It’s tempting to write off high in life as a Justin Roiland-driven comedic game where your opinion of it depends solely on whether its particular brand of comedy lands on you or not. And while that’s largely correct, it glosses over it high in life one of the best and most creative shooters released in 2022.
Let’s stay a little longer with this first point: high in life is basically a game by Justin Roiland. Its story and gameplay are steeped in its brand of quirky, absurd, and self-centered (anti-)humor. Roiland voices your sentient weapon so he’s always right in your hand, providing ongoing commentary. Depending on your tolerance, that’s a pretty high barrier to entry. (It’s significant that there’s a setting where you can turn off his random dialogue.)
But shortly thereafter, there’s a genuinely creative game that scratches that first-person shooter itch in a year where shooters haven’t exactly stood out (with the exception of Metal: Hellsinger, which mixed Doom-like mechanics with bespoke metal music to great effect, and Hyper Demonwhich builds on the haunting, beautiful tension of fel daggers).
A lot of high in lifeThe creativity of stems from its iteration options. Very early on you grab Knifey, a murderous and sentient knife. Knifey is your melee weapon, but it also doubles as a grappling hook – much like the best thing that ever happened to the Halo series, the grappling hook. Picking up Knifey allows you to zip line and scale previously unscaling walls. Each of your weapons – aliens called Gatlian – have a similar secondary use.
Her main weapon, Kenny, has a “glob shot” which he fires from his “trick hole”. In combat, this acts like a grenade, but you can also use it to knock down certain walls to create new paths. The shotgun-like Gus fires disc shots that launch a giant frisbee that ricochets through the level to damage enemies. However, shoot them at certain walls and they will create platforms for you to climb. Halos Needler’s proprietary version, Sweezy fires a time bubble that slows time inside her shell – perfect for getting past spinning fan blades.
Add to that the jetpack and mag boots, which allow you to scale metal walls and navigate through each world and area high in life turns into a really satisfying action-puzzle shooter.
Regardless of how you feel about Justin Roiland’s humor or how annoying you find his running commentary, high in life is a good game. It’s not perfect, mind you. After about eight hours, we encountered glitches, clipping issues, and a game-changing bug — something that doesn’t seem unusual after a quick search. Some of these bugs have already been fixed in a day-one patch, with more patches to come, a Squanch Games representative told Polygon.
So yes, high in life is an imperfect game that really requires you to buy Roiland’s Rick and Morty style of humor to fully embrace it. But if you can take it, a truly creative shooter awaits. (The fact that it’s free with Xbox Game Pass makes that a lot easier.)