Genre: Platformer / Platforms: PlayStation Vita
Developer: Media Molecule / Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform Played: PlayStation Vita
Tearaway is a game that could only have appeared on the PlayStation Vita. Whilst you might say “well ‘duh’, it’s a Vita game” to that statement, let me explain to you why Tearaway is so special and so crucial to the Vita and why a game like this couldn’t be replicated on any other device. Tearaway in a nutshell is intuitive, fun, charming and quite simply delightful. While Media Molecule is in somewhat familiar ground with Tearaway’s upbeat and perky aura much like LittleBigPlanet’s, it doesn’t take away from the experience you’ll receive from this game.
Tearaway features two characters; the paper messenger Iota (if you wish to play as a male) or Atoi (if you want to play as female). You’ll pick either one of these characters and you’ll stick with them but that second character I was talking about? That’s you. Literally. To put it figuratively, you play as a God to Iota/Atoi as you guide the messenger through the wonderful paper world of Tearaway. Media Molecule has done a great job of making you feel involved in the game. With you actually in the game via the use of the Vita’s front and rear cameras, it could have been very easy to have it feel cheap but Media Molecule’s level design has you playing as an active character. You’re not just along for the ride, you’re behind the wheel.
One the many ways you’ll guide your messenger is through the PlayStation Vita’s many functions and features which only serve to greatly compliment Tearaway’s gameplay. As previously explained above, Tearaway uses pretty much all of the Vita’s functionalities most notably the rear touchpad. For example, on specially marked areas, you’ll use the rear touchpad to sometimes dispatch of enemies (we’ll get to them later) or create a path for your messenger. This particular example is already good enough but what’s really special about it is how an animated finger will tear through the world’s floor to represent your actions. It’s one example of the fun and inventive gameplay ideas Media Molecule brings forward. Other examples include using the front touchscreen to flatten out or extend paper for your messenger to walk across.
Since the whole world is made of paper, it gives the inclusion of touch-based mechanics a much more welcome feel. Customisation is as big in Tearaway as it ever was in LittleBigPlanet except it goes above and beyond with what you can do with your imagination. You’re free to design whatever comes to mind when it comes to customising your messenger through the use of a scrapbook-like tool which allows you to draw on paper, cut around the outlines and then use it for your messenger. For example, you may wish to make a hat or in my case; Bart Simpson hair and mittens. The only limit to this customisation is how wide your creative side is. In my case, it’s not that wide but it’s still fun to use regardless. There are already pre-loaded customisations such as different eyes, noses and mouths but you’ll want to see what you can do with your own mind.
For all it’s upbeat attitude and seemingly passive gameplay, Tearaway does feature some combat. Whilst it does feel a tad misplaced, it doesn’t detract from the experience. The game could quite easily function well enough without it but whilst it’s here it works well enough. Thankfully, there are no guns.
The world of Tearaway is being terrorised by little creatures known as Scraps. These little box-shaped creatures don’t present much of a threat but instead are quite the nuisance. Combat consists mainly of dodging their attacks or knocking them over and throwing them into walls or at each other to dispose of them. It doesn’t feel entirely necessary but it’s not too much of a problem. Then again, it’s a basic concept so there’s not much room to screw up with it but it also feels slightly uninspired at times.
If you haven’t already caught on, everything in Tearaway is made of paper and I mean everything. And it looks beautiful. In the current climate of HD gaming and high resolution textures, it comes as a surprise that Media Molecule can pull of the almost textureless look of paper and make it look as great as it does. It almost feels as if you’re playing through a child’s popup book. Paper crinkles and folds, it tears and it bursts. It gives Tearaway this totally unique look and it looks great on the Vita’s OLED screen and it’ll leave you in pleasant wonder with how charming this world is. It looks crisp and it feels wonderful to walk around a world unlike any other I’ve seen in a video game before.
Tearaway isn’t completely flawless however. As you play through the game, you’ll notice it’s quite linear but what exploration there is to be had is often fruitless. Exploration grants you collectibles like any platformer but the problem here is that the collectibles only really give you more confetti which serves as the game’s currency to buy unlockable, pre-made customisations. These collectibles which come in the form of wrapped presents don’t add a lot of challenge when it comes to finding them. More often that not a present is your reward for merely looking behind a tree. You’ll also encounter blank objects in the world which you can return colour to by using your-in game camera. It gives you something to look out for but it almost feels like a cheap excuse to explore. Once you have all the unlockable stuff you need, you’ll begin to question why you would want to explore anymore.
Tearaway is arguable one of the best PlayStation Vita games the system has to offer and odds are, if you own a Vita then this game is likely already on your radar. However, Tearaway is not only a great game but its more a showcase for just how unique the Vita is as a gaming device. The use of all of the controls and features is good enough but what makes it even better is that Media Molecule never made it confusing nor a cluttered mess.
Sure, it has some downsides but in light of the amount of good things Tearaway brings to both the player and the PS Vita, it’s easy to forgive them. Tearaway couldn’t happen on any other device, it just simply wouldn’t offer the same experience the Vita can offer with this game. The device makes the game but in turn, the game reminds you why the Vita is such a cool piece of hardware.
It remains to be seen as to whether it’ll be a system seller, but it certainly is the Vita’s absolute killer app.
– True intuition in the gameplay department.
– Great art direction.
– Vast, addictive customisation.
– Charming and unique world and atmosphere.
– Misplaced combat.
– Fruitless incentive to explore.