High on Life: Review
Comedy is one of the harder aspects to put across in a video game, especially when it comes to a shooter. It is by no means impossible, but there is a challenge in doing it right. If there is one company that has the pedigree to make it work, then it is Squanch Games and its connection to the goliath that is Rick and Morty.
For the most part, Squanch Games has stuck to primarily simple indie-style games, but they are changing that. The company recently released their latest endeavour and it is bigger than anything they have done before. High On Life is a universe-spanning, action-packed adventure that needs to be seen to be believed. We here at Robot Republic are ready to tell you if this is a trip you need to take or one that should be avoided.
High on Life places players in the role of the bounty hunter, at least eventually. In truth, you start as a lay-about lazy slob whose parents have left for a trip. Alone with your sister you plan out a potential week of parties and drugs, although the imminent alien invasion kind of puts a pin in that. G3, an evil alien crime family, have discovered that humans make the perfect recreational drug and plan to seize the means of production. The bounty hunter and his sister escape and must work with the Gatlians, a species of sentient guns, and an old retired bounty hunter to track down the members of the G3 and save the earth.
The plot of High on Life is reminiscent of many Sci-fi stories, but the unique twists added to the formula help to keep it interesting. Nothing in the plot drastically changes the way the universe works, but it is enough to keep the events in order and make the player feel like they are progressing. The characters are mostly quite good, especially with the Gatlians, your sister and gene. The relationships between all the characters are a strong point and progress in front of the player. However, not all aspects are as strong, especially when it comes to any potential lore or expanding more of the universe.
Unfortunately, the combat starts as one of the weakest parts of the game. Players will need to use their gatlians to fight against groups of enemies while also using the bounty suit to its full ability. Each of the Gatlians has a main fire method and a secondary fire. These range from shooting a disc that bounces off of enemies, to a bubble that freezes time within a small range. The bounty suit adds another aspect as it allows for fast dodges, and slides and even incorporates a jetpack and magnetic boots. Add in a living knife-tether that allows for swinging and an exuberant melee attack.
The issue is that the game takes a long time to reach the level where it all comes together. Players will start with only Kenny, the pistol like Gatlian, and will be using him until the second bounty is defeated. This means that, for at least the first hour, there is only one option to fight and the movement is limited. However, when it does all come together it works well and the feel and power of the weapons and movement are fantastic. The other issue has to do with the variety of enemies that the player will fight, and frankly, there isn’t much. The initial bounty will have the player fight ants, but after that, it is primarily the G3’s soldiers and they don’t change much until at least three-quarters of the way through the game. Thankfully the boss fights do offer some changes and they can be interesting, but they often all have the same solution with only the occasional environmental aspects adding some need to change the primary solution.
Now, there is one aspect that needs to be discussed and it is a difficult one to quantify. Humour and comedy are, for the most part, subjective and any game that wants to focus on comedy needs to aim to have some diversity to reach as much of the audience as possible. High on Life certainly works with its pedigree and the humour is very reminiscent of Rick and Morty, especially the use of apparently improvised dialogue. However, there is always the issue that repeated lines of dialogue will quickly become annoying, and they can do that, but you can minimise the amount of dialogue spoken in combat.
Visually High on Life is something of a mixed bag. The designs for the guns and the worlds are fantastic, with the Gatlians managing to appear as close to a possible sentient gun as is imaginable. The planets have a strong feeling of variety with each offering a different environment to fight in. however there is nowhere near the same amount of variety in the entities that live in the universe. Rick and Morty managed to show viewers numerous different alien races, but here there only appear to be three or four at most. The non-combat races all appear to be the same generic blob-like aliens with very little difference. It makes the universe feel empty and not quite reaching its potential.
High on Life has some rough edges and there are certainly some areas that could have been improved upon. However, there is something here that deserves some attention. As I stated, when it all comes together it makes the player feel powerful. The movement and the characters all help to add to the experience. If you enjoy seeing new developers try something and want to indulge in a game that does a lot right, this might be the one for you.
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