Whenever game developers churn out an “urban title,” the result is usually more Def Jam Vendetta than Grand Theft Auto. It’s understandable. The word has been remixed into meaning them Black folk without saying them Black folk, which causes head scratching moments such as when I hear gaming journalists refer to San Andreas as the “urban” Grand Theft Auto despite the fact that cities play signficant roles in the franchises’s narratives.
Playbrains’ Sideway New York isn’t that type of urban game. It is a simple 2D platformer without a huge amount of depth. You leap from platform to platform, collect spray cans, level up, and solve light puzzles.
You play as Nox, a New York City-based bomber who’s literally pulled into a graffiti world while hunting for his girlfriend — a girlfriend kidnapped by Spray, a sentient piece of street art with a mean streak.
Sideway New York‘s surface sounds like standard video game fare, but what makes it a game worth your time is the presentation. Nox is a two dimensional graffiti character who navigates fully rendered 3D urban environments in a manner that only video game graffiti, or Spider-Man, can; by clinging to walls.
The only difference is that Nox is permanently bonded to walls, which makes for unique navigation. When you walk toward a building’s corner, you wrap around the edge. This causes a camera shift and sometimes a plane shift. It can be a bit disorienting at times, because you suddenly have to change the way you perceive your world when you’re suddenly traversing a flat rooftop at an unusual angle. A few cool puzzles are based on spatial geometry challenges.
Progression through Sideway New York‘s dozen stages unlocks new moves, and the game is structured so that you quickly put your new skill in action. Replaying early levels with Nox’s new abilities helps you find formerly out-of-reach areas and paint cans. Sideway New York supports two-player drop-in co-op which increases the good times.
What’s not quite as good is the repetitive music. Rapper Mr. Lif lays down a handful of tight hip-hop tracks that unfortunately repeat far too often. They’re quite catchy, but in very limited supply. Jet Set Radio this is not.
And that’s the game that many people will conflate Sideway New York with despite the lack of skates. Both titles capture some inner-city flavor with big beats, spray paint can collecting, and urban environments, but Sideway New York merely skims the surface. A significant portion of the Jet Set Radio experience is bombing walls, which is nearly absent here. SEGA’s title actually demands you drop tags using the analog stick; Playbrains’ game has you automatically bomb a wall by walking past designated spots that act as respawn points after you bite it. Sideway New York‘s playfields don’t fully capture New York City’s flavor either. Although you visit many quintessential New York City locations, the landscapes don’t offer enough visual diversity.
Sideway New York, priced at $9.99 in Valve’s Steam marketplace, is a rock solid downloadable title with low PC requirements. The game doesn’t fully capture the urban feeling that it strives to deliver, but gamers with old-school love will dig the platforming elements, cartoon-like visuals, and catchy music.
Sideway New York Minimum PC System Requirements
- OS: WinXP SP3 (32-bit only), Vista SP2, 7
- Processor: Intel Pentium 4 3Ghz or greater
- Memory: 1GB RAM
- Graphics: 256 MB Video Memory with Shader 3.0 support, ATI Radeon X850XT / NVIDEA GeForce 7600GT, DirectX 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 2GB HDD
- Sound: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible Audio Device