Sideway: New York Review
Game: Sideway: New York
Developer: Fuel Industries, Playbrain
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Available on: Playstation Network only
Graffiti and 3D Platforming? Sounds like my life in New York City in the 80’s. Yeah, that’s right, I was alive in the 80’s which makes me old enough to know where Sideway: New York garners its inspiration. You play Nox, a young graffiti artist who gets sucked into a world where paint is power and the levels are literally off the wall. You embark on a classic platforming quest to save your girlfriend, Cass, as you battle foes comprised of paint led by rival graffiti artist Spray. Spray was a bit annoyed because Nox tagged over some of his art work (this is a mortal sin of Graffiti we used to call buffing…Spray, I feel your pain). In order to save Cass you must navigate levels that defy physics throughout the gritty New York City Landscape.
Being that this is a game based around graffiti, the focus has to be on its colour palette and I’d have to say this is done well. Sideways exhibits a wide array of style using cell shading and shadowing to give it an almost 2.5D feel. This is very important as the game wants to imply a feeling of depth as it literally takes place within the walls of the background. At first glance it may be a bit daunting to follow until your depth perception adjusts itself. Once it does you will have no problem leaping through each level. The backdrops, mostly consisting of gritty brick or stone colouring, offset the characters well as they seem to “pop” out from it while remaining in the 2D realm. This technique of shading and colouration is used by actual Graffiti artists as well so it adds a bit of authenticity.
The game revolves around the idea of a 2D character placed on a 3D platform. Picture an ant or small insect walking around the sides of a die. That is how Sideways’ levels are formed using Nox and buildings. Each side of the building plays as a 2D platformer with various holes to jump over and enemies to defeat, the only difference is that there may be holes in the top or bottom of level. Travelling through these particular holes will transfer you to the next side of the structure. For the most part you will be running right but some backtracking will be needed to complete some levels. As the game progresses Nox will attain more abilities, that add to the platforming, such as using graffiti to create additional platforms or the ability to swing from certain extensions in the level. As these abilities progress, so do the challenges. Later levels can be quite challenging as precision timing and attacking is needed at the same time, which brings me to my first gripe. Nox controls seem a bit…floaty, for lack of a better word. He tends to drift a bit when jumping which can cause you to over or under leap platforms. This can become frustrating as some areas have a slew of enemies or spikes that cause instant death.
There are a few different forms of enemies ranging from small paint throwing blobs, to larger armoured foes. Most can be defeated using Nox’s default melee combo or the ever so traditional leaping on an enemy’s head. More advanced enemies may need a specific attack to daze them before they will be able to be defeated.; this will normally involve utilizing Nox’s slide or diving kick attack. At the end of each area there will be a boss challenge waiting for you. Some can be tough but, as with any game of this type, trial and error is key. As with the platforming, battling can be hindered by the controls. Nox slides a bit which can cause you run into enemy attacks during tense moments.
The game levels are sprawled across a “world map” representing New York City. Each level is named after an actual part of the city such as “Jamaica” in Queens or “Chinatown” In Manhattan. The levels themselves have a completion percentage that is driven higher depending on how many hidden items you collect. Areas can be revisited in order to achieve 100% completion.
Indie Rap artist Mr. Lif is credited with developing the soundtrack and the tracks he contributed are good. I’m pretty familiar with Mr. Lif’s work and the songs that were selected represent the game well. The only real problem is these songs are played in a loop for the entire game, so it can become a bit tiring to hear the same song for the 13th time. As for the sound effects, there really isn’t anything spectacular but it’s all fitting. Attacks have a good striking sound and paint has a good thick liquid sound…you don’t really need much else.
The game has a good run with some hidden items to find. As I mentioned previously, you can revisit stages which will have some players coming back. Fans of platformers in general may find themselves revisiting the game for an additional playthrough or two.
VERDICT: I had a good time playing this game as I am a fan of platformers. It has a great design concept and wonderful artistic direction. Being a New Yorker myself it was nice to see a sort of graffiti netherworld in some of the areas I’m familiar with. The only thing holding this game back is the flighty controls. To be a top notch platformer, the controls need to be more precise and responsive. With that said, you do get used to them after a bit of play so it does not completely ruin the overall experience. If you are looking for a solid platform experience with a few twists and don’t mind trial and error, Sideway: New York is definitely worth looking at.