Week 6 – Main Post – SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions

A screenshot showing the menu screen of Sludge Life: The MUD Sessions, a video game.

Honestly, I’m not really sure where to start with this one, as this whole experience felt like I was undergoing a fever dream. Safe to say this post is going to be far less formal than the rest; and getting into the overall mood of the experience, my choice of words will match. Essentially, I’m going to refer to the characters in this game as dudes – cuse, that’s just what they are. Dudes.

Generally speaking, I’ve always enjoyed indie games published by Devolver Digital, and I recall some time ago playing a game called High Hell; which was developed by Terri Vellmann and published by Devolver. The game intrigued me due to the random, chaotic nature of it, the physics – and specifically the art style. Now, while browsing my steam library I came across another game by the same developer, titled “SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions”, and I recall I added this game to my library for the same reason – developed by Terri Vellmann, published by Devolver. As such, I gave the store page a quick peek and was once again captivated by the art style. However, compared to the clean minimalism or Hight Hell, this game looked… grimy? Chaotic? Unique. Unique enough to be captivated by them once more – this developer clearly has a personal approach to the visuals of their games; and I’m all here for it. The screenshots were colorful and confusing, it appears as if the game had some filter overtop the screen and a mix between human characters and frog-men? The 6th screenshot contained a picture of a dude with a septum piercing, a man bun and the following words on the screen:

“Yo, lemme bum a CIGGY CIG quick?”

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows a man with a man-bun and a septum piercing asking to "bum a ciggy cig".

Needless to say, I knew this was the game I had to try this week. I refused to read into the description or any of the selling points. I wanted to go into this blind – besides, it was free and already in my library.

So, I launched the game and was surprised to see there was no intro, just a 2-second screen showing some watermarks that looked like stickers, or graffiti. Instantly after, I was shown a bright blue screen – similar to what you would see when your computer crashes (if you’re on a Windows system). And without any context I was prompted with a login window. The username was GHOST and it appeared that it wanted me to type in a 4-letter password. Pressing any random keys did the trick and the screen transitioned to black once more. The phrase “GHOST?” in blocky yellow type, overtop a grey screen. It appeared as if there was an old CRT monitor filter/effect on the screen. Shortly after – and one screen glitch effect later – I found myself looking at someone.

It seems I’m Ghost, and this dude was trying to wake me up. He apologizes for disturbing my sleep and lets me know that MUD needs me in the vocal booth. Looking at the surroundings, we’ve woken up in a recording studio – a MIDI keyboard can be seen on a bench to the right, there’s clusters of acoustic panels on the walls, and the guy who woke me up looks to be a hip-hop groupie or something. Just going off of the black hoodie, and more importantly, the black cap he’s wearing that is clearly inspired by Eazy-E’s iconic “Compton” cap. For future reference, the cap has “Click Sick” written on it.

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows a two characters sitting on couches inside a music studio. The table has ashtrays full of cigarette butts.

Before getting started, I wanted to check out the settings as the camera sensitivity felt WAY too high. So, I pressed escape and was greeted with the game’s menu – this part was honestly great. The menu resembled a computer desktop – there were icons on the screen, a backpack for items, a “readme” file, and just the thing I was looking for – an icon titled CONFIG. I press it and a window appears overtop the desktop, mimicking an older Windows operating system.

AND this is where the confusion began. The options menu opens on the GAME tab. The first section of options is standard – LANGUAGE. Cool, okay, great. So uhh. The next section is titled GHOST and contains four yes/no selectors. Vegan? Pees Standing? Spam? Dog Lover? Look, I’m really not sure what to make of these and how they’d affect the gameplay – aside from “PEES STANDING”, that one is pretty straightforward… that doesn’t make it any less jarring though. Despite that, I left everything as it was, however, I set this the “DOG LOVER” option to “YES” and carried on to the camera tab of this menu.

What did I get myself into? What am I playing and where is this going to take me…? I really had no expectations – but the weirder it got the more interested I became.

