Sludge Life 2 Early Impressions: Absurdism, Vandalism, Magnetism

Say that title five times fast; it’ll help you get into the mood of this game, I promise. Because this game is a mood. A bizarre, cutting, outrageous mood. I’m not far into the four-hour trip that is Sludge Life 2, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s a proud successor to the first title. Consider yourself warned.

I yeet my laptop across the bathtub I’ve passed out in, gulp down the nearest canned beverage — best not to ask what’s in it — and barf in the general direction of the toilet. It’s time to start.

Sludge Life 2 is an open-world adventure game, for anyone lost in the weeds at this point. As you might be able to tell from that opening sequence, it slams players in the face with its distinctive personality. And while that approach can turn players off, Sludge Life 2 balances the over-the-top vibes with often cleverly piercing commentary. Observations abound on the ugliness of capitalism, the pettiness of classist attitudes, and the hard-to-argue-with opinions of everyday people just wanting to get through their work day.

As a fan of absurdist humor, I enjoy walking into a bathroom and unexpectedly consuming a slug or littering the ground with my inventory items everytime I use them. Because why can’t I just toss my camera and magically have one appear everytime I push the correct button? Surrealist painter René Magritte noted in one of his most famous works, “this is not a pipe.” And a game isn’t reality, so why not break the rules in fun ways?

There is, you may be surprised to learn, a narrative connecting all of these seemingly unrelated scenarios. I play Ghost, currently the manager for a famous rapper, Big Mud. However, after clawing my way out of the bathroom and scouring the absolutely torn apart hotel room, the music artist is nowhere to be seen. Which is a problem because he has to be in the recording studio ASAP. So, I’m off to find him and bring him to the snobby executives that want to exploit his popularity for money.

Along the way I spray-paint the town, putting up my ghostly artworks everywhere I can and chatting with the locals to see if I can discover where Big Mud went. While I’ve stumbled across a dubious pigeon/human relationship, a guy who ordered bad crab, and a glider that allows me to float across the world, I have yet to find the true object of my search.

I’m happy to keep looking though, leaving a trail of wreckage in my wake.

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