NEW YORK — You’re just part of the scenery in Sideway: New York, an upcoming platforming game that lets you run rampant through the streets of New York City — so long as you stay on the walls.
The story is that Nox, the game’s main character and a consummate graffiti artist, has pissed off a rival tagger named Spray. As revenge, Spray turns Nox into a piece of graffiti art and lets him loose in a twisted, paint-scrawled version of the Big Apple. Nox has to slip and slide his way through walls and rooftops in order to rescue his friends and save the day.
Sideway, which will be out Oct. 11 on PlayStation 3 and Oct. 18 on PC, draws inspiration from games like Jet Set Radio and Super Paper Mario. Though in many ways it is a traditional platformer, Sideway stands out from other jumping games with some clever play mechanics drawn from the graffiti art style.
Because you’re graffiti, your field of movement is rather limited. You can’t detach from any surface area, but you can seamlessly move between walls and platforms, shifting perspective as you go. So if you jump up one building and land on its roof, the screen will flip around and that roof will become your two-dimensional playground. The orientation of each screen is dependent upon the direction from which you approach it.
So as in Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy, proper dimensional flipping is key to beating each of Sideway’s sideways stages. It’s a surprising twist on the average platform game, and a lot of fun to play.
The crazy designs that populate New York’s walls serve both as decorations and obstacles as you progress through the game. Blobs of paint become enemies, scrawled names are checkpoints. You can also unlock a number of abilities — platformer standards like the good-old double jump, and paint-specific skills like grenade-shooting and shelf-painting. Each of these moves eventually becomes an essential part of your repertoire.
I died quite a bit while playing Sideway: New York at a Sony event in Manhattan last week. The game’s myriad water hoses and spike pits are quite unforgiving to poor Nox, who is vulnerable to all sorts of nasty drawings. The controls can be a little bit rough, especially if you have that Mario-fueled tendency to barrel through platforming levels as fast as possible. But I really enjoyed the challenge.
Canadian developer Playbrains has been working on Sideway: New York since 2009, and it shows. The game is absolutely gorgeous, with some really interesting art direction and the kind of dimensional depth that rivals any big-budget production.
Images courtesy SOE