Sludge Life Review – Art Among The Grime
Games with themes of rebellion, and of chaos within order, have always interested me. Ever since I started playing the Tony Hawk’s games, I found plenty of enjoyment in them. And not only in causing all the havoc that is seen in those games, but tagging up places with customized graffiti, finding high up places that the police could never reach so I could express my creativity. So when it comes to games that heavily show their sense of rebellion and chaos, all the while keeping things rather casual, Sludge Life has a pretty good sense of it.
Sludge Life is a first person open world exploration-based game developed by Terri Vellmann and Doseone and published by Devolver Digital. In Sludge Life, they set out to provide a rather strange, disgusting world, all the while providing bits of social commentary.
The Birth Of a Tagger
The story is rather simple. You play as an up and coming graffiti artist known as Ghost, who lives on an island surrounded by sludge. On the day of a major riot, Ghost takes it as an opportunity to make a name for themselves.
So, the writing in this game is fine. It’s meant to be more humorous and eccentric than actually giving a message. Only a few people tell you about the systemic problems of the island, while others are either high or on strike.
Strange Life, Strange World
What is fascinating about this game is the world itself. Sure, the island and town are foggy, disgusting, and surrounded entirely by sludge. There definitely is not much to look at, just simple advertisements and ugly buildings, but the people are what bring the color, almost literally.
There’s a wide assortment of other townsfolk who bring their views to the table. Not just humans, but frog people, fly people, and cyclopes, all living in the same town, engaging in activities such as drugs, rioting, and more drugs. Most everyone has something to say, and is willing to say it to you, even if they do run on the… strange side.
Not to mention, you’re not the only tagger. Other taggers, each with their own art style and personality, are seen hanging around, as are their tags. Most of them don’t think much of you, while a few are supportive.
However, their view of you can change. With your objective throughout the entire game being tagging the town, the more you tag, the more your rep will increase. The more your rep increases, the more combo spots you can unlock, which are tag spots where larger tags can take place. As you complete these, the views of some of the more stubborn taggers will change.
Scout Out The City
Of course, tagging isn’t the only thing you can do, as there’s a whole city to explore. Exploration is vital. There isn’t much to really look at (though there are some weird things to find), but through exploration, you’ll not only find more tag spots, but also find tools to help you in your quest for ultimate tagging, like a camera that can show you tag spots from afar, or gliders that will help you reach higher spots. There are also collectables, but there are few of them: beer, cigarettes, and banana slugs, all of which can be consumed.
Though that isn’t to say it’s easy to reach these things, even with these tools. The platforming in Sludge Life doesn’t feel too great. It feels a little too loose and fickle, where a jump that usually helps me get up to a spot won’t register. I’ve had multiple cases where it just feels awkward to get around.
Mixtapes and Music
Also, you don’t hear the music too much. When exploring around, you’ll hear music through speakers or radios, and you’ll even get a character’s entire album of music to listen to. However, when climbing, you won’t hear or pay attention to it much, and even with the album of music installed in your laptop (pause menu), you can’t have it play when you move.
This disappointed me because the soundtrack is quite good. It’s strange, yet fits the grunge aesthetic of the world and its art style perfectly. I just wish I could listen to it more while playing Sludge Life. What you will hear a lot is the game’s interesting sound design. Everything sounds disgusting and ugly, once again befitting such a world as the one in Sludge Life.
Finishing things off, this game has a unique pause menu. As I mentioned, it’s your laptop, and you can install things to it like music albums and mini games. Not only that, there is also a to-do list that gives you objectives to do, like eating 20 banana slugs, or getting all three endings. I only managed to get the Good Ending, so the other two are left hung open.
Overall, Sludge Life is a game that represents a very specific niche of gamers. It will provide some interesting thoughts on our world and the lives we live, but it isn’t the most profound statement to be made. Not to mention the fact that the game is dull at times, resulting in me finding myself looking up at a possible tag location and getting annoyed at the fact that I have to climb up there.
However, it is a game worth getting for those of you interested in the artistic style of graffiti and vandalism. It’s a game about rebellion, rioting, pollution, and giving it all back to the man. It will definitely provide an interesting experience to any who find the subject matter and gameplay intriguing.
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Game reviewed by Freelance7 on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Devolver Digital