The Whole World's Been Turned Sideway
Sideway: New York is a pretty basic platformer that comes with a couple twists. The first twist is that you play as Nox, a youthful delinquent type who likes tagging up buildings, but is also painted onto the building himself. In fact, a great deal of the world you interact with is painted on the building too. So you are REALLY two dimensional in this game. If you've played any Paper Mario games, then you understand the effect I'm describing. The other twist is that the word itself twists. A lot. See, every time you cross a vertex, the world, which is 3D, rotates and flips so suddenly what was an air conditioner on the roof of the building is now your new floor. You'll constantly find yourself flipping and rotating as you tear around the levels, and combined with the 2D models, it makes for a pretty unique experience.
Alas, the rest of the game isn't so unique. Nox is off to rescue his girlfriend Cass with the aid of his new pal Fume. Cass has been captured by Spray and his band of baddies that you'll have to chase through 16 levels that are ostensibly themed after NYC, although you can only tell by them having names like "Chinatown" and "Times Square". Nox will do such genre staples as jump, swing, jump on heads, buttstomp and double jump as he makes his way through each level, collecting spray cans and looking for hidden powerups. Every 4 levels you get to a boss fight, each of which is reminiscent of a Mario bossfight from the NES era. It all plays well and fluidly, and at certain times they make great use of the flipping world mechanic to string together a sweet area that flips like mad and provides some dramatic angles to play at, but for the most part it's really basic stuff that you'll probably plow through in around 4 or 5 hours. On the plus side, the campaign supports drop-in local co-op, so you can add a pal into the mix at any time. It doesn't change much in the game, but everything is better with friends, right?
Undoubtedly the most striking things about the game are the art style and music. All the sound is provided by Mr. Lif, and his beats and rhymes provide a great ambience that really fits the street feel of the game. Unfortunately there isn't nearly enough it, and the same tracks will play an awful lot before you finally push through to the end of the experience. The colors in the game are vibrant and have an excellent cartoony feel, and the keen observer will find a lot of smart little detail in stuff like posters and billboards in the background. I was honestly blown away that the designers thought anyone besides me would catch the subtle humor of stuff like "The Great Tag-Lee-Achi". Bravo, Playbrains, bravo!
Sideway: New York boils down to a retro-platformer with a cute little spin. It embraces its street culture roots and weaves them into the game at every turn, but at no time does the game take any great leaps to explore new avenues in the genre outside of its one trick. You'll also have seen everything the game has to offer after the first level for the most part. You do unlock a few new powers and a few new enemies appear but you're still doing the same stuff at the end of the game as you are at the beginning. Bottom line: Sideway has a unique aesthetic but somewhat tired gameplay that doesn't really evolve as you play through. I wish Playbrains had taken a few more chances and created a more memorable game.