Sludge Life 2 is a nasty, beautiful parkour game

Sludge Life 2, an indie parkour game from DoseOne, is shaping up to be a gross, but strangely relaxing game about graffiti, grime, and good judgement.


I woke up in a hotel bathtub, disturbed by the sound of adamant thumping in the next room and trapped by an avalanche of garbage covering the doorway. After drinking something I probably shouldn’t have from a crumpled can near the sink, I puke, and find a way out – but not before spray painting my signature tag on the wall.

This isn’t what I did over the weekend. This is Sludge Life 2, a follow-up to developer DoseOne and Devolver Digital’s cult-hit indie game about jumping around in a beautiful, nasty world. I spent an hour playing a limited demo version of the game and came away impressed by how it juxtaposes the gross with the serene and, more importantly, by its fantastic world design.

A red smiley face with a cigarette in its mouth appears on a poster inside a sparsely decorated hospital room

Sludge Life 2 does what the best sequels do. Developer DoseOne is building on the same premise as the original Sludge Life, but with more tag spots, weirder NPCs, and even better environment design. You play as the manager of a renowned rapper who, at the peak of his creative career, has decided to sell out. His fame made him a lucrative target for Ciggy, a cigarette company who wants to reach hip young folks and thinks a cameo in a music video is the best way to do it.

Your protege is a sellout, corporations rule the world, and even cinema has lost its magic. Like the original, Sludge Life 2 isn’t subtle, and the bleakness of its rather cynical world feels even more apparent for how relatable it is. Everyone is open to criticism and Sludge Life 2’s version of satire. It takes a jab at police and event security for their brutal ways, but pokes fun at protestors who don’t even know why they’re protesting and just like holding signs. Consumerism and fan culture distract people from the grim realities of their world, even as the rivers turn to literal sludge and toxic corporations pocket their cash and goodwill. It’s poignant, but it also feels a bit too grim sometimes.

Depressing as it sounds, there was rarely a moment when an unhinged NPC with something weird to say wasn’t close by to help break up the bleakness.

An anthropomorphic bird wearing blue covearlls is standing on a gray platform with a clipboard in its feather-hands

Sludge Life 2’s humor won’t land for everyone, which likely comes as no surprise if you played the first game. One man poses nude, while his partner muses on the the problems such a small appendage can cause in the world, and the artist is just pleased to get paid for being “a dick doodler.” Toilet jokes are also back as well. One sad man sits outside a public restroom near the naked poser, grappling with the trauma of what he left inside the now-wrecked toilet. It’s refreshing to see that these feature less prominently in Sludge Life 2, at least in the demo. 

Sludge Life 2’s breezy approach to storytelling means that even if you don’t like a joke or don’t even want to talk to the fly mutants and strange people around you, it’s still easy to enjoy the game. The only thing that matters is finding new spots to paint, so you’re free to ignore everything and just explore the dreamlike world as you see fit.

The original Sludge Life was quietly one of the best parkour games around, and Sludge Life 2 looks set to continue in the same vein. The demo let me jump, climb, scramble, and fall across an apartment complex, rooftop restaurant, shipping yard, and hotel, all surrounded by a sludge moat, and the spacing and general design are superb.

A green face with two X-es for eyes is painted on an otherwise-clean beidge wall between two stair landings. A lone wooden plank connects the landings

The demo area is small enough to feel manageable, but still big enough to avoid feeling cramped, and each area rewards careful exploration. Some areas give up a hidden secret if you approach from a new angle – like through the roof – while elsewhere, you might find a handful of challenges placed off the established path that force you to come up with creative solutions.

The best part is that you can do it at your own pace and fail as many times as you need before finding out the right route or best jump. If you drop from too great a height, the worst thing that happens is you end up in a cigarette-filled hospital room with Ciggy advertisements pasted on the walls and have to try again. No progress is lost, and you’re free to just do whatever you want after that.

That’s the real appeal of Sludge Life 2. Whether the jokes amuse or irritate, or even if the worldview is too sour for your taste, there’s something beautiful in climbing to the top of a trash tower, spraying a few tags, and leaping into the slime-filled cesspit below to find the next challenge.

Devolver Digital provided an in-progress build of Sludge Life 2 for the purposes of this preview. Sludge Life 2 is set to launch later in 2023.

Contributing Editor

Josh is a freelance writer and reporter who specializes in guides, reviews, and whatever else he can convince someone to commission. You may have seen him on NPR, IGN, Polygon, or VG 24/7 or on Twitter, shouting about Trails. When he isn’t working, you’ll likely find him outside with his Belgian Malinois and Australian Shepherd or curled up with an RPG of some description.

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