When I previewed Raised on life at Gamescom earlier this year, I came away with a little jump in my step. Justin Roiland and Squanch Games could be winners, I thought. The Talking Alien Guns weren’t that irritating and the gunfights looked solid! And it also appealed to my childish sense of humor. Poo and pee ? Yeah, you’ll get a chuckle from me. I realized then that it might not be for everyone, but hey, I can ride with it if the FPS bit is right.
After spending a few hours with the final game, I concluded that my mind must have been chemically altered by the doner kebab I had consumed the night before. You can disable your weapon’s verbal diarrhea through the game’s menu, but what you’ll find behind the brown curtain is some seriously unimaginative gunplay. For such a colorful and zaney world, it’s a shame the FPS side can’t match it.
If you don’t like Rick & Morty, you’ll despise High On Life. The game is a vessel for Justin Roiland’s humor to assault your senses for ten hours, like the time you’ve donned your new bounty hunter costume and malicious pop-ups invade your vision: “Expand your shlingas by 10 THUBS” and “Milfs in your area”, with the MILFs bit standing for “Malware Infecting Lots Of Files” (ha). Periodically you’ll come across bulbous aliens called Clumnugg or Burpywurpy and they’ll swear a lot, comment on how they’ve just shit themselves, or make fun of how bad the game is, as if drawing attention to it makes a difference. somehow this mediocrity though – an intentional joke.
As someone who doesn’t care about Rick and Morty, there are times when High On Life makes me laugh, and I appreciate the larger scope of you, a bounty hunter, weaving between these strange alien planets to carve the soft flesh of a melted bullet bag. A great sense of adventure kicks in whenever you step through a portal to a dust-covered desert world filled with sand toads with spleens for tongues, or look over a railing to see hovering flying cars through a gray metropolis. It can be difficult to eliminate the incessant hum of your guns, but I truly believe the world is an exciting place to be.
The problem with guns is that they’re effectively grafted onto your wrist and they rarely stop screaming. Disable “Gun Chatter” in the settings and it won’t make much difference. Your Kenny gun might not comment when you reload, but it’s still wired to interact with every pit stop story milestone – of which there are many. The cringiest are the ones with Gene, a haggard ex-bounty hunter octo-man bickering with your sister, and those interactions are like fingernails scratching against a blackboard repeatedly breaking into a knife scraping against a plate. Often, I step away and browse TikTok on my phone during these times. Yes, this really damned social media platform replaces High On Life (go watch JJ Curry Reviews, though, they make real cinema).
But if you strip away all the swearing and yelling and that reveals an FPS that’s only mediocre at best. Despite Roiland and Co.’s ability to imagine bustling Martian megacities and gloop islands, you never quite fend off the same handful of bad guys as you warp between each planet. What’s most disappointing of all is your arsenal, which aside from a pistol, is so eager to conform to beige FPS standards. Kenny is a laser gun, there’s a shotgun, there’s a ripoff of Halo’s iconic Needler. Only one actually acts like a bizarre alien species, giving birth to ravenous blue babies that latch onto enemies and chew them to death.
Each of your guns has alt fire which mixes things up a bit I guess. Like Kenny, whose Glob Shot sends enemies flying through the air so you can “juggle” them with more shots. But really, you can only fire them a few times in what is a rather unsatisfying juggle. Mods can also change how your weapons behave, but they’re all rather tame tweaks that focus on effectiveness. I don’t care about efficiency and damage! Give me an irradiated bladder that drenches enemies with boiling piss. Give me a big meat club that gorges itself on skin and spits puddles of sour jelly with every hit. Just give me Something a little spicier; we are in an unbalanced universe, right?
I have now reached the point where I sigh whenever the game expects me to fight. For an FPS, it’s not ideal when what you’re supposed to do a lot becomes tedious work. And it’s not ideal when everything around it is also tiring. A shame.