If you've ever wondered what happens to those candies that disappear between your couch cushions, World Gone Sour has an answer, particularly if those candies happen to be Sour Patch Kids. These globs of sugar, specked with crumbs and cat fur though they may be, apparently want nothing more than to fight their way back into your mouth and sacrifice themselves on the altar of your molars. Surprisingly, Playbrains proves that it's possible to pull a satisfying platformer out of such a concept. Although a few of its gameplay elements might leave behind a bitter taste, World Gone Sour manages to hit a sweet spot that most "advergames" seem to miss.
The hero of this quest for gastric nirvana is a lone green Sour Patch Kid, whose moment of bliss ends when some schmuck trips at a movie theater and scatters his candy across the floor. Events like these traumatize some of the green kid's fellow Sour Patch Kids, and they take out their aggression as bosses throughout the game's nine lengthy levels. Other lost candies, however, join up and follow the green kid, readily sacrificing themselves when he needs to toss a few of them to flip a light switch or knock out a battery monster.
If you get enough candies, they can merge with the hero to increase his size, strength and hit points three times over his normal, tiny self, which allows for charged attacks and crippling slams that destroy obstacles beneath his gummy feet. If necessary, you can pop them off and scuttle through narrow passages at your normal size, and you can subject foes to agonizing deaths ranging from melting to impalement for points at the end of each level.
Despite such bouts of dark humor, nothing casts a shadow over World Gone Sour quite like Little Big Planet, which manifests itself in everything from the level design and frequent checkpoints to the competitive leaderboards and monsters cobbled together from everyday junk. Bubblegum monstrosities shamble about like rotting zombies through every level, and our green hero double jumps and slides on everything from bags of potato chips at a concession stand to broken aquariums in what must be the world's messiest (and deadliest) girl's bedroom.
It also caters to a decidedly adult audience, starting with snarky quips about ex-wives by Creed Bratton of The Office fame. Bratton's excellent voice work gives World Gone Sour an air of legitimacy it may have otherwise lacked, and its dismissive nature adds constant humor to the experience. Beat one of the game's harder bosses, for instance, and you get only a flippant "Congratulations, you beat up a doll" out of Bratton. It's a shame that his narration disappears for long stretches, since it may have masked the issues that grow increasingly evident in the game's later hours.
These flaws especially stand out in the more complex moves of the otherwise solid platforming gameplay. Many of the game's most difficult puzzles feature the need for perfectly timed double jumps, wall jumps, and swings from grappling hooks, all three of which don't always respond when they should. It's especially annoying in the final three levels, when the abundance of obstacles forces you to use these techniques in quick succession. Usually they work; sometimes they don't.
Elsewhere, the lengthy loading screens before each level allow for enough time to scarf down half a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and the limited music selection (though catchy) grows a little too repetitive after a while. You'll get a lot of fun out of the local two-player cooperative mode that allows for free resurrections at checkpoints, but you may have trouble telling your own little followers from those of your friends since they tend to blend together.
Yet even with these flaws, World Gone Sour does a decent job of providing the experience of a "real" game in spite of its advergame origins. For one, it's relatively humble, and it rarely beats you over the head with product placements even when it would have made sense to. When the green kid works his way through the theater concession stand, he hops not over bags of Sour Patch Kids, but packets of Pus Poppers and Chocobacon. When Creed Bratton narrates silly cutscenes about the ecstatic joys of being fed to dogs, the appearance of the candies' signature bag goes almost unnoticed. The extremes of product placement lie instead in an unlockable music video by Method Man about Sour Patch Kids, but even this ridiculous bit of bonus material somehow only adds to the game's charms.
Perhaps it's best to consider World Gone Sour in comparison to the product that inspires it. At five bucks, it's only slightly more expensive than a bag of Sour Patch Kids at the local movie theater, and with a running time of around five hours, it'll probably last longer, too. It may not be as good as other offerings available, and the rush it provides is fleeting at best, but if you're just looking for a cheap distraction, you could do worse than a sweet-and-sour romp through the dark side of candyland.