Sony Online Entertainment is really making its mark on PSN this fall. Rolling out alongside the excellent Rochard and the highly-anticipated PAYDAY: The Heist, Sideway: New York brings an impressive visual flourish to 2D platformers. Painted protagonist Nox keeps switching planes in 3D as he hugs the walls and jumps from building to building. Take a look at the trailer.
At last week’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, I caught up with Scott Simpson, director of Canadian developing studio Playbrains (and blog comment-reply record holder with a 100% reply rate!). While he’s answered most of the questions out there, Sideway still holds few more details yet to be revealed, including bite-sized, intra-level time trials to earn collectables and “birds that poop bombs.” I recorded our conversation as we played through some of the game’s early levels.
PlayStation Blog: Where did your character Nox come from?
Scott Simpson, Playbrains: You are Nox, a graffiti artist in New York, but you’ve painted over the wrong man’s tag. That man is the evil Spray, and he has sucked you into his world and you are now graffiti yourself, and you will always be on a surface – on a wall or a rooftop or something.
PSB: Was there an influence from other games where graffiti was a gameplay element, like, say, Jet Grind Radio?
Scott Simpson: Obviously it’s got a lot of Jet Set in it. The game was originally conceived by our partners at Fuel entertainment, their creative director Mike Burns was on a trip to NY one time and was just taken by all the graffiti and looking at it as art and not vandalism. The idea started in his head about living inside the graffiti world. So they’re creating a cartoon series about these characters that’s in development now. [The game] is the lead property in this IP. That where we, Playbrains come in. We just really wanted to make a kick-ass platforming game that we call an “adventure platformer,” meaning it’s got a lot of exploration, there is a some puzzle solving, some action, some melee combat, but at its core there’s a platformer, because we just really like platformers.
PSB: A lot of people were commenting on the use of color in Sideway. We don’t see a lot of pink, for instance. Talk about the artist style.
Scott Simpson: The cartoon series is being done in conjunction with Wild Brain, the people behind Kid Robot, Yo Gabba Gabba, the Ricky Gervais Show animations. So the animations come through there and are being done by those guys. It’s funny, when we originally pitched Sony it had a much more realistic look. Nox looked similar, but the backgrounds were all very real-world looking, so it was very striking. But we just thought for the game we liked the more Team Fortress 2-like look for the buildings; not always right angles, they’ve still got that cartoony look to them. I think if that harms us in any way it might make people thing this is a kids game – it’s certainly not. You’re going to be needing a lot of dexterity to finish the game.
PSB: Let’s talk about the controls. I played Sideway at Gamescom, and it felt like Nox has quite a lot of moves in his arsenal, especially for a platformer.
Scott Simpson: There are actually 16 unlockable moves in the game as you progress. We’re huge fans of exploration and finding secret ways and hidden pieces inside of a level, so the game is set up so that even in the first few levels, it’s impossible to pick up all the [collectable] tags. You just don’t have all the abilities; you don’t have a double jump to start with, and you need a double jump to get to a certain place. We tried to put in as much replayability into the game as we could by making it so you can go back to those secret areas later in the game now that you have a new slide ability or whatever.
PSB: Can you tell me about some of these moves?
Scott Simpson: We’ve got one called Airtime – it’s the one ‘cheat’ mechanic we do have where you can become paint spray and leave the wall. You can only leave the wall for a little bit at a time and only in certain areas or else you drift into the wind.
The glide allows you to spray some paint onto the wall behind you to sort of slow your descent. The paint shield will allow you repel ranged attacks back at your attacker.
As much as we wanted to be in a place where you could make your own graffiti on the wall, it’s very difficult to do with a standard controller. So the paint shelf is a way to quickly spray in an area where you can fill in some paint and create steps in an area.
A lot of these aren’t even necessary to finish the game. You’ll never be at a place where you’ll need an ability and have not had the chance to pick it up yet.
PSB: Tell me a bit about this drop in-drop out couch co-op.
Scott Simpson: It is fun to play with a friend. You’ll be on the same screen at the same time. It gives you a different way to solve puzzles. It’s not intended to be a “girlfriend mode” where you’re just tagging along (see what I did there?), but you’re actually both advancing the story equally. If you play as the second player you’ll play “Fume”, your Yoda-like sidekick who’s actually guiding you through the world here.
Sideway: New York is just around the corner, if you will. A PSN exclusive, you can pick it up on October 11 for $9.99.