We’ve already seen quite a bit of High on Life, the bizarre yet exceptionally gross new single-player shooter. The big point is that Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland and his team at Squanch Games have built a first-person shooter that lets you hunt bounties for aliens and shoot them down with guns. speaking. But it’s the small details that impressed me when I got to try the game out for myself.
Opening Night Live included a boss fight from the early sections of High on Life, but my 25 minutes of practice (which you can watch below) included the full mission leading up to that battle. The demo begins in your player-character’s home (populated by their exceptionally confused older sister and new alien bounty hunter handler, Gene), then takes you to the technicolor alien town of Blim, and finally to its slums of sewers for a series of battles. In terms of regular gameplay, this is a relatively short section – but I managed to fill those 25 minutes simply because of the amount of incidental detail there was to see.
This attention to detail starts right away – your character’s home is a literal base, equipped with a Bounty 5,000 computer, which will assign missions and (when repaired by Gene) allow you to take portals to different locations. But more immediately staring was the house TV, which airs animated shorts (some made by Roiland himself) and even four licensed feature films. It’s an early sign not only of the game’s relentless approach to telling jokes, but also of the amount of effort it puts into adding amusing details to those who stop to look around.
Blim itself is something like Blade Runner’s Los Angeles had it been crafted by the Sesame Street cast, primary-colored vomit, indecipherable signs for bizarre businesses, and scattered aliens going about their daily lives.
When you get to talking to these citizens, you’re given RPG-like dialogue to choose from, but you’ll quickly realize that the focus is on typing rather than making tough decisions. Two, well, tubes with faces guard the gates of the slums, and will only let you through if you answer a question: which of them is the hottest? I’ve said many times that the blue guy is hotter than his red friend. The upside was that the blue guy’s door opened and let me go on, the cost was that I made the red guy very sad and embarrassed.
This emphasis on taking familiar game tropes and milking them for jokes is all over the game. very annoying little guy who repeatedly made fun of the nameless player-character. Naturally, the response was to try to shoot him… which caused my talking gun to chide me for even trying. So I tried again. Another denunciation. One more time? Oh, it suddenly let me after all. “Normally killing children in games is not allowed, but he died. We killed that kid,” my gun groaned. “That’s our E rating for everyone!”
Yes, High on Life is very aware that it is a game, and revels in it. What surprised me the most is that the game itself apparently looks beyond its single-player shooter peers for ideas. When I got into fights (against a series of giant ants, who lose more and more confidence as I clear their ranks), I was surprised to realize that the fight had so much to do with flats. -shapes or even bullet hells than with FPS games.
Enemy projectiles are plentiful, but slow moving, meaning you’ll spend as much time dodging and positioning yourself in a fight as trying to land headshots. Cover isn’t a huge consideration, causing you to constantly move around to avoid blaster fire scatters around you. Later we picked up the frankly disgusting Knifey, which adds a melee attack and a grappling hook – it seems pretty clear that Squanch wants you to move vertically as well as laterally in these fights as the game progresses.
While I was only able to use one gun – a goop gun called Kenny – his alt fire revealed another difficulty to combat. The Glob Shot fires an arcing, explosive…glob, which provides a slow when aimed at it and knocks enemies into the air. What I didn’t expect was that it would then offer the ability to juggle enemies, a la Devil May Cry, once they were up there. While I couldn’t experiment more, I feel like the game pushes you to finish your fights in style rather than efficiency, and I would expect other weapons to offer combos with these alternative capacities.
This feeling, that I expect the game to offer more ideas over time, is what excites me the most about High on Life after playing it. If those 25 minutes included enough in-jokes, neat touches, references, and battle ideas for me to write so much, how will that feel once I’ve spent hours in the game? If it keeps up that pace, High on Life will be far from a shooter with a joke veneer – it could be something really new.
Joe Skrebels is IGN’s news editor. Follow him on Twitter. Any advice to give us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an e-mail to email@example.com.