Sideway: New York Review
By Simon Graves |
Long before shooters saturated the market, platformers were the bread and butter of the gaming scene. But the heyday of the platformer is over, and although bigger titles like LittleBigPlanet and Mario keep the genre alive in retail form, those looking for a decidedly old-school fix will have to search hard for what they want.
Sideway: New York is a platformer, but not what you'd expect if you're a fan of titles like Mega Man or Castlevania. Indeed, Sideway turns the notion of the platformer on its head; its slick 2D look and feel is typical of games in the genre, but instead of jumping along and killing enemies as you go on a fixed field, Sideway constantly shifts your point of view. Understanding how and why this works first requires an understanding of Sideway: New York's cursory plot and characters.
Sideway: New York's Introduction
You play as Nox, a New York City-based graffiti artist. As he goes about the City tagging up a storm, he tags over another tag from an artist named Spray. Spray is more than human, however, and uses his powers to pull Nox into a flat, 2D world where Nox himself turns into the very spraypaint he's been using on the walls around the five boroughs. Spray's ultimate goal is to work his way into Nox's normal, 3D world, and Nox's goal, in turn, is to stop Spray and his minions from achieving that goal, saving his girl (and perhaps the world) in the process.
Obviously, the world of paint is flat, and it's this flat world that's at the heart of Sideway: New York. Movement is contingent on you finding walls you can be rendered on. Instead of walking past a wall you're in front of, however, you'll actually wrap around with it, forcing you onto another plane (imagine sliding along a ledge that wraps around a building and you have a pretty good idea). A nearby floor is therefore not a floor at all, but another 2D plane in which Nox can be rendered. Your point of view is always changing in Sideway, and the gameplay revolves around learning how to control and manipulate this world to get from point A to point B.
For a downloadable game, Sideway is well-populated with about a dozen stages, a handful of boss fights and plenty of collectibles to find. While you could easily beat Sideway itself in fewer than five hours, finding everything in the game will take you far longer. Spray cans are hidden all over each stage, as are harder-to-find special collectibles, of which there are five per stage. Nox can also be upgraded, and those upgrades are hidden around various stages as well, as are health and special power upgrades. All of this, when combined with a scoring system that can be shared online, gives you plenty of reasons to come back to each stage.
Working your way through Chinatown.Sideway's gameplay ranges from novel and tight to occasionally frustrating, but thankfully the core gameplay sways towards the former more often than not. Combat is mostly fluid, and there are plenty of special moves to exploit during battle. Unfortunately, the game's controls aren't quite tight enough for some feats of platforming you're expected to get through without plenty of repetition, which is a bummer.
Learning Sideway's myriad moves isn't as difficult as it initially seems (as the game throws new moves at you fairly regularly), and as you work your way further into the game's latter stages, you'll need to use every tool in your arsenal to survive both the enemy onslaught and the platforming. While the game's difficulty spikes rather hard towards the end, unfair moments that plague some of Sideway's old-school platforming brethren are few and far between.
Late in the Sideway Story
Whether or not you agree that graffiti is art or not, an undeniable fact is that it's always gone hand-in-hand with hip-hop culture. That's good news in Sideway, since its soundtrack, created by Mr. Lif, is one of the strongest aspects of the game. I wish that more tracks were introduced more often as I played through, but, even with repetition, I found the music appealing. When coupled with Sideway's awesome artistic stylings, Sideway is bound to aesthetically please you.