For: Playstation 3 (via Playstation Network)
From: Playbrains/Fuel Industries/Sony Online Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild language, fantasy violence, crude humor, tobacco reference)
On style alone, "Sideway: New York" is immediately striking. It takes a genre as old as time - the sidescrolling platformer - and applies a graffiti motif that animates flat, cartoony characters in front of fully-rendered environments while a terrific soundtrack (courtesy of Mr. Lif) blares behind it. But style immediately becomes the second most interesting thing about "Sideway" when it completely and seamlessly turns that world on its ear for the first time.
In "Sideway," player and enemy alike exist as flat, living tags on the walls and rooftops, and when you're that ingrained into your surroundings, they can completely shift perspective without disorienting you. Jumping to the top of a building, for instance, will cause a perspective shift that turns the rooftop you just climbed to into a wall full of platforms you must navigate to reach the next rooftop, which might rotate a whole different way to get you back to the ground. The trick is hard enough to describe on paper, and it's impossible to do verbal justice to the ingenious way "Sideway" turns different sides of the same world into a single, continuous sidescrolling level that's groundbreaking and classic at once.
The process isn't flawless: Combat and other controls aren't as responsive as their fluid animation would suggest they are, and you'll die many cheap deaths en route to finishing the story (and, if you're up for a stiff challenge, finding every last secret shift and collectable in each level). Fortunately, checkpoints are generous enough to keep the annoying aspects of "Sideway's" challenge from overtaking its enjoyable aspects. "Sideway" also supports two-player co-op, though it's offline only.