Sludge Life 2 Is an Unexpected and Not Entirely Needed Return to the Grind

Games Features Devolver Digital
Sludge Life 2 Is an Unexpected and Not Entirely Needed Return to the Grind

I didn’t know what to expect as I booted up Sludge Life 2, one of the most unexpected sequels of my lifetime. The first title, released some years ago for free for an entire year on the Epic Games Store before making the leap to the Switch, doesn’t really scream “sequel.” Its possible endings are, as I remember them correctly, you either setting off a bomb that wipes your decrepit oil-rig dystopian hellscape off the face of the earth, or hopping in a spaceship that gets you out of there. On top of that, Sludge Life is all about the malaise of existing in said setting, a hard feeling to recapture and iterate upon in a sequel. When we escape or blow up our capitalist hells, where is there left to go?

Sludge Life 2‘s answer is, dismally, right back where you came from. Your player character Ghost is a tagger who evidently made it off the oil rig, canonizing one of the endings, and made it big. He sold out, becoming a manager to Big Mud, a prominent artist featured heavily in the original title and its promotional materials. After coming back to record a new video, you guys go on a bender, because what else is there to do, and you lose track of Big Mud. Re-exploring the place you once called home, which has changed since you left it, in search of Big Mud is the bulk of what Sludge Life 2 wants to be about. What does that actually mean for the game though? It turns out very little.


Structurally and mechanically, Sludge Life 2 is nearly identical to its predecessor. While there’s a concrete goal to attain, the majority of your time is spent walking around town, talking to the odd characters that occupy it and work dead-end jobs, and all the while you’re tagging up surfaces and collecting clues as to what you’re supposed to do. My enjoyment of Sludge Life had little to do with that, though, and instead stemmed from taking pictures of weird shit, like a cat with multiple buttholes, and drinking in the game’s vibes. It also felt as equally angry at the consumption of our culture by corporations as it did resigned to the way it warps our everyday life. Not that a work of art can’t double down and further explore its themes, but I just don’t know after spending some time with Sludge Life 2 that it does it all that much. Instead, it feels like its rehashing talking points Sludge Life already brought up, all the while bringing forward elements that simply feel like they were cut from the original release. But I can take more pictures of weirdo crap than ever, so it’s hard to argue that the essence of what drew me in the first place isn’t there even if it feels hollow this time around.

Too little is done with that core essence of Sludge Life to feel it warrants a sequel. The environment has certainly been expanded on, but what you do in it hasn’t, at least not in an obvious and meaningful way. And as fun as Sludge Life‘s characters were to listen to as they bitched about work, they mostly blur together, and that’s before touching on the fact that the conversations don’t feel like they’ve moved forward in the years since. Instead, the game deploys meta commentary aimed at your character Ghost, lambasting him, and therefore you (and also the game’s own creator), for coming back to a place that they’d all but moved on from. Except we haven’t actually moved on. Everyone is still here and now we’re back here with them. My demo, which reset after an hour, was far too inconclusive to suggest that this is a sustained point of the game that ever comes around in a satisfying way. Given how similar Sludge Life 2 is to the original, which itself dealt in vague vibes more than concrete resolutions, it’s hard to picture it ever being more conclusive or definite than it already is.

If you enjoyed Sludge Life, there seems like very little reason you shouldn’t probably jump into the sequel, because it’s most of the exact same thing. And who’s to say that the narrative that steadily unfolds won’t be one worth exploring? But on first blush, Sludge Life 2 falls short of reproducing the feeling of playing the original, despite feeling like a carbon copy.


Moises Taveras is the assistant games editor for Paste Magazine. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.

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