Games based on licensed properties are hardly a rarity, but games based on food are a little more rare. Though older games like McKids and Yo! Noid existed on the original NES back in the day, it’s hard to think of any similar titles on this current generation of consoles. That’s about to change though with World Gone Sour, a downloadable 2D platformer from developers Playbrains and Beefy Media, which is based off of the Sour Patch Kids candies. While it won’t set anyone’s world on fire, it’s a decent little game in its own right.
The story is told through several cutscenes and during gameplay, thanks to a darkly humorous narration by Creed Bratton of The Office fame. It is quickly established that all Sour Patch Kids are secretly alive, and have no desire greater than to end up in a human stomach. Unfortunately for one particular kid, while his bag is bought at a movie theater, the patron trips and scatters it into a trash can. From there, the kid sets off on a journey to meet its destiny by being eaten by someone, venturing through the theater, a little girl’s bedroom and a shed. Along the way, you’ll face off against sentient wads of gum, killer dolls, and other abandoned Sour Patch Kids who have turned to evil.
The overall tone of the game is surprisingly dark, sadistic, and not entirely kid-friendly. Bratton curses a fair amount, cutscenes include such elements as a teen at the theater being surprised by “jiggly bits” in a film, and your kid and the companions it meets can meet their end in several gruesome ways, such as being sliced, impaled, or burned to goo. There’s definitely some good humor to be found in this game, but it does seem like a bit of a bizarre tone to take when many kids will likely try the game out because they like the candy.
Gameplay revolves around traversing various two-dimensional landscapes and powering yourself up by meeting other abandoned kids. The most interesting element involves taking advantage of the followers you gain and either powering yourself up with them or throwing them to unlock new areas. Once you have enough followers, holding down a button can let you absorb several of them, growing up to three times bigger in size and enabling you to take an extra hit or two from enemies and hazards. At the same time, growing will enable you to ground pound through certain platforms and throw your followers to take out barricades and armored enemies. Finally, you can split your followers back up and shrink down again at any time to get through narrow passages.
The system is novel, and works pretty well, but there ultimately isn’t a lot of variety to it. By the midpoint of the game, you’ll have seen everything there is to see in terms of what your character is capable of. The feature that will likely keep players going is the actual stage designs, which are pretty good and have a nice visual style to them. Almost like something out of Toy Story or the LittleBigPlanet games, levels have a hand-crafted appearance, with structures made of Popsicle sticks, soda cups, and other objects that would appear much smaller to a normal human. Enemy and boss AI is very simple, with most enemies requiring nothing more than a jump on the head to take out. The bosses mainly come down to trial and error as you figure out their attack patterns and the right times and ways to damage them, but they do provide some challenge. The same goes for the latter half of the game, which definitely ramps up in difficulty – another thing that might scare off younger players.
The controls are serviceable, but could have used some fine-tuning. It never quite feels precise enough. There were several times I missed hitting an enemy on the head, and certain spots, like those involving grappling hooks, take a little bit of practice to truly get a hold of the mechanics. Still, it doesn’t get to the point where you’ll find yourself constantly dying and blaming it on bad controls; it just could have used a little more work.
The game supports two players at once via local play, similar to LittleBigPlanet and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This doesn’t affect the actual game at all outside of the camera having to accommodate both players as best as it can, as level layouts stay the same and there aren’t really any advantages or abilities that the players can team up to use. The fact that one player can keep going if the other dies and have the dead player respawn at each checkpoint is a useful touch, though.
World Gone Sour is a pretty basic game, but it works to some degree most of the time, thanks to its appealing visual style and good sense of humor. It was definitely wise to make it only $5 to download, due to its promotional nature and its brief length of about four hours. Platforming fans should give it a try, and everyone else might at least want to give the demo a download.
This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.