You should know that we here at GamesRadar are hella street … um … dawg? We played a lot of Jet Set Radio. We watched Exit Through the Gift Shop. But the truth is you don’t need any reverence for hip-hop or graffiti to realize that Sideway: New York is a great 2D platformer that does some fun things with 3D space; it just happens to sport a unique street aesthetic that helps make it stand out.
Above: Where you fall is all a matter of perspective in Sideway
The gameplay in Sideway is literally on the wall. Your character, Nox, is a street artist who has been transformed into a graffito version of himself by rival tagger (and evil magic bad guy) Spray. So while you may be looking at a 3D building you can only move along the building’s sides in a 2D fashion, interacting with other graffiti objects you find on the urban environments.
It’s a great visual style, but it contributes a lot to the gameplay as well. You can travel from one side of the building to another as long as nothing is in your way. You can approach walls from different sides to reach different areas. On roofs, for example, you maintain whatever sense of gravity you had when you came up from a wall, so what is “up” when approached from one side might be “down” when approached from another. It’s not too mind-bending, though. This is certainly an action game, not a puzzle game.
You are given plenty of tools to traverse the environment and defeat enemies. When you start you’re limited to jumping and punching things, but you quickly learn how to slide under obstacles or push blocks to reach new areas. Later you gain skills like a double jump and a glide for platforming, while you get abilities like a shield and paint bomb for combat. Along the way you want to nab a bunch of collectables (mainly score tags and secret tags) to improve your score, and some of these can’t be obtained your first time through a level. You’ll have to come back later with new skills, which adds a little replay value.
Levels can’t really be failed. When you die you’re only taken back to your last checkpoint, though you lose points obtained from collecting score tags. This makes the game easy to complete, but not in a bad way. It gives you room to let loose and experiment rather than worry about every little jump. It’s also handy for a few sections that can be frustratingly tough to get past unscathed.
Above: Throwing paint at a monster made of paint will kill said paint monster. Who knew?
The story is barebones. You want to get back to your normal, three-dimensional life, while making sure Spray stays 2D and made of paint. You’re also on a journey to rescue Nox’s girlfriend, Cass. If you want, you can pretend this is just Paper Mario: Street Style where Cass is your Princess Peach – there are enough parallels to make that comparison work on some level, and frankly the gameplay in Sideway is polished enough that we don’t think the Italian plumber would mind the comparison.
Sideway falls a little short in a couple places. The hip-hop soundtrack is great and perfectly fitting to the art style, but there’s not nearly enough of it. The same songs repeat many times in the few hours that it takes to complete the game. The inclusion of drop-in/drop-out local multiplayer is nice, but Sideway is at its best when you’re moving through levels quickly, and the second player just gets left behind.
The game’s main failing is its short length, mostly because it’s so fun while it lasts. There are just over a dozen stages, including a few bosses, which can all be completed in one long sitting of three or four hours. Granted, you may want to go back to collect all the tags or work your way to the top of the leaderboards, but it’s a shame the experience comes to an end so quickly. Sideway: New York does end with a big fat “To be continued…” with an obvious hint as to where the next game will take place, so we hope a sequel will add to what makes this game successful. As it stands, it’s a great game that does some unique things, and you should check it out if you have a few hours to kill and have a love of clever 2D action.