Satisfied with the changes I’ve made, I close the config menu, and press the escape key once more. The menu quickly zoomed out, became superimposed onto an actual laptop that went flying out of my character and onto the ground. I LOVED THIS. What a clever way to incorporate a diegetic menu into your game. I then started spamming the escape key just to bring up and close the menu repeatedly, getting my character to throw laptops around the room.

Alright, now to business – time to explore. Looking at characters makes an icon appear that prompts me to click to interact. Doing so, I spark up a conversation with the dude that woke me up from my slumber.

“I don’t think we got any more CIGGIES, YO…”

“Don’t look at me G, YOU and MUD smoke more than you breathe!”

“Gotta be a pack of CIGGY CIGS around this dump somewhere, tho.”

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows a character dressed in hip-hop attire stating we don't have any more cigarettes.

Something about the nature of the writing just had me chuckling, it just resonated with me as this is how I text some of my friends. The casual nature of it all was refreshing – it was clear this game isn’t going to take itself too seriously, and sometimes that’s just what you need.

Turning around from this conversation, I took a closer look at the studio – there’s a mixing table in front of the vocal booth, speakers, laptop with some producing software on the screen, posters all over the walls, a mini fridge, crushed cans of some beverage (probably beer), crushed packs of empty cigarettes, and most importantly – two ashtrays FULL of CIGGIES. On the couch there’s a goblin looking dude drinking a beer, I was dying to find out what he had to say. This post is going to be full of direct quotes from the in-game conversations as I think they really set the tone and shine.

“GHOST, I’m all types of HYPED, YO!”

“Can’t even believe ME & MUD are in the studio together…”

“BIG MUD and HALF FACE on a SAD BOY beat, it’s gonna be ALL GAMES OVER!”

“CLICK SICK crew is gonna BLOW all the way UP! We’re about to be the SOUND of the SLUDGE, YO!”

“We already got these dope HATS, mad macho SECURITY dudes, and a GLUG suit waiting outside for the MASTER tapes…”

“Only thing we’re missing is SWOLLEN POCKETS and NEW SNEAKERS!”

Alright so I’m still really taken back by the entire atmosphere and tone being set; but things are starting to come together. We’re a hip-hop/artist collective about to record our next ep/album – and this is the big one that’s going to take off. It seems MUD and Half Face are the rappers in the group, MUD already being in the vocal booth. I’m not sure what the name of the first dude is nor what he does, so I’ll just let my mind fill things in and guess he’s the graphic designer or something. As for me, GHOST, I have yet to find out what my role is.

From here, I exited the studio and was going to check in on MUD, to see what he needed of me, however, to the right side of the hall, I noticed a blue door. Curious, and figuring I had some time to spare, I checked it out to find a washroom. This is where the initial option came into play. There was a toilet, and a sign above it stating, “please urinate on toilet only”. Although it has absolutely nothing to do with the gameplay, the devs added a peeing mechanic into the game – walking up to the toilet triggers GHOST to pee… cool…? After that little interaction I decided it’s finally time to see what MUD is up to. I walked back towards the studio, past it and into the recording booth.

Here, we meet MUD – a blue frog-man looking dude with massive eyes bulging out of his head. The expression on his face was almost as if he saw a ghost. How fitting. Speaking with MUD we find out that he’s been getting ready to record, however, he doesn’t trust the owners of the studio and it’s been making him “mad ANXIOUS”.

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows a frog-man like character dressed in a tracksuit stating the studio is making him "mad ANXIOUS".

“I’ve been STRESS SMOKING, but I’m out a CIGGY CIGS, so now I’m just STRESSING.”

“I gotta BODY this track tho yo, hit me with a CIGGY right quick?”


“I gotta SMOKE before I SPIT, otherwise it don’t sounds SLUDGE, and then it won’t sound MUD.”

And now it’s all finally coming together. My role. My sole purpose in this whole thing is to find cigarettes for MUD and the crew. Mission accepted.

From here the game opens up and allows you to freely explore. Without spoiling too much, the game is filled with silly interactions related to the achievements associated with it. Firstly, you come across a camera, which is functional and lets you walk around taking photos – these actually get exported to the game files and can be accessed outside of Sludge Life. Furthermore, as you walk through the surrounding areas, there are various areas which you can spray paint and tag with GHOST.

