I’m very sober during my hands-on preview with high in life a fast and loud first person shooter from Squanch Games, and that’s bad for once. If I popped up to another game preview that completely jumped out of my head, that might be an issue – but it’s preferred here. When I half-jokingly suggest that this game is best played high, Art Director Mikey Spano nods and says, “Exactly. It’s in the name.”
high in life is a first-person shooter developed by Squanch Games, the brainchild of Justin Roiland (rick and morty) that has a few games under its belt (including 2019 Trover saves the universe). Of course, as a Roiland by-product, your guns will talk to you non-stop in this game – so much so that the response to the Gamescom trailer was a mixture of excitement Rick and Morty fans and spasmodic fatigue. But these talking weapons also have a variety of different abilities and uses. You must switch between them to successfully kill bounties – and you must kill those bounties to save humanity from aliens who are literally getting high on humanity.
high in lifeThe sections of are organized according to the bounties you are tasked with slaying: the protagonist’s home, now occupied by aliens, is a central hub from which to travel to distant planets. I’m thrown into the game during the hunt for one of these bounties, but before stepping through a glowing purple portal that sits in the living room of a bog-standard middle-class American home, I decide to do a little exploring.
A lumpy, slimy alien sits on the couch and watches Tammy and the T Rex on TV. Yes, Squanch Games has grabbed the rights to play the entire squiggly 1994 film, which stars the late Paul Walker as a high school kid who dies and has his brain put in a friggin’ T-Rex. “You get an achievement if you watch the whole movie,” community leader Jordyn Halpern tells me. There are several other B movies you can check out high in lifejust in case you get too high and decide to actually play the game is a bit overwhelming.
But remember, I’m sober, so I go through the portal and am transported to a planet ruled by an alien cartel; Its surface consists of reddish-brown dust and industrial buildings in various states of despair, its underground of neon-soaked buildings and mad-looking aliens sputtering diatribes as if BladeRunner had sex with, well, Rick and Morty. “Alex Robbins, our narrator, did such a good job writing this down to earth story that makes everything else funnier because when everything is silly, nothing is silly. The same goes for the art style, when everything is crazy colorful it doesn’t really stand out, so we were very careful to put our resources where it counted,” explains Spano.
On the surface of this surprisingly grounded planet, a group of alien construction workers with New York Italian-American accents yell at me as I stomp. A guy named Ole Wet Grundy (who tells me he got that nickname because he pisses himself all the time) shows me how to get to the underground area. Before the gatekeeper lets me down there though, I need to clean up the surface by ridding it of a couple of alien cartel guys, all of whom have bizarrely juicy asses. “I always make sure the characters have cute little asses,” Spano assures me. “If they don’t have butts, I’ll make sure they have assholes.”
The gunlay and movement mechanics feel surprisingly good and lovingly retro, like an Xbox 360 shooter you bought from GameStop in 2007 because it had sickeningly colorful cover art and surprisingly gets blown through an entire hazy weekend. Each weapon has a different use case, and as I battle my way to the boss, I discover that switching between them makes for a fun change of pace – and also gives you a reprieve if you find their babble particularly annoying (the one that sounds like Morty grows old fast).
There is a Metroidvania aspect high in life that reminds me the most Star Wars: Fallen Order of the Jedi. Each weapon has a unique secondary fire that can help you blast your way to hard-to-reach loot chests, but you’ll need to return to certain areas after obtaining all of the weapons in order to do so. It’s a nice added replay value that comes with Warp Discs high in life a little more depth.
Warp Discs are small game add-ons that you can buy on the black market in the universe and use in random locations throughout your travels. They warp into the map in a sort of mini-game, like Cutie Town, which I encounter during my playthrough. Cutie Town is exactly what it sounds like: a miniature town with a cute little guy attached to several balloons floating above – but chaos erupts as soon as you enter this town. I won’t spoil it for you because it actually made me laugh.
high in life Roiland’s humor takes me back to college in the late ’80s, where all I did was get astronomically high and gamble call of Duty Black Ops or watch early iterations of viral YouTube videos. While gaming, I can’t help but crave the fuzzy feeling that comes from taking a few hits of a spliff or digesting a delicious THC gummi. While I miss several fits of shocked laughter during my playthrough, I’m sure I’d be just as hyped as some of the “rabid fans” Spano tells me about if I was a little daft. This game has all the rambling diatribes and random, explicit asides you’d expect from a Roiland production, which of course hits harder when you’re either 21 or very, very stoned.
sobriety aside, high in lifeThe trailers of may actually have done it a disservice – you may be used to dismissing it as yet another piece of media that falls under the somewhat grating Roiland umbrella, but it offers a uniquely nostalgic take on the FPS genre that is surprising is inspired. The weapon-based platform that encourages you to return to their wacky little worlds coupled with their rock-solid weaponry high in life isn’t just a game of garrulous, swearing guns and occasionally chilling humor. Since Squanch Games exists independently of larger game developers, the team has a surprising amount of leeway to create the game they want – the only “big man” they report to is Roiland, who finds all this shit hilarious.
“I just wish there were other silly indie stuff out there, and that’s only possible (with the exception of Devolver, which does a lot of cool stuff) if it’s self-funded,” explains Spano. “Otherwise you don’t get paid to make a weird game … but we’re not on the hook for anyone, we can make the games we want to make. I think that will make it stand out, it can compete against something like that call of Duty in terms of graphical fidelity – it’s obviously not as polished as call of Dutybut it’s up there with some of the AAA games.
high in life will be released on December 13th for PC and Xbox. Brilliantly, it’s tied to Xbox Game Pass, which gives all members interested in the FPS genre a chance to try it for free. Weed not included.
https://kotaku.com/high-on-life-rick-and-morty-game-hands-on-preview-1849810005 Rick And Morty Creator’s new game is best played stoned