PREVIEW: ‘Sludge Life 2’ Is So Good It Feels Illegal (PC)

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Sludge Life 2 - But Why Tho

It is rare that a game with an incredibly bleak depiction of society can also have such a distinct and effective sense of humor. Sludge Life 2, the sequel to Devolver Digital’s 2021 title, is perhaps both the funniest and most depressing open-world platformer game so far this year. With a story uniquely delivered through engagement with the environment and an art style that feels both outlandish and elegant, Sludge Life 2 is an indie title that should not be missed.

Sludge Life 2 is centered on a world-class rapper trying to make a name for himself in a dystopian world ruled by “clops,” the local police force. Players will have to set out on a journey to find the famous rapper Big Mud, who has mysteriously gone missing. The story is delivered rather enigmatically through optional dialogue and recurring environmental cues. For example, the fact that there is a major conflict between the police force and citizens of the city can only be gathered through interaction with discrete protestors or discovering the origins of posters that have been stapled to walls on several buildings. Despite the obvious overall conflicts that occur throughout the story, players will never have to engage in combat, since the game is strictly about exploration. Having such a subtle technique for delivering the narrative is highly engaging.

There are several recurring features in Sludge Life 2 that make it obvious that the developers are trying to deliver a statement about juvenile delinquency and its impacts on society if crime were to get out of hand. Nearly every character in the game smokes cigarettes or openly discusses the crimes they have committed in the past. The police force has become authoritarian in response to a rising crime rate, causing several citizens to worsen their drug addiction or find alternative means to rebel against authority. Several people have forced their pets to become addicted to cigarettes or other drugs simply because this is all that is left for entertainment in Sludge Life 2’s dystopian world. Fans of dark humor and surrealism will find a lot of enjoyment in the narrative.

The tone and atmosphere of Sludge Life 2 is like playing an illegally downloaded bootleg copy of a banned video game. Booting up the game displays a blue error message, followed by the load-in of an unknown desktop computer that serves as the main menu. Navigating the main menu almost feels voyeuristic and unlawful, immediately setting the tone for the purpose of the entire game: vandalizing an entire open world in search of a missing rapper. The fun of Sludge Life 2 comes from fulfilling different tasks that force players to feel like a delinquent tagging buildings and collecting stolen or banned goods that grant new powers.

Sludge Life 2 - But Why Tho

Power-ups at times can be somewhat confusing. For example, players will have to navigate the world in search of sneakers that allow for double jumps, a camera that allows for special interactions with characters, or a kite that allows players to glide through the open world. After the power has been used, the device that offered the power-up is aggressively launched across the environment. A character doing a photoshoot will ask for pictures to be taken, but the camera will be thrown across the room after the task is complete. I still cannot determine whether this is on purpose or a glitch in the game, but the accrued powers throughout the game never vanished despite the several times I accidentally threw my devices out.

In addition to its engaging storyline and overall bleak tone, Sludge Life 2 is interesting because of its cel shaded graphical style. Character designs are all cartoonish and bizarre, ranging from talking humanoid flies to completely disproportionate human NPC’s. The city is extremely colorful and designed perfectly for exploration. There are hidden goods in hard-to-reach places, and players will always be rewarded for finding new areas. Navigation at times can be tricky due to the limitations of character movement, but players will eventually be rewarded with plenty of upgrades to easily explore the environment by the end of the game.

Sludge Life 2 achieves its goals astonishingly well in a short amount of time. The mystery of the environment coupled with the dark surrealism of the narrative provides an insane amount of replay value. Even if it does not achieve all the aspects of its gameplay perfectly, Sludge Life 2 is an interesting concept with themes worth deliberating with your friends.

Sludge Life 2 comes to PC later this year 2023.

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