.

Finally, a quick hat-tip to the music. An electronic artist TOBACCO did the soundtrack, and it totally rules. It’s a blend of ambient electronic lo-fi noise that perfectly fits the setting. You get galactic vibes, but they’re the kind you find an old cassette tape. It creates a remarkable juxtaposition with High on Life’s insane dialogue. You can check out a couple of tracks here.

High on Life has a particular vibe, one that rewards patient exploration and persistence. The dialogue is a lot to handle, yes. And not every weapon is a winner. The wrong Gatlian can leave you both overwhelmed and unimpressed. But the look, the sound of this game is truly remarkable. This is an alien world that’s crammed full of curious details. The visuals are delicious, the soundtrack is mostly bangers, and the boss fights are well-crafted. Whatever problems I had with the pacing were (mostly) wiped away by that final challenge. It turns out a little spectacle goes a long way. If you can handle Justin Roiland’s unique sense of humor, you’ll want to check out High on Life.

***Played on Xbox Game Pass***

The Good

  • Beautiful graphics
  • Lots of clever writing
  • Cool boss fights

The Bad

  • Dialogue gets exhausting
  • Shooting sometimes feels flat
  • Occasional pacing problems