by Kiran Sury
reviewed on PS3
Tag, You’re It
Graffiti has often drawn from videogames for inspiration. The wealth of characters that the medium offers is just too good to resist. Invader, a French artist, got his reputation entirely by posting up mosaics of Space Invader aliens in cities around the world. With Sideway: New York, Playbrain has reversed the relationship. You play as a graffiti artist named Nox as he makes his way on the buildings of New York City, but not as you would expect. Unlike other graffiti games such as Marc Ecko’s Getting Up or Jet Set Radio Future, you’re part of the graffiti too.
I wrote “makes his way on,” not “through,” for a reason. The story of Sideway has Nox pulled into the graffiti plane after he paints over the evil artist Spray’s tag. Spray and his cronies also kidnapped Nox’s girlfriend Cass, so Nox has to traverse the sides of the buildings of NYC to get her back.
Sideway would be a generic platformer with a graffiti theme if it didn’t turn the world on its head every few minutes. When Nox walks to the edge of a building, he falls off – on to the adjacent edge. Imagine walking on top of a cube and going over the edge. But you’re actually built into the cube, so instead of hurtling into space you become part of the new face. It’s a difficult concept to describe, but start playing and you’ll understand immediately.
This constant shifting keeps the game fresh. Jump up past the top of the screen and you may find yourself on the bottom of what used to be the ceiling, or perhaps falling down to the left. The platforming takes this into account, and a large part of the challenge and the fun comes from figuring out how to get off the screen safely.
Don’t Huff the Fumes
When Nox gets transported to Sideway he becomes painted on the wall, so paint plays a big part in the game. Nox can jump on windows and pipes, as well as paint platforms into existence. Water is deadly because it will wash him away, and so is graffiti painted to look like thorns. There’s a variety of enemies, all painted on the walls as well. You’ll constantly gain new abilities like paint bombs and paint shields to take them out, but you can always rely on a simple punch.
Boss fights, of which there are several, are short and sweet. Each boss only takes three hits to die, but the challenge comes from figuring out how to use the moves you just learned to take him out. They basically translate into puzzles, and are an enjoyable interlude between the regular levels.
There are about fifteen levels, which should only take you about 15 to 20 minutes each, making Sideway especially suited to short bursts of play. It would make a great PSP or PSVita game. Levels have hidden collectibles and powerups that aren’t accessible the first time around, so there’s a lot of incentive to go back and 100% everything, if only for the trophies. There’s also two player coop, which helps with the challenge of the later levels, but becomes unwieldy when switching planes.
Enemy designs are varied, and the environments change a bit as you work your way from Queens to Chinatown to Times Square, but the graphics still seem a little bland in the sections where there isn’t any art. The music is great, with a hip-hop soundtrack that fits the tone perfectly courtesy of Mr. LiF from SkullCandy (as the frequent posters will remind you). Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of it, and the same track will repeat multiple times per level – it can be quite grating. All the expletives have been removed as well.
Sideway: New York is a good game with an interesting concept that deserves to be played. Platformers have fallen by the wayside and found their home on the PSN. As the latest in a series of great exclusives, Sideway keeps the genre alive.
Unique platforming concept, solid gameplay, nice soundtrack.
Short length, soundtrack repeats too often.