Done Playing: World Gone Sour (Xbox Live Arcade)

World Gone Sour is another one of those increasingly common games that I buy not for its apparent quality but because of how it revolves around real people I know online. When certified real person Adam Boyes (from co-developer Beefy Media) plays the game alongside equally real Giant Bomb co-founder Jeff Gerstmann, their banter is more than just a PR dude trying to sell a press guy on the game. They’re friends and though they may not call me the same, I feel a friendly connection to the two from years of Giant Bomb podcasts and tweets. It was during this quick look that Boyes mentioned a Giant Bomb logo hidden in the game which further blurs the line between things I like. If that wasn’t weird enough context to come into this review I also just earned enough free Microsoft Points from Bing to cover the cost of the game. Let’s just qualify it as “individual results will vary”.

World Gone Sour is a game about Sour Patch Kids candy but like in the days of Cool Spot and M.C. Kids it doesn’t shove candy or soda or happy meals down your throat. The licensed property is just there to set the scene, in this case a world where candy that doesn’t get eaten goes crazy and builds contraptions and obstacles out of everyday junk. You’re a saintly sour patch candy whose quest to rescue his friends has suppressed the madness. What that sets up is a Pikmin-lite system where you find other Sour Patch Kids and hurl them at switches, precariously placed pick-ups, or absorb them to grow bigger and enable new powers.

Those powers include growing and shrinking in size, doing a ground pound move and using your buddies like a bowling ball to take out enemies and explore the side-scrolling levels. It’s nothing cerebral like Fez or daunting like Super Meat Boy and paired with the mellow music and narration of Creed Bratton the whole game feels largely subdued. I’d even call it a nice change of pace from other platformers of late that feel like they’re out to prove something. World Gone Sour is also subdued (in a bad way here) in its visuals with textures that almost look out of a PlayStation 2 game. I like the Toy Story scale of things and the depth of field effects but I didn’t expect to be squinting at blurry objects to make out the gag labels in a modern game. That Giant Bomb logo looks crisp though, oh, and so do the Sour Patch Kids themselves. You can practically taste the crystals of high fructose corn syrup that cover them.

World Gone Sour is aware of what it is — a platformer based on a licensed piece of candy — and it tries to make it special. The narration is clever in spots and the Method Man video takes itself perfectly seriously but it doesn’t go far enough to be really memorable. If you don’t also have a strange meta connection to those involved with its production I can only call it a palette cleanser that isn’t as sour as you’d expect from a pun that bad. It’s cheap, lasts for a couple of days, has local co-op play and you’ll likely get all of the Achievements without much extra work. I hate to call it a throwaway diversion between bigger games but given the sugary nature of the source material that may be the most fitting way to put it.