Little Big Planet creators Media Molecule have been hard at work crafting a brand-new original title for the PSVita. Tearaway is their latest game but can it bring both the fun and creativity of their trademark style to the the handheld?
You play as either Iota or Atoi, a paper craft, envelope-head messenger on a mission to get to you. Yes you, as in actually yourself, who is the sun, or rather peering through into the world of Tearaway through a hole in the sun.
You find yourself in an incredible world made of paper, inhabited by paper creatures of all shapes and sizes, from recognisable animals to strange humanoid beings all with the same gibberish voices you’d find in Little Big Planet.
A duo of narrators seem to have influence on the “story” you are playing out for them, changing the story as you go, making your little messenger’s adventure not as straightforward as you are initially led to believe.
Along the way you’ll make friends and allies to help you on your way against the mischievous antagonists, the Scraps, little cuboid creatures that are trying to sabotage your quest.
I’d rather not divulge the full details of the story or whom you meet along the way as it’d likely dampen your experience but believe me it’s marvellously simple and should be just that for this type of game, don’t expect too many twists and turns.
The story has all the whimsy of a Media Molecule game, it’s simple, beautiful, heartwarming and a joy to experience.
Story – 1/1
As I said earlier, you play as either Iota or Atoi, male or female respectively. You can customise their appearance to however you please with a wide variety of decorate paper parts. Customisation aside, you navigate around in third-person, exploring the paper craft world. At first glance the world seems large but is in fact it’s quite linear with only slight, occasional side-tracking and back-tracking.
At first you start off with zero abilities, you can’t even jump. During my hands-on with the Tearaway demo back at EuroGamer ’13 I assumed that the game had no jump mechanic but I was wrong, you actually gain the ability to jump as your first “power-up”
As you progress you have to battle your way through Scraps, solve little puzzles and overcome a variety of platforming obstacles from your standard moving platforms to incredibly well-designed, interactive mechanics such as unfolding paper pathways and peeling back foil lids.
Through the use of the the front and rear touch and the PSVitas cameras, Tearaway takes the hardware to a new level of awesome. In selected areas you are prompted to “push your fingers through” the rear of the PSVita and in to the world of Tearaway. With your huge fingers, you manipulate objects for your messenger character, helping them overcome the challenges that lay in your path. It’s a fantastic and original mechanic.
The way you move around and explore the colourful environment, collecting confetti (the game’s currency) I can’t help but be reminded of Super Mario 64, I guess it’s just the wackiness of it all.
There’s little sidetracking but there are collectables to be found.
As mentioned above, the confetti, which can be used to buy customisable parts for your character and NPCs, red gift boxes which hold large amounts of confetti and act as a stand-alone collectable in itself and blue gifts, which are awarded to you for complete side-missions given to you by NPCs. The game keeps track of everything you’ve picked up along the way, making my inner completionist happy as backtracking to previous chapters is required to 100% the game.
There’s plenty to do but not in an overwhelming sense, if you’re like me and explore every nook and cranny before proceeding onwards in a game, you’ll likely collect/do 90% of everything in your first run. Simplistic gameplay but at a decent pace keeps me interested, a fresh mechanic is introduced in almost every chapter to keep things interesting. The game ticks along nicely and nothing feels too repetitive as the environments change quickly and different varieties of enemies/obstacles keep you on your toes.
Gameplay – 1/1
Media Molecule have tirelessly worked on Tearaway and it shows. The presentation is like nothing I have seen before. They developers spent time creating actual origami models in real life before transferring them in to their game. Everything in the game is made from paper, the way it looks, sounds and how you interact with it.
It’s an amazing world, it’s just a shame (for lack of batter word) it’s confined to a small screen as I imagine it’d look fantastic on a big TV in HD. I said a similar thing about Killzone Mercenary and just goes to show that the PSVita is very capable of running games that are comparable to that on HD consoles. Character models are wacky and a visual treat, the goofiness of the game is portrayed through the almost Frankenstein-like paper creatures that inhabit Tearaway. They speak in gibberish voices and ask you to help them with their frankly mad problems.
The environments change based on your input in the creation screen. For example, a character asks you to create your own snowflake, once you do, it’ll then snow your design. Another instance you’re asked to design a flag and another take a picture of you’re face to see yourself on billboards spread throughout the world. It really gets you involved and makes the game feel like your own tailored experience.
One of my favourite creations was when an Elk asked me to provide him with a new look for his fur, using the rear Vita camera, I took a picture of a patterned jumper I own and the very pattern was then applied to the animal’s body. A very simple thing but very satisfying.
Media Molecule don’t seem to know how to make a game that doesn’t dazzle the eyes.
Presentation – 1/1
As previously mentioned, there’s quite a bit to do in Tearaway. You’ve got all your collectables to find, side-missions to complete and hidden objects to uncover.
The game allows you to backtrack to previous chapters with abilities you’ve collected after them, which is great as during the first chapter there were a lot of platforms I couldn’t reach which initially baffled me but all became clear a few levels down the line.
A strange collectable are these “blanked out” white characters and objects. They are like a white void in the world, they’ve had their colour drained out of them and can only be restored by taking a photo of them with the in-game camera that the Messenger is given early in the story. When you restore a character’s colour you are rewarded with a template of that character/object which you can print out and build out by linking your game with the Tearaway website on your PC. It’s certainly an original feature, being able to print out real paper-craft of the paper-craft characters.
Other than the collectables there really isn’t too much else to replay. This isn’t Little Big Planet when it comes to level creating and community, you won’t find any of that here, which is fine. The game is a self-contained, stand-alone adventure that feel like a decent size for a handheld I both length and content. If Tearaway was a HD console game I would expect a bit more for my money, co-op for example or a level creator but it’s not a big £40 title, it’s a small £20 one.
I can’t imagine getting all the trophies for this game being too much of a challenge and will only likely take no more than two play-throughs.
Replay Value – 0.5/1
The quirkiness of Tearaway makes me smile. The whole time whilst playing I feel fully immersed in just how original and amazing the game is despite being on a small device. At not one point did I feel bored, the almost constant change of gameplay and new mechanics introduced before you can get bored is the hallmark of a well-designed game.
The full use of the PSVita hardware impressed me, using everything it had to offer; cameras, touch, motion control and microphone, in no way gimmicky but rather a game built around them all.
Customisation is always a nice feature in gaming, makes it feel like your own game and story, which is what Tearaway is all about: making it your own and my story was very fun indeed.
Enjoyment – 1/1
Story – 1/1
Gameplay – 1/1
Presentation – 1/1
Replay Value – 0.5/1
Enjoyment – 1/1
Total – 4.5/5
Tearaway is a must-have for anyone who truly appreciates the PSVita. It feels like the system seller that should have launched with the handheld but obviously needed the time it took for development. I say it feels like a launch title because of the way it utilises all the hardware features of the PSVita. It’s fun, heartwarming and I challenge you not to smile whilst playing it.