High On Life – Talking Heads Review

When I first turned on High On Life, I knew what I was getting into. I’m familiar with the work of not only Justin Roiland (Rick and Morty, Solar Opposites) but also his game studio Squanch Games (Trover Saves The Universe, Accounting+), so I had an idea of ​​the kind of comedy to come. my way. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was a 3D shooter with Metroidvania vibes that echoes some of the best games of my youth, and more importantly, does them justice.

High On Life tells the story of an anonymous protagonist, who is called “Bounty Hunter” by everyone, including his own sister, who fights against an alien drug cartel that has invaded Earth. The cartel wishes to round up every human on the planet and sell them as drugs, which can be consumed by other aliens via elaborate machines. Our bounty hunter hero is armed with Gatlians, a race of talking weapons, and each Gatlian possesses his own attacks and abilities. The concept is certainly very strange, but it’s a well-told story that kept me guessing until the very end.

Playing now: High in life All you need to know

At this point, it’s worth acknowledging that this is 100% a Justin Roiland project, complete with all the hallmarks of his comedic philosophy. Fast-paced monologues, fart jokes, fourth wall demolition, improvisations, black comedy – it’s all woven into the game’s narrative and presentation. If things like Rick and Morty, Trover Saves The Universe, or Solar Opposites aren’t your thing, this won’t be either. That being said, I have a very high tolerance for this kind of nonsense and found myself laughing throughout the 10 hour adventure.

I loved the fact that Squanch Games licensed four full-length B-movies for players to “enjoy” just because they could. Every time a clearly improvised voice actor laughed in the middle of a tirade, I laughed too. Referential humor always elicited a reaction from me, particularly mentions of other video games, like Kenny the pistol’s yelling endorsement of indie favorite Donut County.

There is a genuine charm in all of it. Sure, some of the gags don’t work, and the gun-in-my-hand ramblings can sometimes go on too long, but it’s clear from every attempt the dev team was having. fun getting high in life. I never knew what was going to happen as the scenes progressed, and that lack of predictability enhances the experience. Honestly, this rebellious approach is the only way certain jokes work, including, for example, an entire scene taking place in “Space Applebee’s,” complete with interruptions from the waiter while you order food.

However, Squanch Games also knows that this type of humor is not for everyone, and provides the option to tone down the jokes so that those who are annoyed by the constant chatter can still enjoy the game. I left my settings at “frequent” jokes and didn’t think it was too much; by comparison, I didn’t find the jokes nearly as egregious as the ones that earned Horizon: Forbidden West reviews earlier this year. This could be because the characters weren’t speaking out loud about the puzzles in front of me, which made the dialogue feel more natural for the setting.

Once you get past the nonsense and focus on the game itself, High On Life offers a solid 3D shooter experience that emulates the exploits of Samus Aran. Each of the different biomes I explored was chock full of secrets, from living chests filled with gold to random NPCs offering a quick quest or a short side quest. As the game progresses, vertical movement is introduced thanks to finding a jetpack, and that opens up the exploration even more.

These worlds are also large, and the game tries to counter them with a waypoint system that allows me to see which way my goal is and how far away it is. Sometimes the wires in this system get crossed, and hitting a waypoint somehow causes me to return to the waypoint I just came from, but more often than not, a simple tap of the D-Pad tells me the right direction. Waypoints also became something of a crutch in the later parts of the game, as not using them sometimes led to me traveling to the wrong part of the map and getting lost. It’s not a perfect system, but benchmarks are useful most of the time.

The Gatlians stand out from each other, both in their pranks and the way they are used in combat. Kenny is the resident pistol, Gus is a shotgun, Knifey is the… uh, knife, and Sweezy acts as Halo’s Needler. The most interesting of the weapons is the Creature, which acts as a sort of Pikmin device, launching small creatures at enemies to damage them over time. All four are powerful in combat, as they possess advantages over certain enemies and make it essential to switch weapons during a fight.

Each weapon has a second power that helps with travel and environmental puzzles, slowly opening up more of the world to me as I progress. Kenny fires blasts of thick slime that will hit designated obstacles and allow you to pass. Sweezy can fire a shot that slows down time in the area around where she lands, making her the perfect choice for getting past rapidly spinning fans that would otherwise deal damage. These special shots can also be used in a fight – Kenny’s slime shots will launch opponents into the air for extra hits, for example – giving me even more options.

Using the Gatlians in battle is a lot of fun, and the enemies I face fit perfectly with the weird and goofy aesthetic of the rest of the game. Each of the baddies is covered in some kind of yellow goo, the source of which I won’t reveal, and as you deal damage, the goo disappears, revealing their gray bodies underneath. While weird, it serves as an easy visual aid to tell how much damage you’ve done to a certain enemy, and also allows you to create your own weak points. If an enemy is hiding behind cover, but there is an exposed patch of gray skin on his arm, aim for that spot and the enemy will drop quickly. It’s a neat idea to show combat damage to enemies without giving them health bars or anything similar.

That being said, most of the enemies I encountered are dumb as rocks. He could run up to any of the normal grunts and shoot or melee kill them without taking much damage. There were times when I would get overwhelmed and have to retry a battle, but those were more due to my overzealousness than enemies tricking me.

Sure, some of the gags don’t work, and the gun-in-my-hand ramblings can sometimes go on too long, but it’s clear from every attempt the dev team was having. fun get high in life

The boss fights aren’t much better, as most of them come down to just shooting and dodging. Some of them shake things up a bit, either implementing the special shot from the Gatlian you’re about to rescue: Krubis shoots big discs that you can reflect back at him, which just happens to be Gus’s shotgun power. or give you multiple bosses to fight at once. In essence, though, it’s more of the same combat you get from soldiers, just with the bigger baddies.

While the overall combat is fun, what gets tedious is the duration of some skirmishes. Each encounter tends to play out in waves, with two or three sets of enemies leaving before the battle is over. Some of them go on much longer than that, to the point where Kenny the gun goes, “Oh my gosh, MORE?” And I feel exactly the same. These fights become a test of patience as much as a test of skill. Boss fights don’t have this problem for the most part, but some of them have their own problems – one fight in particular still makes me angry just thinking about how difficult it became in its final stage.

Ultimately, High On Life is, in its own weird way, a take on what a modern Metroid Prime game could be, through the lens of Justin Roiland’s comedic antics. There’s a similar feeling of exploration mixed with moments of fast-paced combat, only here, too, it’s full of expletive-laden banter and sometimes incoherent ramblings. The story, as offbeat as it is, is incredibly well told, with characters and moments that I’ll be referring to for a while. Even if you’re not a fan of the type of humor that High On Life presents, the play that’s here is worth the trip.

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