Every year, the Playstation Network gets a handful of exclusive games that make you scratch your chin with amusement. Some of them are multiplayer-oriented with long-term players in mind (previous released Fat Princess and upcoming game Payday: The Heist), and others focus on bite-sized gaming that try to reimagine the genre they perform within. Sideway: New York is the latter, a $9.99 platformer that tries to twist a semi-unique art style into the genre.
Set in a New York-style landscape you play the character Nox, who is on a quest to save his girl and defeat Spray and his minions. While the story plays second fiddle to the gameplay and art style, there are pretty cut scenes to detail the progress none-the-less.
The first thing you will notice is how your character (along with enemies and more) is painted onto the wall. Much like the Paper Mario series on the Nintendo platforms, Sideway blends beautiful art with a flat playing field. As you dash, leap and slide across the buildings, your brain will effectively be thrown into a blender and turned to mush as you proceed. Because you aren’t just traveling sideways (pardon the pun?), Nox will be scaling walls, skipping over roof tops, and even across support girders as he fights his way to Spray. It’s this style that makes this game fun to play, and full of charm.
You can’t deny that, while Paper Mario may have done it first, Sideway effectively makes it its own and runs with it. While everything is a little rough around the edges, the blend of 3D environments with the flat gameplay make for one visually stimulating experience.
Character progression in the game comes in the form of upgrades, like paint grenades and the ability to glide by holding the X button after jumping. Some of these abilities (again) like the paint grenade and ground pound (sound familiar?) use paint which can be upgraded, like your health bar by upgrades found in the level. Most skill-based upgrades can’t be missed as they are needed to progress; but health and paint can be so keep an eye out.
In the beginning everything is awesome, quirky, whimsy and fun, but that all soon changes a few hours in (about half way through the game). The floaty physics could initially be dismissed because precision reflexes and platforming aren’t necessary. Like any platformer the difficulty curves up, which left me aggravated. The same thing I didn’t like about LittleBigPlanet started to rear its ugly head as I floated into danger or past safety by just a smidgen. It wasn’t anything that can’t be overcome, but it made me walk away on more than one occasion.
The other major disappointment is the music. I usually don’t like hip-hop music, but the music in Sideway: New York was actually really good – catchy and very, very fitting. I found myself bobbing my head along as I leapt deftly from one floating platform to the next. Three levels in, when it starts to dawn on you that the music is recycling the same couple of tracks over and over and over, you start to find it annoying. Three-fourths of the way into the game, I turned the music off.
To sum everything up – it starts with a great concept and great level design, but ends in a still-playable train wreck. For those leaderboard kids out there, it does have leaderboards to compare your scores with others too. If you are a hardcore platforming fan, by all means, this belongs in your collection. For the rest of us, it’s short single-play through that just isn’t quite worth the money.
Pros: amazing art work, great level design, kickin’ music
Cons: floaty physics, two music tracks, annoying point-of-view shifts later on in the game, short