Sludge Life is an low-fi open world game set on an island of trash. You take on the role of a graffiti artist known as GHOST, with the simple goal of tagging every surface imaginable. It’s bright, colourful, irreverent and weird. Very weird.
If you’ve ever wandered into the ‘low-fi hip hop beats’ section of YouTube, you’ll recognise where Sludge Life‘s inspirations come from. It employs a distinctly 80s-themed ‘vaporwave’ aesthetic that makes it seem otherworldly. Its visuals are rough and choppy, and they blur like TV static, but it gives the game a grungy alternative style that gels with its graffiti culture influences. It’s weird, but it works.
Players use simple walking, jumping and interacting mechanics to explore the planes of Sludge Life. As graffiti artist GHOST, players are tasked with exploring a wide playground where secrets hide in every corner. Floating graffiti markers hidden around the area show players where they can tag.
Some tags are easier to find than others, and many of them require the use of additional tools like a glider to find. The world of Sludge Life is large, and even after a solid 20 minutes with the game, I have no idea how far it stretches on. There’s plenty to see here, and a whole cast of strange and wonderful characters to meet along the way.
Sludge Life is quirky, and so are the denizens of its world. One of the first people that I met was a cop who immediately punched me in the face. Another was a fast food worker who told me it was OK to rummage through his bins. Later, I ascended a staircase and had an out of body experience that sent me flying across space and time. These encounters are funny, but the humour is often crass and feels very niche.
While Sludge Life has its own unique tone, I’d liken it to the humour found in Adult Swim cartoons. One example of this is when you approach a toilet and GHOST immediately begins pissing into it with no button prompts. It’s a fun gag, but it’s also fairly juvenile. That said, Sludge Life knows its audience and leans purposefully into this tone.
Sludge Life won’t be for everyone. It’s quirky, a bit silly and goes too obviously out of its way to be different. But gameplay is fun, there’s plenty to do and tracking down graffiti spots is genuinely satisfying. I enjoyed my time with the game, and I’m excited to see more of its strange little world.
Sludge Life is coming to Nintendo Switch and the Epic Games Store for PC due out this autumn.