Sometimes all you need in life is a cat with two buttholes.
Back in the 90s, there was a Simpsons PC game called Virtual Springfield that I never got to play, but it sounded awesome. You would explore the lively world of Springfield and have the opportunity to speak with your favorite Simpsons characters. Sludge Life from Devolver Digital feels like the Virtual Springfield I imagined in my head, except its world is filled with a zany set of oddball characters from an animated television show that doesn’t exist.
In the game, you play as a young graffiti tagger named GHOST. Players can explore the small open-world island, which is filled with numerous spots to leave their tag. While the basic concept might sound similar to the graffiti-laced classic Jet Set Radio, Sludge Life is it’s own unique beast.
Sludge Life comes from the minds of Terri Vellman and Doseone (they’re also working on the upcoming Disc Room). The idea of Sludge Life first entered their minds while working on the first-person shooter High Hell. Terri basically envisioned the world of High Hell with no guns and then they started brainstorming from there.
The game’s cel-shaded island is dominated by the evil corporation Glug. Glug has polluted the island with toxic waste and they also manufacture the Ciggy Cigs brand of cigarettes. Unfortunately the mascot for the cigarettes, Ciggy, gets crushed by a statue, which leads to Glug’s workers going on strike because the corporation won’t clean up the mess.
Players can learn more about the Glug Corporation if they like, but are equally encouraged to just explore the small town and speak with it’s zany denizens. Developer and music lead Doseone was walking me through the demo when we encountered a guy who was clearly enthusiastic about exercising. Doseone explained to me that the character’s dialogue and personality was partially based on a guy who used to always talk with him at the gym. Many of the game’s characters have been inspired by people that the developers met in real life.
Sludge Life is a laid back game where you can do whatever you want. From my short playtime it’s clear that there are tons of secrets to find. While exploring an apartment building I crawled through a vent and found a man who had seemingly been locked inside an asylum like room for ages. I also got to meet a gigantic baby and shoot some hoops on a basketball court. Another fun experience was finding a mushroom and literally getting high. My character shortly after ingesting the mushroom began flying to the top of the building and then burst through the roof like the great elevator in Willy Wonka. I could then see the entire town and fly wherever I pleased. Doseone explained this is sort of a cheat code that lets you find places to visit.
Another cool feature are the game’s interactive computers that use an OS reminiscent of Windows 3.1 on acid. There’s even a fully working puzzle game called Crypt Creeper that you can play inside the game. It’s also worth noting that I met a cat with two butt holes. It was unclear to me if all cats in the game world have multiple butt holes or just the one I encountered.
Sludge Life is a strange title. There’s no big objective. Players are free to choose what they wish to get from the experience. Those who want to solve some of the town’s mysteries are free to do so and might get a special ending for their effort, but overall you can do whatever the hell you want. I’m ready to take another visit to the game’s strange world when it comes out later this year.