Posted by John on October 12, 2011

Review: Sideway: New York (PS3)

With a premise that’s as peculiar as its art direction, Sideway: New York is an inventive twist on the traditional side-scrolling platformer.

  • Chris Holt

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    Chris Holt
  • October 11, 2011 11:33 AM PT
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Equipped with a short (and quickly grating) hip-hop soundtrack and a reverence for its source material (graffiti artists are painted here as personable magicians, urban freedom fighters, or criminal masterminds), Sideway: New York presents you with a simple quest: save your friend Cass from turf leader Spray, whose world you’ve entered and whose paintings throughout the city have come to life and want to kill you. With the help of a diverse move set, you can punch and kick living graffiti paintings while parkour-ing your way around painted brambles and traps.

As the game progresses, you unlock new moves and powers, allowing you to confront increasingly challenging level designs. Still, leaping from window sill to bridge and busting through some malicious paintings on the way becomes a surprisingly fast-paced, rhythmic affair. The game is at its best when you’re bouncing from obstacle to obstacle, deploying your moves in a flash of paint that neutralizes your enemies and throws your character, hurtling, towards another segment of the map.

Review: Sideway: New York (PS3)

New York City through the eyes of a graffiti artist is actually a pretty fun Wonderland, full of exaggerated caricatures of each hood’s personality. Chinatown will see you navigate around red-painted lanterns and confront various “Spicy Noodle” tags letting you know that this is the turf of a unique crazed rabbit underboss. Times Square, meanwhile, is full of electrical traps, neon lights, and a giant demonic crane. While the boss character design is striking and original, the actual boss battles are probably the weakest segment of the game, as they break its fast-paced rhythm and sense of freedom. You’re often confronted with only one way to defeat a boss and a very narrow window in which you can perform an attack — not only making the boss segments real bottlenecks, but showcasing the game’s somewhat sloppy controls.

The other element needing refinement is the game’s approach to two player co-op. Unfortunately, due to Sideway: New York’s constant shifts in perspective and quick pacing, any attempts to navigate the world together will quickly see your partner left behind to disappear off screen. Like Tails from Sonic 2, the second player is secondary and only approaches usefulness by their ability to respawn during boss fights.

Aside from the unique tagger/graffiti art direction, the most interesting aspect of Sideway: New York is its use of perspective. While it’s effectively a 2D side-scroller, the game world operates like a 3D painting where any side can be explored. You’ll be able to jump onto rooftops, flip over the bridges, and pretty much any surface in the urban jungle — making the game a strange hybrid of 2D/3D platforming. It can take some getting used to, and at the end you’ll feel like Playbrains could have done more with it, but the game stays unpredictable throughout, and that’s something you’ll rarely hear about a platformer.

Sideway: New York is available for download for $9.99 on PSN and is well worth a look. While it’s probably going to be derided as an easier version of Super Meat Boy or a less intellectual Braid, the truth is that Sideway: New York carves its own identity and deserves consideration among the best regarded downloadable platformers.

PROS: Fantastic art aesthetic; unique character design and world; interesting use of perspective.
CONS: Annoying boss battles; some hand-cramping platforming segments; soundtrack gets old fast.

Review: Sideway: New York (PS3)

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