Sideway: New York, developed by Playbrains is aiming to change gamer-perspective on platformers. The main draw of this title is that players traverse the environment as 2D artwork on buildings and various other 3D structures. The mix of the two dimensions makes for some interesting and fun platforming puzzles.
In Sideway: New York players take the role of Nox, a graffiti artist who, while out searching for his girlfriend, gets sucked into the world of Sideway by a powerful being known as Spray. In order to escape Sideway, Nox has to defeat Spray and his goons. It’s your standard adventure told through brief fully animated cutscenes in between levels.
Sideway pays homage to a couple Nintendo franchises and the gameplay is easy enough to pick up for anyone who has played a platform game. There are sequences where Nox can traverse parts of the level via a series of canons – which is reminiscent of the barrels in Donkey Kong Country. Also, when Nox dies the fade to black is too similar to the one in Super Mario 64 – though, of course, featuring Spray instead of Bowser. The developers were set on creating a nostalgic platformer – and these touches show respect to classic titles in the genre that inspired them.
There’s even a “princess” that needs saving, though there isn’t a back story on Nox or his relationship to this damsel in distress. This makes it difficult to care about why this girl should be saved, other than the barebones fact that she’s his girlfriend. It may be asking much for a PSN title, but a bit more could’ve been done to flesh out the story. Then again, gamers have been saving princesses in castles for decades – and they may not have an issue this time around either.
The first thing players will notice is the art style. The environment is full of highly detailed graffiti. The main characters and the enemies themselves are also pieces of art come to life in very fluid animations. Some of the hazards in the game are actually murals painted on the walls. One of the challenges players will face is avoiding these traps since they blend so well with the wall. Gamers may look at some of the decorations and think it’s just elaborate graffiti until the artwork comes to life (such as spikes) and skewers Nox – if he doesn’t watch his step.
Nox leaves paint splatters when he throws punches which ends up all over the walls after a hectic fight. The game could benefit from a closer camera at times – to capture the small details of the artwork. However, this is only a small gripe since the camera’s distance makes the gameplay more manageable, allowing the player to see more of the level ahead. The camera also assists with the drop in co-op, where a friend can jump in and take on the role of Fume. Fume is a being of Sideway and is Nox’s guide – giving helpful tips on how to use new abilities and make it through new areas of the game.
While playing with a friend may sound like fun, the game is really better suited for the solo adventurer. The game is easy to pick up but quickly becomes challenging. Those who bring in a partner should choose them wisely – since they’ll need skill (or at the very least patience) to make it through the game. Sideway: New York doesn’t feature casual-friendly mechanics, like New Super Mario Bros Wii‘s option for players to bubble out of tough situations.
Nox starts off with a basic punching attack then quickly gains other abilities – such as shields and paint grenades. Some of these moves drain a paint meter – forcing the player to think strategically instead of launching a barrage of grenades at their enemies. This becomes very important during boss battles, where only specific abilities can cause damage to enemies. Both Nox’s health and paint meter can be upgraded by finding hidden power-ups throughout the levels.
Another ability has Nox filling in graffiti to form platforms he can jump on. This is one of the few moments in the game where he can utilize his graffiti talent. It would’ve been nice to have some puzzles that revolved around creating graffiti art — similar to Marc Ecko’s Getting Up and Jet Grind Radio. However, the extent of the puzzles revolve around Nox moving real world boxes to get to certain areas – not the most inspired use of what could have been a really interesting mechanic.
There are also segments where the player will have to jump off, or rather over the side of a building, to change the perspective – and thus the gravity of an area so they can continue. This is a very nice touch and fully utilizes the game’s 2D on 3D mechanic.
While the first handful of levels can be repetitive, about halfway through Sideway: New York players will really be challenged to use many of their learned abilities in conjunction to make it to the end. This increases the challenge but also the fun – since the game is throwing different hazards at the player making for a much more diverse experience.
The music of each level is your standard affair of various hip-hop beats mixed in with full tracks from Skullcandy artist Mr. Lif. The tracks offer high-quality socially-conscious lyrics, however these tracks tend to repeat very often and it would’ve been nice if a wider offering of music was available.
Sideway: New York is highly recommended to fans of platform games and also graffiti art and hip-hop culture. The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played Super Mario Bros. or any similar title – and wants a little bit of retro (albeit with some modern conventions) fun. The game is available now exclusively on PSN for 9.99.
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