High On Life Preview – More Than ‘That Rick & Morty Game’, Hopefully

Being conceived by Justin Roiland, the High on Life and Rick & Morty comparisons are inescapable. Also, the gun sounds exactly like Morty, so that doesn’t help. However, after a hands-on preview over at Gamescom, it’s clear the project has true potential in its own right, and could give Roiland his first big video game win after the success of his shows.

Developed by Squanch Games, High on Life remembers that it is first and foremost a video game. Some comedy games forget this, and instead let mechanics take a backseat, only used as another vehicle for jokes. High on Life is the inverse of this. Its humour serves the gameplay, telling jokes that could only work in this format, and can only be found if you take the time to explore its world. At its best, this feels like more than just watching an episode of Rick & Morty, and gives you a daft landscape to run around and shoot stuff in.

You play as a bounty hunter, fighting back against aliens that are using humans as drugs. In the demo, we got to explore the state of an invaded Earth, and as you can expect from the brainchild of Justin Roiland, it’s a multicoloured mess. In the best way, mind. Despite not having that long with the game, exploring the hub area was irresistible. In every nook and cranny, there was a gag or just something fun to find. Even if a joke didn’t land, it all added to a world that felt alive, and nothing helps with this more than its characters. For the most part, they were a lot of fun to chat to, but there were a few instances of “I just swore a lot. Laugh”, which we could definitely do with a whole lot less of. But much like the game itself – which will apparently take around ten hours to complete – this didn’t overstay its welcome.

However, it’s this kind of overbearing, and even kind of outdated humour, that High on Life has to somehow make work. We live in a post-Pickle Rick world, where if your jokes are too stupid, you’re cringe. For some, High on Life has already failed this test, with its dialogue criticized as being too Wubba Lubba Dub Dub and even a little Deadpool-y (derogatory). You have to really make sure you’re not burnt out on Rick & Morty’s vice grip on pop culture to have a laugh here sometimes.

There are a few times where High on Life feels like it is apologizing for itself with its self-awareness too, but it shines when it pretends the audience's cynicism isn’t there. I loved the part where you try and shoot a kid, only for your gun to berate you. And when the enemies moan about how easy they were to kill mid-battle. Out of context on Twitter, these lines might make you roll your eyes, but the stupid world you’re immersed in makes it hard not to smile.

And even if it doesn’t, you’re not stuck with the Morty gun the whole time. As Squanch Games told me, they’ve got a whole lot of other voice actors lined up, playing all the other weapons you’ll get throughout the game. I’m told there was a lot of improv in the booth too, so hopefully there’s enough to mix things up and keep the game from relying on its “randomness” too much.

High on Life might be too late for most of its audiences, and it still hasn’t quite eased my worries that its barrage of Rick & Morty jokes will be too much. But even with the writing aside, we’re left with solid gameplay, great attention to detail in the levels, and a star-studded lineup of other voice actors to hopefully offer something fresh. And honestly? It isn’t even that cringe. We’re just burnt out.

Yet as fun as the combat is, this is first and foremost a comedy game. If any of the clips you’ve seen so far have made you want to unplug your PC and live in the woods, you’re unlikely to find much that will tide you over. But otherwise this is shaping up to be a fun, short romp in a wild setting with action that never pauses for breath. We just have to wait and see if that works in its favour or not.

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