High on Life (Review)

The most recent case of a game whose public opinion differs greatly to those of reviewers has been Squanch Games’ High on Life which despite reviews painting it on a less positive light has been one of the biggest releases on Xbox Game Pass EVER. I’ve been playing it for a while now and I’m definitely leaning on the public opinion side – it’s great fun.

High on Life casts you as a sibling of a family who bears witness to an alien invasion of Earth who through luck escapes and soon finds themselves working as a galactic bounty hunter as you try to save the human race from being turned into a drug (hence the game’s title). Playing as a first person shooter with a few Metroidvania elements you find yourself travelling to different locations to clear out enemies and take down a number of bosses to help advance through the story. To help you on your quest are the Gatlians – living guns whose chatter fills in the gaps for your silent protagonist.

Gameplay focuses mainly on a combination of combat and traversal. The combat aspects are driven by the weapons you have at your disposal as each Gatlians has specific abilities that are useful in certain situations. The traversal is necessary in being able to find your way around a location and take out the bosses as they are also designed to leverage the Gatlians and this is where the Metroidvania aspects come into play. Not all areas will be accessible at first and it’ll be down to either not having the right Gatlian or missing an upgrade, some of which are available from the game’s pawn shop. On the normal difficulty setting – my game defaulted to the easier “story” mode – it’s not too hard and most times you’ll only be beaten through weight of numbers rather than toughness. It’ll still take around 8-10 hours to finish but the pacing is good and you don’t feel like it’s being padded out at all.

From the co-creators of Rick & Morty, there’s a lot of pop culture references mixed in with plenty of crude humour and language but it totally worked for me. Having two aliens get into an argument that eventually devolved into a constant “F*** you! No, f*** you! NO, F*** YOU!” had me laughing because you just don’t see/hear that in games. The “I haven’t seen that in games” vibe comes up a lot when playing – I won’t say too much but there are a lot of cameos and bonuses that really give you incentive to play through and unlock as much as you can.

Visually the game has an abundance of colour that really helps its art style which (to me) takes clearly 2D animation roots but they’ve been translated to a 3D space. It’s not trying to be realistic at all, just consistent and it sticks to that nicely. It also allows the game to play up the violence with plenty of exploding heads and gushing alien blood as you cut through the hordes. Audio is fantastic with an huge amount of chatter throughout from the Gatlians to the characters you meet to all the incidental and NPC dialogue, it’s worth taking your time to let them talk. If you think all the talk might be too much there are options to dial down the Gatlians so that they talk less frequently, but even at the maximum settings I didn’t find it a problem as it fits the game perfectly.

While the language and humour may not be a good fit for the younger ones, High on Life is a fun shooter that deserves your time and will reward you for it. It’s also a game that has plenty of water cooler moments that I think have really helped generate positive word of mouth and overcame any negatives from reviewers. I’ve enjoyed it a lot and am looking forward to seeing more games like this. 🙂

High on Life is out now on PC and Xbox. Played on an Xbox Series X via Game Pass.

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