It’s definitely not tearable…
Usually I try my best to avoid mirrors, shop windows and basically any reflective surface if I can genuinely help it. However, here I am peeking out from Tearaway’s blue confetti dusted sky thanks to the Vita’s front facing camera, trying desperately to adjust my expression from ‘concentrating gamer face’ to ‘chirpy, all powerful sun-being’. With classic platforming, indicative Vita mechanics and the same charm Little Big Planet encapsulated so well, Media Molecule’s latest effort is an imaginative world that sucks a little of ours in for the ride.
Tearaway is certainly clever in its execution. Everything on screen is made of paper but it’s not merely a visual aesthetic, it behaves like it. Paths curl up, bridges unravel, foliage flickers and waves in the wind and water sends out paper ring ripples; the entire preview code looks as gorgeous as it does authentic and at times also adopts an almost stop-motion feel to the animation. You’ll explore the colourful landscapes as one of two envelope-headed papercraft imaginations, Iota or Atoi, with the goal of delivering a message to our ‘real’ world.
Controls feel slick and reminiscent of older console platformers but with modern twists thanks to the Vita’s plethora of technology. For instance, straight off the bat I’m tasked with helping our protagonist fend off several enemies which the game fondly calls, Scraps. A large portion of the floor is decorated with the same print that adorns the back of the Vita, and as I press behind the console a finger pops into the game and clears the path for our hero.
The same mechanic is revisited constantly to lift tree logs blocking a path or to bounce yourself from platform to platform but it’s not the only way in which Tearaway calls upon you to make your own mark on the game world. A pig needs to be cuter so you can ride him through the grounds; a scarecrow needs a new scary pumpkin head to clear the path to a new area; a random papercraft npc needs a new mustache – no problem. Because when such conundrums arise, up pops an art screen where you choose from a selection of coloured paper, draw your own shapes and cut them out to add them directly into the game world. I’m no Neil Buchanan but it’s immensely pleasing and fun, especially when seeing your (in my case) not-so handy work develop parts of the game in front of your eyes.
The platforming feels pretty solid at this stage without really breaking any new ground. You can’t jump initially, but once it’s introduced along with rolling around the gameplay opens up a little but remains very familiar – that’s very much a good thing. The originality pores in from touchpads, motion sensing and the camera, which as mentioned at the beginning frequently places your face into the game to playact as the ‘You’ the protagonist is aiming to reach with his message. Taking photos in game of white papered objects unlocks real papercraft plans for you to print out and fold into the games’ characters, whilst you can upload and share anything you snap and use new filters and lenses unlocked with confetti – the collectable that acts as currency.
Media Molecule are proving themselves adept at creating fresh, original games that appeal to everyone and from what was played there’s no reason to think Tearaway will be any different. The atmosphere only emphasises that thanks to the superbly scored concoction of solo violins, recorders and occasional throbbing modern synth that could easily be described as a folky night out in Fabric with Bilbo Baggins. Implementation is key, too. Nothing feels tacked on or unnecessary and there’s enough about it to make it interesting to others beyond the young audience the visuals lean towards.
Admittedly, at first, I didn’t really get Tearaway and what it was going for. After exploring the preview code and discovering that this could be the first game to really take the Vita’s tech and make it really worthwhile, it’s become pretty clear to me. Tearaway should probably be on every Vita owner’s radar from here on out if it wasn’t already, and I’d be genuinely surprised if it doesn’t turn out to be another feather in Media Molecule’s increasingly fluffy cap.