I hadn’t heard of Sideway: New York until very recently. It’s one of those stealth titles that sneaks in with a fairly low profile, but when I read up on the premise, I got excited. A crazy platformer where you’re always stuck to the surface of the platform? Nice! A graffiti theme? Double nice! I loved Jet Grind Radio! How does it actually hold up? Let’s find out.
You assume the role of Nox, a spunky-looking young fellow with a penchant for running around and painting his name on overpasses. One day, while among the rooftops with his tragically hip posse, he gets sucked into an evil tag painted on a billboard. What’s worse, when he comes to, he finds out that he has become a tag himself, and his ladyfriend has been spirited away by the cleverly-named villain, Spray. A friend appears, going by the nom de plume of Fume, and thus begins your journey.
So great, you’re nothing but spray paint on the side of a building. Now what? To start off, all Nox can do is jump and punch, but before long he’ll be able to grapple to certain objects, double jump, slide, chuck paint grenades, and even glide across great distances. Since you’re literally stuck to the walls of buildings, overpasses and the like, you’ll have to make do with using things like drain pipes and certain graffiti tags as platforms. When you move to the side of a building, it’ll simply flip orientation and you’ll continue on. Jump up, and you might end up on the top of a building. It’s a fairly unique method of platforming, and quite fun once you get the hang of it.
The controls feel just a little too loose for me - Nox basically operates in Moon Gravity and makes the trickier maneuvers a dodgy affair. It’ll take a while to get used to, but as long as you keep on the move, things settle into a fairly good rhythm, especially once you’ve unlocked some of the later moves. You’ll have to get used to the fact that all of Nox’s attacks cause him to move (often rapidly), so beware fighting near the many sorts of instant death traps littered throughout the levels.
The concept is pretty slick, but the camera can get fairly wonky, especially if you’re having trouble making a jump that involves flipping orientation on the buildings. There are also some static camera angles that frame the scene in a way that makes it hard to figure out what’s going on. Luckily, that particular issue is a relative rarity.
Though the levels themselves aren’t the most attractive things in the world, the 2D artwork in the game is quite striking and full of personality. Nox is particularly well-animated, and I cracked a few genuine smiles when some of the enemy types were revealed. My favorite? The suit-wearing robot with a human head in a jar and octopus tentacles for arms. Following the graffiti theme, all of the characters and enemies wouldn’t look out of place on the side of an overpass or train car.