Laughter is a mystery. Science can’t explain what laughter is, even though it can tells us why we laugh when its “wrong” and why laughter is good for us. We even know rats have an adorable little ultrasonic laugh when they get tickled. We humans love a good comedy, but a comedy video game? Those are harder to pin down. Funny for 90 minutes is a lot different than funny for 90 hours. But 2022’s funniest game may just pull it off.
High on Life from the twisted minds at Squanch Games (more famously the twisted minds behind Rick and Morty) is a hilarious FPS draped in the hit-TV formula. You play an average teen who, through exposition, ends up lost in space with a bitchy sister and a pistol that talks. Hijinks ensue.
Obviously, the strengths of High on Life can be found in its writing. Whether or not you like Rick and Morty is a good litmus test for the fun you’ll find in this game. Creator Justin Roiland, known for voice acting Morty’s signature stammering, brings the same improvisational style to Kenny, your mouthy weapon buddy.
Kenny is not the only talking firearm in the game though, and you’ll encounter a stacked cast of characters throughout including comedy heavyweights like J.B. Smoove and Tim Robinson, alongside game-ier folks like Jennifer Hale and Nolan North. Overall the banter is solid. You can even tone down the frequency of Kenny and friends’ quips in the settings.
The talented cast executes jokes (and goons) with a quick but measured pace. Some gags seem to go on indefinitely, like the TV in your house playing all 82 minutes of Tammy and the T-Rex, an actual, for-real movie from 1994 starring Denise Richards and Paul Walker about an animatronic T-rex implanted with the brain of a murdered high school student who … you know what? If you wanna watch it, it’s there.
There are also lots of jokes about video games and about being a video game. There’s some debate surrounding the latter (personally, if we’re talking ludonarrative dissonance I find fourth-wall breaking far less annoying than Kratos’ inability to climb a chest-high log). At its best High on Life can hit the exceptionally high bar set by the South Park series of games, but falls short of its consistency.
The humor has to be the standout feature because the gameplay is not. High on Life sticks to fundamentals with some balanced, if basic, systems. The gunplay is deliberately sluggish to fit the vibe of the squishy, goopy, toothpaste-y world. There are some environmental puzzles and platforming to keep you on your toes between fights.
You’re tasked with being a bounty hunter, which provides the perfect excuse to set up contained, linear areas themed around a boss. Boss fights can be a bit of a challenge, but anyone remotely familiar with FPS mechanics should breeze through on default mode and may want to tick up the difficulty to wring out some extra gameplay hours. The combat is … fine, but you really want to be here for the jokes. It’s the funniest game this year and well worth playing.
High on Life is available now on Xbox Game Pass. It’s also for sale on Xbox and PC.