Sludge Life 2 (2023)
Developer: Terri Vellman & doseone
I've been looking forward to playing and reviewing this one for a while, but it's been a bit since I've actually started a new game. I was surprised to find that my review of Sludge Life was more than 2 years ago now, since the game still felt pretty recent to me. Sludge Life 2 is an open-world "vandalism" sim with an expanded world and story from its predecessor. Sludge Life 2 is funny, stylish, grimy, and perhaps even weirder than Sludge Life - but it doesn't really do anything particularly new or surprising to exceed it.
Sludge Life 2 puts you back in the perspective of Ghost, a street graffiti artist. However, this time Ghost has taken up another job - managing the music career of the famous rapper Big Mud. You wake up in the bathtub of a disastrously messy hotel room and hear knocking at the door, while a couch is leaned against it to keep it shut. You quickly find out that last night's party got out of control and now Big Mud is missing. You'll have to explore all around the contained "Ciggy City" suites, as well as beyond the city's walls. Although your main mission is to find Big Mud, you'll find a lot more to do in this world, including exploring a dangerously hazardous waste zone and getting involved with the revolutionary organization called Granma.
The soundtrack for Sludge Life 2 is excellent, another really fresh album from doseone. There's more of Big Mud's songs on this one, as his music has a lot more connection to the story this time. It's a style of music I would've never thought to look into myself, especially Big Mud's mumble rap style, but it's such a vibe-y, entrancing listen. There's nothing new I'd say about Sludge Life 2's art style, but I still really enjoy the retro, CRT, faded look of the world. Character design is really well-done, from the humans to the non-human characters. The world inside Ciggy City looks a little less smog-y than the world in Sludge Life, but there's also new products of pollution that make for interesting visuals.
I played all the way through Sludge Life 2 before I realized that there is actually a short, free "interlude" game between Sludge Life and Sludge Life 2. I played through it right afterwards, but it's easy to miss so I definitely recommend checking out Sludge Life: The BIG MUD Sessions before Sludge Life 2 - it definitely helps give a little more context to the early events of the game. It only took me 30 minutes to complete, and that's including getting the optional collectibles. Although I didn't quite understand what was going at the beginning of Sludge Life 2 at first, talking to everyone you see will give you some backstory on what's going on with Big Mud and his new song. After the surprising events of last game (I won't say too much), things surprisingly look to be back to the way they were. Sure, now you get to stay at the luxurious Ciggy City suites, but even this tall, contained building has been reached by the effects of dire pollution. Much like Glug, Ciggy is another exploitative company creating a wealth gap in the population, securing its fancy hotel lobby with Clops on patrol. Ghost starts to see ads for a new "Kid Ciggy", with a new song ad - apparently by BIG MUD? Not only is it a twisted product to be selling and collaborating with, but many are now calling BIG MUD a big sell-out.
Unfortunately, Sludge Life 2 continues to have mostly the same gameplay flaws as Sludge Life. It's a game that expects you to platform but it doesn't really give you good platforming controls. It always feels like you're fighting against the game to get to where you want to go. It helped that this game gave you a few more abilities, but it still feels a little awkward and frustrating a lot of the time. Even though the world of Sludge Life 2 is pretty similar to the previous game's, there was a lot of new characters, new creatures, and new secret places to explore. I completed the game's story in about 3 hours, but I kept playing for a quite a while to discover the other two endings and complete achievements. Since the game is mostly exploring, you naturally end up getting a lot of the collectibles and it also feels like part of the game's main quest. It was satisfying to find everything and tag every spot - plus, the two endings I got later on were actually cooler than the first one I saw. There was a side quest to take photos of all sorts of strange animals you find on the island, which took a little more work but was fun to look out for.
I had a fantastic time exploring the world of Sludge Life 2 and I'm not even that bothered that it just feels like a larger version of Sludge Life because they're both great games. I guess I had expectations that there'd be something new gameplay-wise, or that the world would look pretty different this time. Regardless, I recommend checking out Sludge Life 2, especially after playing both Sludge Life and The BIG MUD Sessions. There's a loosely-connected story throughout these games and I still think that there's nothing out there that quite captures the same grimy, rebellious, weird-as-hell sentiment that these games provide. It's just messy and rad time, and it's worth talking to every character for the fresh and funny writing.
Sludge Life 2 is available on PC
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Last Played: 9/25/2023
Playtime: 8.5 hrs