One standout interaction was a cat sitting in a stairwell. Upon interacting with the cat, you’re prompted with the same menu that appeared when MUD was asking for a ciggie. The cat is also requesting a cigarette. So, the mission expands. I now have two key characters relying on me to find smokes.

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows a menu screen stating I have 0 "ciggy cigs".

With a little more exploration, I come across a pack of cigarettes that’s nearly empty – nearly. There are two inside, which let me satisfy my main goals. First, I wanted to make sure that cat got what it wanted, so I run back to the stairwell and offer it a cigarette. Literally nothing happens that would change the gameplay, or my trajectory. Simply put, the cat now has a cigarette in its mouth and continues hanging out in the stairwell.

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows a cat smoking a cigarette.

On the way back to the studio, I decided to explore some more – this led to finding a piece of software that can be installed onto my laptop, a minigame of sorts. It’s accessible through the game’s menu and is honestly pretty fun, playing like a variation of a match-3 game, mixed with a dungeon crawling battler. I also encountered another dude asking for a cigarette, however, only haveing one left, I figured I should be saving it for MUD. Nonetheless, a quick discussion with this dude reveals he is also a graffiti artist like yourself – and has created what he believes is a new, elevated way to vandalize and tag property. I’ll leave this up to you to discover should you chose to try this game.

Finally, I returned to the studio and gave MUD the cigarette he requested. A satisfied thanks and a few puffs later, he confirms that he’s ready to ‘body this track’ and asks that I return to the studio to press the play button.

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows a the recording booth of the music studio.

Proud of my accomplishments, I do so. The button is pressed, the beat begins to play. MUD begins to nod his head and starts to vocalize over the beat. The camera zooms into the recording studio, slowly and cinematically. Voice raspy from the ciggie, MUD begins to flow over the track. At this point the camera switches angles every few seconds, and MUD is no longer in the booth – but rather, in an empty orange room. With each change in camera angle, the room has more and more cigarettes on the ground. Slowly the room fills with cigarettes, then mushrooms. MUD continues to vocalize while taking drags from his cigarette. Now, his eyes change, and become hypotonic. The visuals become psychedelic and shift their focus from cigarettes to mushrooms. The music cuts, and the screen fades to black.

A screenshot showing gameplay of SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions, a video game. This screenshot shows MUD, the frog-man character smoking a cigarette, the background is full of cigarette butts and mushrooms.

If you’re confused reading that last bit, or any of this really; don’t worry. I’m just as confused. I really have no clue what I just partook in. What even was this game?

We’re now back to the laptop screen menu. Popups begin to appear and it’s seems this free-to-play game was actually a demo and advertisement for Terri Vellmann’s new game, SLUDGE LIFE 2. At this point, there’s also a window showing the collections of photos you’ve taken throughout the game, and some photos that are likely from the full release.

Honestly, I don’t really know what to say. This post is less of a review or critique, more so a journal of my experience with “SLUDGE LIFE: The BIG MUD Sessions”. Throughout the entire demo I was confused, but also captivated with how weird this whole thing was. It has segments where the parts make sense, but then you turn the corner and are hit with another out-of-pocket curveball each time. The game seems to have no focus on any mechanics or central themes – aside from cigarettes – rather it feels like a theme park in which the creators were able to be silly and put together a lighthearted project. It’s unique, yet familiar. Off putting, yet intriguing. Despite feeling dazed and confused by the end of it, I genuinely want to purchase Sludge Life 2 and see more.

To end things off here, I’ll include the description of SLUGE LIFE 2 so that we can at least make sense of what the interlude was about and what to possibly expect if we were to try out the full release.

“SLUDGE LIFE 2 is the grimiest first-person vandalism sim since the first SLUDGE LIFE—but, like, twice as dense. Explore a huger, weirder, gnarlier open world loaded with secrets, weirdos, jokes, and, of course, plenty of spots to tag.”

Wrapping this post up, this whole experience has left me dazed and confused.

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