World Gone Sour is much better than any junk-food product crossover has any right to be. The title screen alone subverts expectations, with a distraught gummy child viciously stabbed to death by another piece of candy and dragged into darkness with a macabre chuckle. A far cry from the vintage, shameless Cool Spot (or Burger King’s creepy Sneak King), Play Brains’ video game, based on the adventures of misplaced Sour Patch Kids, plays like an homage to the best modern side-scrollers. At its core, the game is a 2D platformer with 3D backgrounds, set in the macro world of candy across the floors and furniture of messy human abodes. It seems like the destiny of Sour Patch Kids to be consumed by human beings, for misplaced gummy children to go insane in their quest from candy bins or the space between couch cushions to reach their final destination: the human stomach. In World Gone Sour, we control one such brave candy, who travels through cinemas, bedrooms, and sheds to find the mouth that will liberate him from life, along the way gathering other discarded candies for the trip, and facing off against the aforementioned crazy gummy candies, who have violently lost their minds in the Lotso mold.
World Gone Sour combines elements from many of the best and most notable modern 2D platformers in such a way as to subvert the expectations of a budget side-scroller while fine-tuning features and adding to its own unique personality. The small-scale setting is creative and reminiscent of LittleBigPlanet, wherein piles of CGI-rendered trash and furniture transform into enormous scalable mountains. A neat second-player mode also allows you to share the fun with a friend, as in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but without the frustration of constantly knocking other players to their doom. The barrel sequences from the Donkey Kong Country series are utilized in a fresh and enjoyable way, and the game even modifies the wall-jumping mechanics of Super Meat Boy to enhance levels for players who hunt for hidden secrets. Having extra Sour Patch Kids following the player to be used as projectiles is reminiscent of the eggs in Yoshi’s Island, with the added ability to absorb extra candies to grow in size and hit points a la Super Mario Bros., with extra powers that are used to traverse the environments. Unfortunately, the controls aren’t quite as tight as most of the games World Gone Sour imitates: Although not as loose as LittleBigPlanet, there’s an unfortunate floaty feeling when jumping as well as occasional controller unresponsiveness. This isn’t really a problem until the later levels, in which the difficulty ramps up, and during the otherwise excellent boss battles, seemingly inspired by the great Skullmonkeys.
Beyond its gameplay, World Gone Sour boasts a charming personality that swings between the unavoidable cuteness of the Sour Patch Kids candy and a delightful nastiness that seems to surround them: consider the violent and disturbing behavior of the enemy candies who’s lost their minds, or that extra points are awarded for “sacrificing” yourself—and other Sour Patch Kids—in a variety of ghastly traps across each level. The Office’s resident lunatic, Creed Bratton, narrates the adventure, making suitably weird and amusing comments as well as the occasional irrelevant and surreal monologue that has little to do with what’s happening on screen. All of these elements work to make World Gone Sour more than the sum of its parts, and a surprisingly addictive game.
Despite surpassing all expectations, World Gone Sour isn’t going to find an audience due to poor release timing, putting it up against better and more thoughtful downloadable titles like Fez. But this is hardly good reason to ignore the game. Between its extended playtime, numerous secrets, satisfying co-operative play, and a bizarre new music video by Method Man (produced especially for this game as an extra), World Gone Sour is a clever and surprising treat.