Reviewed on PC (Also available on Nintendo Switch)
Whenever you drive through big cities, you are guaranteed to see graffiti. I’ve never wanted to be someone to tag places, but I’m always impressed with those who do it well. It is also impressive that they can do it without getting caught. I am far from an artist and have never found vandalism appealing, personally, but being able to do it in a video game could be fun.
Sludge Life, a first-person vandalism game developed by Terri Vellmann, and published by Devolver Digital, gives the player the ability to live that tagger life. As Ghost, you will leave your mark on the town. This is a game I would have just passed by, but I am hoping that I can give people a reason to try it out.
Before diving into what this game is, I need to address the art style. It is quite obvious that Sludge Life was not made by a big team. This is not a knock on the developer, just an observation. The art style felt very rough at the beginning, but it quickly grew on me. It somehow fits nicely with the graffiti you are doing.
The overall purpose of the game is to tag 100 different places around this strange area. I do not know how else to describe it. The “world” you play in id full of meta structures (similar to the construction of a new building), office buildings, things that look like an airplane hangar, and outdoor eateries. To add to the bizarre array of buildings, between them all is just sludge.
Getting around the world requires some platforming. I cannot say this is the best platforming I have ever done, but it is not bad. The settings, which I will touch on later, allow you to control the sensitivity. Finding the correct sensitivity made the moving and platforming work well. There were times when I would get frustrated by not landing my jumps, but it did not take much practice to get it right.
So, the goal of the game is to tag the different locations. This requires the player to find them, manage to get to them, and then tag them. Finding the tag spots can be difficult as the game goes on and finding a new one always brought me a lot of excitement. When you are close enough to see one, it will show as a blue spray can, but it can be difficult to get close enough to know where to go. This issue is mitigated by the camera you gain early in the game.
There are a few helpful items you can use as you find them. The camera is first, and it allows you to zoom in to find far away tag spots. You can also take pictures of anything and view them from the menu. Eventually, I found a glider, which helps you land without being sent to the hospital and more easily land in tricky locations.
Even with the help of these items, it can be very difficult to get to the locations you find. I say this as a positive because this game being easy would ruin it. It is the fight to the locations that gave me a sense of accomplishment while playing.
Throughout your fight to find and tag locations, you will have the pleasure of interacting with the locals. Each of these will have their own story to tell. Honestly, you won’t often care what they have to say. They are there for a little comedy. Sometimes the jokes land, and other times you will forget them before you are two steps away. Every once and a while, these NPCs will tell you something worthwhile.
Sludge Life gives you more than just locations to tag. When you return to the menu, you will find a To-Do List, full of tasks to give you further purpose in playing. These tasks consist of different endings you can achieve, finding objects, locating drug areas, and even peeing off the tallest building. That’s right, peeing is part of this game. The settings even give you the ability to say if you pee standing up or not. Do not worry, you will have the option to pee in toilets as well as off the high building.
I have no idea how many taggers do drugs, but it would not surprise me if there was a connection. Sludge Life embraces this thought and gives you the goal of finding the mushroom-like drugs. This is more than just another quest. When you find, and then take, the drugs, you find yourself floating around for a short period of time. This helps you scout out locations that you might not have seen otherwise
Sludge Life is a game with a bit of charm, but it will not land with everyone. The best example of this, besides the random people you can encounter, can be found in the menu system. At first, it is just a computer screen with icons for your to-do list and playing the game. As you make your way through the game, you will find many other icons that add to the bizarre experience. At one point, I found and uploaded a disc, that gave me a wild number of popups that I cannot remove. Maybe you will find this annoying, but maybe you will chuckle with each fake ad that covers your screen.
Further charm is found around every corner of Sludge Life. At one point, I walked up to a toilet and was bit by a lizard. Yep, the lizard jumped out of the toilet and bit me in a place that I can only assume. I woke from this situation in a hospital bed. Another toilet had a giant turd in it. When I tried to speak to a nearby NPC, he told me that he was refusing to clean it up.
The animals I came across often made me do a double take. In one instance, two dogs were just sniffing each other’s butts. Another time, a dog was humping a bag of flour. And, its not just the dogs. There is an elusive cat that has 2 buttholes. I’m not sure if these animals give the game charm, but they make it quite interesting.
I have yet to find everything in Sludge Life, but I have really enjoyed my time with it. I honestly thought this would be a game I would have nothing good to say about. The reality is that I think everyone should give it a try. The best word I can use to describe my time with the game is “satisfying”. It is not the best one I’ve ever played, but I know I will be going back to it from time to time until I have seen everything this game has to offer. At the time of writing this, Sludge Life is free on the Epic Games Store.