Sludge Life is one of those indie releases that you find yourself only partially immersed in because you’re not entirely sure if there’s supposed to be any real depth to the game that you’re playing. It’s like an adventure title, where you explore an eccentric town that’s flooded with oil, full of uncaring NPCs, and graffiti. Creative though it may be from a visual standpoint, it’s a passable timewaster.
It’s not necessarily explained from the get-go, but you’re a teen tagger who must spray a hundred spots with your trademark emblem, that being a gooey, green ghost. You could argue it’s a walking simulator of sorts, but there’s a bit of platforming to behold as well. That in itself is a little finicky — you fall like a sack of bricks, and even if you find and use the glider, you’ll fall a few meters before being able to whip it out in order to dainty float great distances with it.
The map in this one is huge. Teleport pads will help you get around instantaneously without any loading times to stop you, but you’re going to be climbing up ladders, balancing atop of walls, and taking great leaps in order to reach seemingly-inaccessible areas. The amount of effort gone into designing this world is amazing, made even more so by its art direction. Buildings are often bursting with colour, a stark contrast to the grey walkways and black ooze, and the rubbery-looking NPCs are bound to make you cock your head sideways in wonder.
There are plenty of little things that work in its favour — small, odd details that give it a fair bit of personality. Switching to your inventory menu has you lifting up a laptop. When you exit it, you toss it away, only to be able to inexplicably be able to pluck out another. It’s the same with the camera, in which you need to find the areas that need spray-painting, though why these weren’t there at all time can’t be seen without it is a minor frustration. Your laptop can download useless apps via CD collectibles, and is often bombarded with the same few ads that you’ll find plastered across billboards. Work, fast food and drugs — interpret it how you will. You can eat banana slugs, smoke cigarettes, fly around the map temporarily before returning to your original spot by eating hallucinogenic mushrooms (no wonder this port got banned in Australia!).
Its art style and numerous quirks aren’t its only strengths. There’s a pretty cool soundtrack that sounds like the kind of things you’d hear someone obnoxiously rap over. It’s an interesting blend of banging beats and soothing synthesisers, which proves to be a pretty immersive and fascinating listen.
At the end of the day, though, unless you like artsy-like games with a bit of exploration to them, the Sludge Life experience is still fairly uneventful throughout. While there is partially a sense of accomplishment from being able to finally reach those tough-looking areas around the map, after a while, it just becomes a bit of a chore. Besides, pinpointing their exact locations in place with limited draw distance is tiresome, to say the least. Sure, it’s full of quirky knick-knacks and unusual sights, and while it is quite creatively designed and has a dapper soundtrack, it’s still the same ol’ gameplay loop stretched over the course of a few hours.