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Sideway: New York
Score: 83%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
Developer: Play Brains
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 Co-Op
Genre: Platformer (2D)/ Platformer (2.5D)/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:
Sideway: New York is a rare gem that breaks away from the mold in terms of its graphical prowess. In some uncertain terms, however, the game both breathes new life into a once-forgotten 2D platforming genre, while at the same time falls short of its full potential.

At its outset, the unique style is the very first thing you'll notice when you download Sideway: New York, and it is likely the reason you downloaded it in the first place. The cityscape with moving graffiti is a fresh concept that impresses, and the animation of the characters has a fun and unique feel that keeps things interesting, even when the game gets a bit repetitious.

At the same time that you ogle the foreground elements of this title, however, your eyes may drift toward the background only to notice that the same visual care was not taken for the non-interactable buildings. In fact, these buildings lack texture completely, which is why it was so disappointing to see a game that offers a unique style, yet feels unfinished.

With that said, Sideway: New York still has a lot of appeal both visually, and from an audio standpoint. The game's soundtrack actually has a very urbanized style to it. The funny thing is that even though this is far from the music that I enjoy listening to, it fits the game absolutely perfectly, and truly enhanced the overall gameplay experience. While you could certainly and completely mute the music and not really lose much with this game other than a few sound fx that aren't all that important anyway, the repetition of the music somehow didn't annoy me the same way it would in a typical EA Sports game, for example... because it just fits in Sideway: New York.

Sideway: New York really isn't unique in the fact that it's a very typically 2D side-scrolling platformer, and the gameplay is exactly that at its core. What makes this title shine is the creative use of graffiti as the character and interaction elements, allowing you to tag the building in certain locations to help you gain access to other locales or progress through the levels. As you do, you'll actually move around in the 3D environment with locked 2D cameras, allowing you to move from one side of the building to another, onto the roof, across to the next building, and so on until you reach the end of each location.

There are plenty of visual clues throughout each level as well, in case you don't see an immediate path. As such, Sideway: New York is like most 2D games of this type, very linear. There are some areas that you can move off of the beaten path, however, which keeps things a bit more interesting, in search of secret collectables that you'll inevitably want to retrace your steps after playing through the first time.

Sideway: New York also presents you with a mix of new moves that can be used as you progress through the game. Using different button presses, and those special moves often need to be used against certain enemies that will be present throughout the levels ahead. There is also a two-player drop-in element to the game, which is a nice feature that helps give the game an arcade-style quarter-drop feel to a degree.

After completing a few of the locations, you'll also be presented with a boss battle, bringing some nostalgia to the mix of many good games of the past. Just like those games, you'll have to learn from patterns to get past and, if you don't immediately figure it out, the game will cue you... something I actually can appreciate, yet almost wish was something that could be turned off. Unfortunately, the clues basically give away the key to success, taking away from the difficulty a bit.

The goal of Sideway: New York is simple, to get back to the real world after being sucked into Sideway. To do so, you'll have to get past a variety of painted foes, some which may take a couple of tries to defeat, but none that are overly difficult in any sense of the word. The moves you learn as you progress will have to be used in order to beat certain enemies as well, so remembering which move corresponds to each specialized enemy is essential, but not that hard to remember.

The general difficulty really doesn't change with two players in the game either. Unfortunately, it's nothing more than a nice feature to play with your buddy. If one player gets too far behind or gets taken off the screen because the other jumped to the top of a building, for example, then the lagging character just gets re-painted on the wall without consequence. As much as I hate to admit it, not having the screen lock when players get too far apart actually felt weird, requiring absolutely zero effort to stick together or wait for your partner to catch up.

In general, Sideway: New York is a pretty short game too, so getting through the levels really doesn't take that much effort or time. The boss battles were fun, but a lot of the general level difficulty was overall lacking, adding a bit to the repetitiveness of the game. Fortunately, the design of the game didn't really try to trick you when making transitions from one wall to the other or from a wall to roof as the camera angles weren't always perfect for that.

Game Mechanics:
Sideway: New York keeps things pretty basic for the most part when it comes to controlling your character, but as you progress, the game does add to the amount of button presses that you'll need to make. Fortunately, they are fairly easily learned and, after a few practice shots on enemies after you initially get a new move under your belt, the complication factor doesn't really play too much of a role in the game. Limited camera control rounds out the controller for peaking around slightly, which can sometimes make a difference, yet often isn't needed.

In general, I enjoyed the gameplay as well. However, one thing I wish is that the player would have had the ability to tag the wall anywhere. As it is, the game's linear nature could have opened up a world of opportunity to allow the player to creatively pass areas instead of being told exactly what to do.

The uniqueness of Sideway: New York is essentially what will get you to at least download the trial version so that you can test drive it from PSN. If you like the demo, then be warned that the game doesn't get much deeper, yet it still has an appeal to it because of the graffiti-come-to-life gameplay that it offers. I enjoyed the game, and fans of old-school platformers will likely enjoy what it has to offer as well. I only wish the game could have been a bit longer, more difficult, and that it wasn't as linear as it turned out to be. Because of this, the replay value is limited to trying to collect all of the paint and secrets within each location. Beyond that, even multiplayer co-op won't be enough to hold extra interest.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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