Review: Sideway: NY

Sideway: New York has style. That much is obvious from the moment you start up the first level and grasp the premise of this game, that you’re a graffiti-man running and hopping across flat surfaces — walls, billboards and rooftops — using paint both as a weapon and as a means of conveyance. Sideway has style — a lot of style… maybe a little too much.

If it sounds like I was struggling to articulate Sideway: NY up there it’s because I was. First and foremost, the game is a 2D platformer, but with a twist. In Sideway, you’re tossed into a graffiti world, transformed into paint and forced to navigate an environment of platforms, enemies and environmental hazards — also paint — all on the sides of buildings, around their corners and across the bottoms of their rooftops; it’s a 2D surface, curving and bending through a 3D environment.

God dammit. For such a neat, simple concept it sure is hard to describe in words.

Good thing I have pictures

Sideway: NY isn’t so much an art game as it is a concept game and the paint-on-canvas world is its concept. Nothing is being redefined here, but the way the game moves you from wall-to-wall to billboard-to-wall-to-rooftop and back to wall is visually interesting in the way it plays with a 2D space. It reminds me a lot of the old Sega Genesis brawler Comix Zone in that way.

Unfortunately, concept only carries Sideway: NY so far, and the game regularly suffers from being a slave to its style. The problem is by no means all-encompassing, but minor annoyances persist. The framerate occasionally suffers from there being just too much pretty art on-screen at once (which caused me a decent amount of frustration during the final boss fight), overly-long animations caused me to mistime jumps and attacks (also making the controls feel unresponsive, though really it was just the animation) and every boss fight is preceded by a lengthy introductory animation.

Drop your bean and take it all in

Sideway: NY’s frequent fail-states and few-and-far-between checkpoints make these long animations — which are so cool to see the first time — kind of a bitch to suffer through every time after. I’m by no means the most patient man in the world but who wants to watch a boss jump around and roar for 30 seconds every time you have to restart the fight because you fell victim to some instant-death attack, poorly-timed dodge or framerate hiccup?

Thankfully these moments don’t come around too often, but by the end of the game I was getting a bit fed up. For the most part, Sideway: NY is still a competent, conceptually intriguing platformer with some very pretty art and a bangin’ soundtrack. My advice would be to take it slow, play a couple of levels at a time, and don’t let yourself get sucked into a frustrating marathon. So in other words, play it not at all the way I had to as a game reviewer, and you’ll be fine.

Originally written for Digital Hippos

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