It’s tempting to write off High on Life as a Justin Roiland-fueled comedic game where your opinion of it rests solely on whether or not his particular brand of comedy lands with you. And while that’s largely accurate, it glosses over High on Life being one of the best and most creative shooters released in 2022.
Let’s linger on that first point a little longer: High on Life is fundamentally a game by Justin Roiland. Its story and gameplay are steeped in his brand of off-color, absurdist, and self-referential (anti)humor. Roiland voices your sentient gun, so he’s always right there in your hand, providing a running commentary. Depending on your tolerance, that’s a pretty high barrier to entry. (It’s telling that there’s a setting where you can turn off his incidental dialogue.)
But, just past that, there’s a really creative game that scratches that first-person shooter itch in a year where shooters didn’t exactly stand out (with the exception of Metal: Hellsinger, which blended Doom-like mechanics with bespoke metal music to great effect, and Hyper Demon, which built on the agonizing, wonderful tension of Devil Daggers).
Much of High on Life’s creativity stems from its traversal options. Very early on, you’ll pick up Knifey, a homicidal and sentient knife. Knifey is your melee weapon, but he also serves as a grappling hook — much like the greatest thing that’s ever happened to the Halo series, the grappleshot. Picking up Knifey lets you ride zip lines and scale previously unscalable walls. Each of your guns — aliens called Gatlians — has a similar secondary use.
Your primary weapon, Kenny, has a “Glob Shot” that he shoots out of his “trick hole.” In combat, this acts like a grenade, but it also lets you knock down certain walls to create new paths. The shotgun-like Gus fires Disc Shots that shoot a giant Frisbee that ricochets around the level to damage enemies. Shoot them at certain walls, though, and they create platforms you can climb. The copyright-safe version of Halo’s Needler, Sweezy, fires a Time Bubble that slows time inside its shell — perfect for getting past spinning fan blades.
Add to those the Jetpack and Mag-Boots that let you climb metal walls, and navigating every world and area of High on Life becomes a genuinely satisfying action-puzzler shooter.
Regardless of how you feel about Justin Roiland’s humor, or how annoying you think his running commentary is, High on Life is a good game. It’s not perfect, mind you. We’ve run into glitches, clipping issues, and one game-breaking bug about eight hours in — something that doesn’t seem uncommon based on a quick search. Some of those bugs have already been addressed in a day-one patch, with more patches to follow, as a representative for Squanch Games told Polygon.
So, yes, High on Life is an imperfect game that really needs you to buy into Roiland’s Rick and Morty style of humor to embrace it completely. But if you can endure it, you’re in for a genuinely creative shooter. (That it’s on Xbox Game Pass for free makes that a lot easier.)