|Pub: Sony Online Entertainment|
|Release: Ocotber 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, and Tobacco Reference|
by Josh Wirtanen
Arguably, one of the great things about this current console generation is that we've seen a bit of a 2D platformer revolution. These "new retro" games reintroduce us to the sort of gameplay we would have seen in the NES and SNES eras, only current technology allows for much better visuals and some new twists on the genre that may not have been entirely possible back in the late 80s and early 90s. The latest game in this trend is Sideway: New York.
Sideway tells the story of Nox, a graffiti artist from Brooklyn. His plight is one that harkens back to the game's retro influences: he's got to save the girl. However, she hasn't been abducted by a fire-breathing turtle or a green-skinned master of evil; the antagonist in this story is Spray, a rival tagger who dwells in an alternate dimension called the Sideway.
Though the 2D platforming gives the game a bit of an old school flavor, the graffiti element brings fresh life to the party. Instead of doing this platforming in a strictly 2D world, you must navigate the perilous 2D surfaces along the exteriors of 3D buildings. The playable surface wraps around these buildings and traverses L-train bridges, keeping Nox permanently planted in the 2D world while the camera swings around wildly, trying to keep up. And this actually leads to some incredibly cool-looking camera angles. But if the stylish angles are a hindrance to your visibility—they often are—you can use the right stick to temporarily adjust the camera, though it will snap back into place once you let go of the stick.
And speaking of the visuals, this is where Sideway truly stands out from the pack. Characters and enemies are cartoony, while the 3D environments are somewhat more grounded in reality. (The graffiti-esque insanity does spread to some aspects of the 3D world by the end of the game.) In the game's particular art style, the enemies are weirdly exaggerated and oftentimes completely bizarre, though in ways that make them fun to look at. You'll be battling all sorts of strange monsters and barely describable creatures, like the half-monkey, half-rocket beings that just sort of hover there with dangling limbs.
All of this has a sense of cleverness to it. For example, one of the moves you'll earn is a grapple. The surfaces you can latch onto are octopi, and you'll grapple them with something that looks like one of their tentacles. As weird as this sounds, there's a sort of logic to it that is both charming and intriguing.
The levels start off feeling sort of linear, but each has tons of hidden areas tucked away. You'll earn new skills—like double jump, paint grenades, and a Mega Man-esque slide—as you progress through the game, and you can go back through levels you've already completed to find new areas you can only access with later skills. It's a bit like Metroid in this respect.
One area, though, that could see some improvement is the boss fights. Each has a specific strategy you need to figure out in order to defeat it, giving these fights and almost puzzle-like quality. However, once you figure out the strategy, you'll find the bosses don't ever stray from their strict patterns. This makes these fights quickly feel like endurance runs, as you just have to survive long enough to hit the boss a particular number of times. (Oddly enough, the final boss is the easiest boss in the game.) And this is a shame, because each of these bosses has so much personality. In fact, one of them is an insane pink bunny that vomits tiny little evil pink bunnies at you. No, I'm not making that up.
The soundtrack features a mix of hip hop tracks by Mr. Lif. Now, while the hip hop tunes definitely create the right atmosphere and are fun to listen to the first few times, they can get a bit repetitive after a while. I mean that as no disrespect to Mr. Lif; in fact, my only real complaint about the music is that I wish there were more songs on the soundtrack.