High on Life didn’t set my world on fire, but it sure lit up the Xbox Game Pass charts. You could say it was a perfect Game Pass project since joke games aren’t exactly flourishing at the moment, and at launch, it was way too rough to warrant diving in at full price. With a short DLC expansion under its belt, it’s a tad bit more alluring, but don’t get too excited.
High on Knife (PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S [reviewed on a Series X])
Developer: Squanch Games
Publisher: Squanch Games
Released: October, 2023
High on Knife picks up two years after the events of the main game, which allows it to cleverly sidestep the powder keg that is the Justin Roiland situation and serve as a standalone story. I don’t really need to remind you that Roiland was jettisoned from every project he was attached to in the past few months, and all of them have cleverly found ways to explain his absence. Rick & Morty is employing soundalikes (which are pretty close!), Solar Opposites just replaced him with actor Dan Stevens, and High on Knife eliminated his [gun] character entirely. After a quick bit of exposition (your player character “lost” the gun that Roiland plays, and he doesn’t voice any side characters), you’re on your way.
What starts out as a normal day becomes an errand, then a grand adventure on a new planet with your melee weapon Knifey as the focus. It’s more of the same set to a different scene, complete with the familiar janky platforming and repeating enemy types. To High on Life‘s credit, there have been several stability patches and many bug fixes, so I found the game far more playable than it was at launch. Again, platforming in particular is still very janky, but a missed connection results in an instant respawn and no real lost progress, so it’s very easy to pick back up and move on.
Note that the High on Life DLC is completely separate from the core narrative. In other words, you aren’t able to revisit old areas with the DLC upgrades and items, which works for and against it; depending on what you want out of it. It is nice that newer players can just dive in and not be too lost (a brief optional recap will get you up to speed), but I wish I could have taken everything into the old sandboxes; especially the new “Ball” gun that operates like a weaponized pinball machine. Although the DLC is called “High on Knife” you don’t really learn anything particularly mind-blowing about Knifey himself, though writer/actor Michael Cusack is as amusing as ever as a bloodthirsty scamp.
The fact that High on Knife is a more focused experience also gives it a different feel than the regular campaign. There are still plenty of optional rooms, jokes to discover, and collectibles to find, and it feels a bit less aimless as a result. Speaking of jokes: the whole “comedy game” genre appealed to me since the ’90s, and I kind of miss it. Not every joke lands, but without Roiland’s incessant “smorphy smoogaladoo!” baby talk shouting at you every few minutes, it allows a wider range of voice actors to shine, especially in some of the smaller bit parts.
If you’re thinking “Well this is a short review,” well, that’s pretty much all there is to say about High on Life. It’s a few hours of mild fun with some optional diversions and then it’s over. If you want, you can grab all the collectibles and wander around the new planet a bit, which could last you another hour tops.
After playing through High on Knife (and thus, a much more stable build of the game), I feel like I’m game for a sequel. It’s clear that the team can carry on without Roiland, and I’d like to see them tackle the old-school FPS genre again with all the tricks they’ve learned along the way (and a little more polish).
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]