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June 2024

Sludge Life 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Terri Vellmann
Release Date: June 27, 2023


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PC Preview - 'Sludge Life 2'

by Cody Medellin on May 17, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Sludge Life 2 is a first-person vandalism sim where tagging buildings is as heavily encouraged as is harassing the locals with photography.

The original Sludge Life was an oddball title. For most people, it was known as that one game that was free on the Epic Games Store for an entire year before getting a price tag and a release on Steam. For those who tried it, the game was a freeform experience where players traversed a run-down island, while tagging anything in sight and talking to the locals who used drugs and music as coping mechanisms. It was apparently enough of a cult hit to merit a sequel.

The sequel now has a premise. You play the role of Ghost, a tagger who has become the manager for Big Mud, an aspiring rapper who was living in a shipping crate in the first game. After a bender, you wake up in a bathtub in a messed-up hotel room to find that the only other person there isn't Big Mud. You're told that the star wandered off last night, and no one knows where he is. A video shoot is coming up, so your job is to find him and take him to that appointment.

While an overall objective exists, the game doesn't make that a focus. Despite having to attend a video shoot, there's no set timetable for when you need to find Big Mud. The game doesn't give you a map to keep track of where you've been, and none of the NPCs offer up substantial hints on where he can be. You'll likely stumble upon someone who does know something or on Big Mud himself, but there's no push from the game.

That leaves plenty of room for the game to do exactly what the first one did, and that's giving you free rein over Ciggy City. You can talk to whoever you want, pick up cigarettes, and decide whether someone gets one if they request it. You can eat stray slugs for no reason, drink random beverages left lying around, or partake in some mushrooms for a brief out-of-body experience before vomiting back down to earth. You can also pee in any open toilet just because.

Aside from wandering around the city, the thing you'll do the most is tag. The developers state that there's parkour, but expect it to be basic, as you'll mostly bump up against objects and jump until you reach something with just enough collision for you to walk on. Spraying is easy, as you get to a spray can and hit a button to do your tag. There's a meter that shows how many tags you've gotten, but the demo ended early enough that we don't know what that unlocks this time around. Like before, you'll find some tools to help you reach new places, such as a breathing helmet for poisonous areas, shows for double-jumping, and a hang glider to reach higher areas.

You can perform rudimentary parkour and tag in some spots, but Sludge Life 2 hasn't lost its sense of humor. The game criticizes everything from protestors with no purpose to the cops to the rich and everyone in between. Even entertainment and fan culture gets caught in the crosshairs. Depending on your outlook, the jokes can either hit well or completely miss, but it all comes off as incidental humor rather than something that was forced to be funny. The toilet humor isn't as abundant as in the original game. You'll still get jokes that land in that wheelhouse, like some dudes expressing casual nudity and someone feeling bad about taking a huge dump, but don't expect every other joke to fall into that category.

As far as presentation goes, there's very little change from the style presented in the original. You get the same muted and limited color palette, with thick lines that feature no aliasing all put through a fuzzy VHS filter to give it a grungy look. Characters are crudely rendered, and features go against normal proportions. The animals don't look much better. All of this runs at a high frame rate unless you're on very low-end hardware, so just about anyone can play it. Meanwhile, don't expect any voices, while the music only plays when you get to a radio, but what plays isn't bad.

Steam Deck users will be pleased to know that the game already performs quite well on the device. You'll get a little under two-and-a-half hours with the game with a full charge, and the low-fi visuals work very well on the device's screen. The frame rate may be the only point of contention for some, as it'll fluctuate between the mid-30s to the low 50s, depending on what you're looking at. The controls never feel mushy because of it, and a lock to 30fps works fine. Overall, the game fits well on the device.

At the moment, Sludge Life 2 can be best described as more Sludge Life. It's a different city, and you have some initial guidance, but you still end up doing the same things as before and talking to the same kinds of people who have accepted how messed-up things are. It's built for those who loved the first game and want a new place to play around. Based on the current state of the game, it will easily hit its nebulous 2023 release date.

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