Sideway: New York Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Sideway: New York Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Paint The Town

Arguably, one of the great things about this current console generation is that we’ve seen a bit of a 2D platformer revolution. These “new retro” games reintroduce us to the sort of gameplay we would have seen in the NES and SNES eras, only current technology allows for much better visuals and some new twists on the genre that may not have been entirely possible back in the late 80s and early 90s. The latest game in this trend is Sideway: New York.

Sideway tells the story of Nox, a graffiti artist from Brooklyn. His plight is one that harkens back to the game’s retro influences: he’s got to save the girl. However, she hasn’t been abducted by a fire-breathing turtle or a green-skinned master of evil; the antagonist in this story is Spray, a rival tagger who dwells in an alternate dimension called the Sideway.

Sideway: New York Screenshot

Though the 2D platforming gives the game a bit of an old school flavor, the graffiti element brings fresh life to the party. Instead of doing this platforming in a strictly 2D world, you must navigate the perilous 2D surfaces along the exteriors of 3D buildings. The playable surface wraps around these buildings and traverses L-train bridges, keeping Nox permanently planted in the 2D world while the camera swings around wildly, trying to keep up. And this actually leads to some incredibly cool-looking camera angles. But if the stylish angles are a hindrance to your visibility—they often are—you can use the right stick to temporarily adjust the camera, though it will snap back into place once you let go of the stick.

And speaking of the visuals, this is where Sideway truly stands out from the pack. Characters and enemies are cartoony, while the 3D environments are somewhat more grounded in reality. (The graffiti-esque insanity does spread to some aspects of the 3D world by the end of the game.) In the game’s particular art style, the enemies are weirdly exaggerated and oftentimes completely bizarre, though in ways that make them fun to look at. You’ll be battling all sorts of strange monsters and barely describable creatures, like the half-monkey, half-rocket beings that just sort of hover there with dangling limbs.

Sideway: New York Screenshot

All of this has a sense of cleverness to it. For example, one of the moves you’ll earn is a grapple. The surfaces you can latch onto are octopi, and you’ll grapple them with something that looks like one of their tentacles. As weird as this sounds, there’s a sort of logic to it that is both charming and intriguing.

The levels start off feeling sort of linear, but each has tons of hidden areas tucked away. You’ll earn new skills—like double jump, paint grenades, and a Mega Man-esque slide—as you progress through the game, and you can go back through levels you’ve already completed to find new areas you can only access with later skills. It’s a bit like Metroid in this respect.

One area, though, that could see some improvement is the boss fights. Each has a specific strategy you need to figure out in order to defeat it, giving these fights and almost puzzle-like quality. However, once you figure out the strategy, you’ll find the bosses don’t ever stray from their strict patterns. This makes these fights quickly feel like endurance runs, as you just have to survive long enough to hit the boss a particular number of times. (Oddly enough, the final boss is the easiest boss in the game.) And this is a shame, because each of these bosses has so much personality. In fact, one of them is an insane pink bunny that vomits tiny little evil pink bunnies at you. No, I’m not making that up.

Sideway: New York Screenshot

The soundtrack features a mix of hip hop tracks by Mr. Lif. Now, while the hip hop tunes definitely create the right atmosphere and are fun to listen to the first few times, they can get a bit repetitive after a while. I mean that as no disrespect to Mr. Lif; in fact, my only real complaint about the music is that I wish there were more songs on the soundtrack.

And while we’re on the subject of audio, I would have liked to see some voiceovers instead of having all the dialogue laid out in text windows. These blocks of text kind of break up the flow of the game, and some decent voice work could have riffed on the unique personality of the game. Sound effects, though, are great. Some of them will surprise you at first—the sound of the birds dropping eggs on your head in particular—but you’ll quickly realize how appropriate they are in this cartoony world.

The controls feel pretty solid for the most part, and, as I mentioned before, having the right stick to adjust the camera can be enormously helpful. However, at times I found myself wishing the controls felt a bit tighter. There were a few instances where the jumping physics felt a little off, leading to some frustrating deaths. I must admit, though, there are only two or three particular examples of this off the top of my head. I don’t want to give the impression that the controls are broken in any way, because they aren’t. They just feel like they could have been a tiny bit more fine-tuned.

Sideway: New York Screenshot

Now, if you don’t like playing solo, the game also features drop-in/drop-out two-player co-op. However, there aren’t any real instances (besides maybe the boss fights) where having a second player will make the game any easier. In fact, the two of you will probably end up fighting over camera angles more than cooperating to help each other out. But I suppose it’s nice that the option is there for those who want to use it.

Sideway: New York is a new way to look at the 2D platformer, though it brings in elements of some classics. It’s a real treat for your eyes too. Of course, this is only the first game in a series, and once you take down the final boss, you’ll see a “To Be Continued” screen. I’m guessing Nox will continue his journey through the Sideway into other cities down the line. All in all, though, Sideway: New York is an incredibly creative adventure that brings players back to an earlier time of gaming while still managing to feel brand new. And it’s got a price tag that shouldn’t hold too many gamers back—a $10 download on PSN. I would call that a Hamilton (or two Lincolns) well spent.

Beautiful cartoony visuals projected onto 3D environments. 3.8 Control
Fairly simple and intuitive, I just wish they were a little tighter. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great music, but it will get repetitive after a while. No voiceovers, but a satisfying collection of sound fx. 3.5 Play Value
It’s a fairly short game, with only 16 levels, but there are several hidden areas and bonuses that make going back worthwhile. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • You are a 2D character immersed in a 3D world. Unique camera angles create an experience that will make Sideway more challenging and one of the most fun games you’ve ever played!
  • Harness the creative power of Sideway by collecting unlockable abilities that let you soar, slide, jump, and blast through your enemies with ease and explore the world around you.
  • Single player campaign and drop-in/drop-out local co-op.
  • Unique characters and worlds – explore environments in a whole new way!
  • Boss battles unlike any you have ever seen! Sadistic pink bunny boss that vomits sadistic pink mini-bunnies… yeah, we got that.
  • Featuring original hip hop music by Mr. Lif.
  • Gameplay is optimized for both the PSN on the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and PC.

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