It's always nice to see a new twist on the 2D run & jump platformer. There's just something lovely and straightforward about stomping some critters while trying to find all the hidden goodies, without having to worry about camera placement. Sideway: New York takes the side-scrolling gameplay and wraps it around the buildings of urban New York City, making for some very clever level design.
All the creatures and characters are 2D art in a semi-graffiti style, running about over 3D buildings.
The graffitti artist Nox has been transformed into, irony of ironies, a piece of graffiti art by an unknown process and has to fight the minions of his rival, Spray. All the creatures and characters are 2D art in a semi-graffiti style, running about over 3D buildings. The 3D features such as window ledges and electric wiring make up the platforms and walls that define the terrain, but buildings don't run along a perfectly straight line. Nox frequently ends up running around corners as the camera pans to follow him, but it's when he ends up on the roof that the level design starts getting clever.
As a 2D painting, Nox is flat against whatever he's using as a canvas, whether that's a brick wall, tenement siding, or building roof. Head up to the roof from one side of the building and things look normal, but do it from another wall and that entire section has now twisted sideways thanks to the angle from which it was approached. As Nox travels from building to building, it gets very easy to lose track of what surface he's on, which can be particularly entertaining when trying to move the background objects around.
Nox is a pretty agile guy, even as a 2D projection of his former self. He can do the usual run-and-jump, of course, but he's also got a slide, dive attack, can swing from certain graffiti designs, and even move the occasional 3D crate around. In an early level it was necessary to use a crate to complete a jump, but this involved moving it to a different side of the building. After much pushing and shoving it suddenly hit me why it wasn't going like I thought it should: it's on the roof, I want it on a fire escape, but the crate's idea of "down" is based on gravity rather than the 2D plane Nox inhabits. Just hovering it over what looks like a hole in the floor wasn't enough, because it's actually a gap in a wall due to differing perspectives. It was one of those "Oh, I get it!" moments (mixed with a small helping of "Duh!") that puts a smile on your face.
Nice as those moments are, though, the later levels don't expand on these ideas and instead end up throwing more critters at you. It's true that punching things is fun, and Nox has a nice variety of moves at his disposal to do it, but it's a shame the level design never really evolves. There are still a few interesting platforming challenges, of course, but it also becomes apparent when the areas get cramped that Nox's movements aren't really suited to high-speed platforming. He's got a bit too much speed and momentum to reliably land on a tiny platform when a slight movement too far means instant electric death. Adding to the twitchiness, one of the later skills transforms Nox into a floating paint blob that can move above the level obstacles for a very short period, and, if you're not very careful, straight over the edge into instant death. Nox has infinite lives and a relatively forgiving checkpoint system, but death by oversteer due to what seems like the character arguing with what you tell him to do is never fun.
Still, there's a good amount of creativity in Sideway: New York, even if it doesn't quite manage to really go nuts with its ideas. Each level has a good amount of secrets to uncover, and tracking them all down will require a fair amount of replay. It might be necessary to turn off the repetitive, obnoxious background music (I don't ever need to hear the tune with the lyrics "party with MEEE!" again, thanks), but when at its best Sideway: New York provides a good amount of clever platforming action.