Sideway: New York (PSN 2011) Review

The platformer is one of the most tried and true video game staples to ever come around. Countless games to fit the mold have come and gone over the years, and thanks to the recent advent of console downloadable titles there seems to be no end in sight. Sideway: New York shows that this far from a bad thing. Sometimes all you need is a great twist on a tried and true formula, and suddenly running, jumping, and swinging from left to right is just as fun as it was back in the 90’s.

Sideway: New York is the story of Nox, a streetwise graffiti artist on a quest to save his girlfriend Cass from the clutches of the evil Spray. There’s a catch though; to save Cass, Nox must navigate the twisted world of Sideway. No longer is Nox traveling through the familiar streets and alleyways of his own New York City. He’s trapped in a world where he has literally become paint on the wall: sliding up and down the sides of buildings, slipping across billboards, and running across rooftops. With the help of his mentor Fume, Nox must dodge the painted-on traps and deadly henchmen of Spray. Only by beating Spray at his own game, does Nox have any chance of bringing Cass out of Sideway and back into their world.

The first thing players will notice about Sideway: New York is how simple and traditional the game might seem until they realize Nox has literally become paint on the wall. Underestimating this unique predicament is a mistake that will definitely get Nox beaten around the block. Sideway forces the player to think about perspective and spacing in a very unique way. Depending on how you angle your jump or where you run to, Nox can go from being on the side of a building to being plastered on the roof. One wrong move can send him right back where he started. All along the way is a crazy camera that does an admirable job of framing the action: swinging on its axis at the drop of a hat to focus on whatever surface Nox may have clung to next. Some disorientation is inevitable, but it becomes part of the challenge and rarely feels cheap. It’s the extra dimension added to the game play that makes Sideway more than just an average platformer.

Navigate the environment as part of the environment!

There’s also a lot of variety within the stages themselves to keep you entertained. Tons of score tags litter the stage and secret tags are scatted in clever places just begging to be hunted down. Figuring out a clever way to beat the demented gravity and snag an extra secret tag are some of Sideway‘s most enjoyable moments. In addition, a plethora of ability upgrades lay spread throughout the world waiting for Nox to snatch them up. These range from vital movement techniques to new attacks to make the combat easier. Better yet, some of these are hidden, giving players incentive to track down the upgrades that aren’t handed over on a silver platter. Sideway offers a pretty legitimate challenge at times and finding a secret upgrade to give you the edge is a sweet feeling indeed.

Sideway: New York has a great sense of style and art design that compliments its game play sensibilities nicely. The animated cut scenes are slick, but few and far between. The regular animations on both the hero and his enemies are really nice. They manage to look and move satisfyingly, without ever compromising the graffiti-themed aesthetic. Unfortunately, players won’t be feeling the same way about the music. The Skullcandy provided tracks are nice, but they’re short and repeat way too often. When even the final boss fight is rehashing the same hip-hop beats you’ve been hearing since the second stage, you know you’re sorely lacking in variety.

Sideway: New York is easy to recommend, especially at its modest price point of $9.99. Fun platforming action, clever puzzles, and enjoyable boss battles make the minor flaws much easier to forgive. Tack on drop-in drop-out multiplayer and a ton of trophies for score hounds to unlock and you’ve got a seriously large package to enjoy. Obvious plugs to future sequels not withstanding, Sideway will still tickle imaginations and provide a great throwback gaming experience with just the right amount of newfound craziness.