Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Playbrains / Price: $4.99 / Played on: PlayStation 3 / ESRB: Teen [Cartoon Violence, Language, Suggestive Themes]
When I first heard about World Gone Sour, the Capcom published game based on the Sour Patch Kids candy brand, I was openly dismissive. But when I saw that the game would feature narration from Creed Bratton, the old weirdo guy on The Office and forgotten ‘60s music legend, I was suddenly intrigued.
Now that I’ve played the game all the way through, I can say with certainty that this game is way better than a brazen cash-grab based on a candy brand has any right to be, and is probably the best five bucks you might spend on a game for quite a while. This game is funny and fun, and there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t buy it right now.
Taking a cue from the side-scrolling mascot adventures of old (like Cool Spot and Yo! Noid before it), World Gone Sour casts players as a lost and confused Sour Patch Kid, who runs and jumps his way from one end of the level to the other, traversing obstacles and platforms while dispatching enemies with head-stomps and projectile attacks. The player, as the Kid, searches each of the game’s 12 levels for as many other lost Kids to join his posse, collecting stars (points) and green gummi-pieces (which grant extra lives when collected in abundance). For the most part, the basic run, jump, and head-stomp mechanics of most platformers apply here.
Fortunately, World Gone Sour offers plenty of unique gameplay elements that help it stand out from the platforming pack. In each level, you can find up to 25 more lost Kids, and with each one you collect, you have that much more ammunition to hurl at enemies. When pushing the right analog stick in any direction, you see a dotted line that traces the arc of a tossed Kid, providing precise aiming. Even more interesting, when you collect five or so Kids, you can grow to medium size, reducing your ammo but improving your throw distance, jumps, allowing you to take more than one hit from enemies, and opening up new abilities like the charged shot and the body slam. Another five Kids fuels yet another transformation to large size, amping up all of the above attributes.
Adding yet another wrinkle to the formula, being bigger also makes you more vulnerable to hazards: when traversing the Shed, for example, the setting for the third act of the game, you have to successfully jump over and under seemingly endless whirling band-saw blades. Nails, thumbtacks, and freezer-icicles present similar dangers in other levels, meaning that having a smaller body makes it easier to dodge the obstacles—but will also reduce your jumping distance. Another issue: jumping onto a small platform is easier when your body is smaller, but, again, a larger body has more jumping power. Being small also helps you fit through small crevices to access secret areas and find more lost Kids. When the world’s gone sour, size matters.
End of level point-bonuses are also achieved by making sure you and your candy brethren die in all eight of the possible ways in each level—ways that include drowning, melting, being skewered, exploding, and more.
Needless to say, these kinds of strategic considerations are pretty surprising for a game based on sour gummy candies.
My main gripe with the gameplay comes from the repetitiveness of it all, though towards the end of the game, the trickier obstacles start to reinvigorate the proceedings. While it’s no Super Mario, the gold standard for the genre, World Gone Sour would still have benefitted from some more interesting curve balls thrown your way. What it does, it does really well, and maybe straying from a working formula would’ve lowered the quality of the overall package if the game’s developers couldn’t get it done right. Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and be thankful that the gameplay’s as solid as it is.
There’s a story! I know; I can’t believe it either. World Gone Sour depicts a world in miniature, where a candy’s greatest wish is to be hungrily devoured and to spend eternity being digested by sugar-craving consumers. But when the protagonist of the game, a nameless green Sour Patch Kid, falls to the movie theater ground before he can be eaten, he embarks on a quest to find as many other lost candies as possible and get eaten. Along the way, he must fight and defeat other uneaten Kids who’ve gone mad with feelings of rejection and unfulfilled destiny. Pretty heady stuff.
The game is broken into three acts, the Movie Theater, the Creepy Little Girl’s Room (complete with hairless, mangled Barbie dolls whose eyes follow you as you move), and the aforementioned Shed. During cutscenes, Creed Bratton explains what’s happening, while offering often pretty twisted commentary. Creed’s moments on The Office are routinely my favorite, and he doesn’t disappoint here either, though I would’ve enjoyed more. The majority of his in-game comments come in the beginning of the game, while players are learning the ropes, though once in a while a new enemy type will prompt Creed to offer cryptic-yet-strange advice.
The game’s weirdness and self-awareness are one of its greatest strengths. I really would’ve appreciated the ability to watch the cutscenes in a separate bonus menu, but we can’t have everything, I guess.
Controls are fairly simple here. Moving and jumping is accomplished with the usual d-pad and button layout, while a few of the Kid’s unique abilities do take a little getting used to. Growing and shrinking are mapped to the right and left shoulders, respectively, while tossing other Kids is done by hitting the right trigger. Sliding down inclined surfaces (pencils, drinking straws, etc.) is done by holding square, which is the same button used to grapple and swing. The double duty button made for some awkward segments, but overall, the control scheme gets the job done very well.
On the other hand, there’s something off about the feel of the game. Jumping sometimes feels floaty and it’s tricky to gauge just where you’re going to land a lot of the time, leading to frustration. Movement, too, has a sluggish, sticky feel—though it’s entirely possible that this was done on purpose to really drive home the idea that you’re a sticky piece of candy.
That said, while the controls aren’t really great, they still get the job done, and they’re pretty consistent throughout. That means that players should be able to get used to them, and compensate when faced with really nasty jumps. They’re not ideal, but they’re far from a deal-breaker.
The graphics in this game are kind of a mixed bag. The animation is often smooth, and the environments are suitably creepy and fun. At the same time, because the game is a 2D platformer with 3D-rendered characters and environments, it’s kind of tough to tell just where a platform or hazard begins and ends. That can, and does, lead to a lot of accidental, no-fault deaths that are kind of frustrating. Lots of checkpoints and a healthy supply of extra lives help mitigate that frustration, but it’s still anger-inducing.
Back to the plus side, all of the Kids boast solid animation, as well as pretty funny idle actions—like your Kid followers will just start randomly humping the air for no reason, and when your Kid witnesses/causes a follower’s death, he’ll gasp in horror or just straight up start laughing at them. There’s plenty of personality in these little guys.
Sadly, the longer you play, the more often you’ll run into accursed slow-down. Sometimes the action slows to a crawl. Times like those are what reminded me that the game’s only five bucks, and I didn’t have much problem cutting it more slack. Even still, slow-down is always annoying.
The Kids themselves squeak and scream amusingly, and Creed’s narration is delivered with his trademark sleazy hilarity. The music is a bit disappointing, though, especially considering the Method Man-performed rap that accompanied the game’s announcement back in November. For the most part, each act has its own looping theme, meaning that there’s a grand total of three songs that you hear as you play. It’s never annoying, but I’d hoped for more weird candy raps during the game.
The game’s credits do offer another rap, this one performed by Creed himself, about being inside of a belly, and while that’s great, I wanted more. Again, for five bucks, maybe I shouldn’t be asking for so much, but I can’t help but imagine how epic this game could’ve been with nine original, candy-themed raps. I would’ve bought the soundtrack.
(I once paid nine dollars for an album of Beatles songs performed by a guy with a dog-synthesizer, so I’m not kidding. Though, maybe I’ve revealed something bad about me rather than about this game’s music. Anyway.)
World Gone Sour is an extremely competent and oftentimes innovative platformer that has a ton going for it. Would I be crazy to hope for a sequel? I really want there to be a sequel. Maybe one where the Sour Patch Kids go to space…Galaxy Gone Sour or something. This game is a measly five bucks on PS3, Xbox 360, or PC, and it totally delivers.
Wait a second, I haven’t made the requisite, candy-related pun: This game is really sweet.
There. Now buy it.