Before this review gets started, a few short things need to be said. First, let us all thank Fable Week for pushing this review back on my schedule, and next, seriously, thank Fable for pushing this review back. Until just recently, Sideway: New York had a very nasty save bug that would randomly wipe files completely or simply forget to activate the auto-save feature, but this issue seems to be resolved now. While the bug seems to be have been patched out, anyone playing an older version of the game for whatever reason, and possibly owners of the newest version may still experience this bug, so proceed with caution, and avoid any emotional attachment to Sideway‘s save data. Now then, on with the review.
Sideway: New York is a two-dimensional platformer that, as the title suggests, takes place in New York city. The three-dimensional city of New York serves as the backdrop for all of the levels, while the player, enemies, and other platforming elements are shown as flat graffiti art on building walls. Sideway also features an entirely original soundtrack full of nothing but rap tracks, which was likely included to add to the game’s ghetto atmosphere, but may not sit well with certain gamers. Sideway is not nearly as easy as, say, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but it is no Super Meat Boy either; large portions of some levels are completely danger-free walks through the park, and when the game actually does decide to kill the player, it is the result of an instant death trap or a streak of bad luck on the player’s part. Sideway wont bring anything new or exciting to the hardcore platforming fans, but for casual platform fans or as an “every now and then” game, Sideway will definitely prove entertaining.
The biggest problem with Sideway is its atmosphere. The game paints itself up to appeal to rap culture loving dude-bros, yet tries to play like a classic platformer. Anyone who does not actually like this kind of music will immediately run to the options to turn the game’s soundtrack down or completely off, yet the game can feel empty without any kind of soundtrack in the background, even if it is rap music that hardly compliments the gameplay. The graffiti enemies and cartoon-like 2D visuals all look very nice, but there is hardly any variation in the appearance of things; enemies and platforms in Chinatown look just like the enemies and platforms in the first few levels of the game, for example. The paint theme and cartoon visuals give off the impression that Sideway should be taking place in a much more lighthearted environment rather than the ghetto streets of gangster New York, but it is very easy to look beyond the run down streets of New York and its unending rap soundtrack in order to enjoy this game.
As for its gameplay, Sideway: New York puts a lot of stress on collecting all of the score tags, secret tags, and paint power-ups throughout the level rather than running fast, saving the princess, or jumping on turtles and mushrooms. The score tags are scattered throughout the level like coins in a Mario game or rings in Sonic, and are usually out in the open and players can very easily collect all of them on the first or second time through the level. The secret tags and various power-up abilities, however, are usually very well hidden; some hidden tags require the player to return to a level once a certain power-up ability is learned, while others are cleverly hidden behind 3D objects in New York or past very tricky platforming sections. It can be very difficult to hunt down all of the secret tags in a level, even after five or six runs, but players simply looking to reach the end of each level will not find things that difficult. Many of the spike pits and other traps can easily be avoided if the player simply ignores the score tags in that specific area, and many of the game’s enemies are laughably easy to defeat. It usually only takes a few punches to knock anything down, but some enemies are able to damage the player even while they flinch back from an attack, and later on in the game enemies begin to explode upon death. The game does feature boss fights every few levels, which may cause players to die a few times, but each boss has one weakness that becomes very easy to exploit once learned. Rather than punching players in the face or trying to drown us in Super Mario-inspired levels, Sideway provides rather easy levels in the hopes that players will replay old levels to unlock the various hidden tags.
Many gamers will not want to spend all day playing Sideway: New York, and will likely only play through a level or two when their more hardcore games, like Call of Battlefield: Pretzel War Zombie 3, grow tiring. This is not because Sideway is a bad game, but because it simply is not very engaging over long periods of time. The rap music is very repetitive, especially when one’s preferred genre of music is something other than rap-hop-hommie-yo, and the background and level elements change very little throughout the various areas, making every level seem just like the previous. For gamers who find themselves wishing more games were more about finding all the coins in a level rather than challenging combat, or find themselves saying “Gee, I really wish Kirby’s Epic Yarn actually had a death function!” Sideway will definitely fit the bill, but anyone looking for the next big Mario challenger should probably look elsewhere.
Full disclosure: the author was provided with a free copy of the game for review purposes.