These days, if you want to make a platforming game that stands out, you need to have something that rises above the norm. Anyone can make a platformer that features a likable animal star, but if they don’t have a gimmick or something that can keep the player’s attention, things are going to get boring within the first hour or so – maybe even less than that. Luckily, the team at Playbrains and Fuel Industries have something good going for them with Sideway: New York – a game that fits in the genre thanks to a neat new perspective.
In Sideway, you play as Nox, an inspired New York City artist who really digs the graffiti scene. Well, one night, he really gets into his work – literally. An evil dude named Spray manages to suck him into the graffiti world, turning him into an art drawing. Unfortunately, the only way out is to beat Spray at his own game, and considering that he’s managed to capture Nox’s love interest, Cass, the odds are stacked against him. Fortunately for him, he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve. He can manipulate his way through the graffiti world, which also shifts in the real world.
Let’s explain. This is a 2-D platform at heart, and you’ll move your way around ledges, dodging one-hit-kill plants and taking out enemies by either spraying them or jumping on their heads, Mario style. You do all this by moving around in a 3-D world. One minute you’re walking along a stage that takes place on the side of a building, but then you jump upward and suddenly you’re on the roof. The way this level design manipulates with real-world objects, and yet keeps you drawn in a 2-D drawn-drawn world, is pretty damn cool. Your environments change over the course of each stage as well, changing up city locations so that you’re not fighting through the same old suburbia. Also, there are hidden rooms, in which to find 1ups and other goods.
Nox has a number of abilities to his credit, including ones that unlock over the course of the game, such as ledge activation (for only a few seconds), double jumping, a cool shoulder bash, and a paint grenade. These help keep the game from getting stale, and you’ll need them, as enemies you’ll encounter later on get really challenging. We’re talking about guys that don’t crumble when you jump on their heads or ones that throw nasty stuff at you. Things really pick up when you get the ability to grapple and ground pound, combining attacks together to execute kills more stylishly. The only downside is that the controls aren’t entirely accurate. There are times you can easily misjudge a jump over a plant and die, or slide off a ledge into the waiting range of an enemy. Once you get used to it and take advantage of the game’s many checkpoints, you’ll be fine.
Presentation is clearly this game’s strong point. The 2-D/3-D visual style is unbelievably good, and the effect doesn’t wear off, not even with the ever-changing perspective that shifts around more than most platformers. You’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of each stage, finding all the collectibles and seeing what’s where. The animation style is splendid; it features hand-drawn images that really bring the graffiti to life better than most other games. The music is also very good, featuring a variety of hip-hop artists doing their thing – though we could’ve done without the bleeps. We know it’s only Teen-rated, but come on.
Sideway does offer some variety in its gameplay and enough collectibles to last a few hours. Aside from that, all that’s left is a local co-op mode where you and a friend can team up. It’s not bad, but the camera shifts too much on both of your characters, making it a bit confusing. You’ll probably try it once and go back to solo.
Though it’s not the kind of platformer we’d recommend for the long-term, Sideway: New York is a fun little distraction that’s worth a few hours of play. The style certainly stands out on its own, and the gameplay, despite some floatiness, holds together. Besides, it beats spraying real graffiti and trying to explain to the cops it was a matter of inspiration.