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Review

Tearaway Review

Adventures in a papercraft world.

Media Molecule’s second franchise has charmed from the very moment it was revealed. It features a wonderful papercraft aesthetic blended to a platforming game and the many inputs of the handheld hardware. Is this another example of how best to create a game for the PlayStation Vita?

Tearaway, from the first moment to the very last, filled me with joy and glee with practically everything it set out in front of me. It starts with You – with all beings from our world referred to as a capitalised You – being introduced and invited into the world of Tearaway, breaking a gigantic hole in their papercraft Sun, so that you can gaze down through this portal and see what’s happening. Within this world you control Iota or Atoi, a message incarnate, journeying ever onward to deliver itself to you.

Along the way you have to help your messenger out of many a sticky situation, and this starts off right away, as they are beset by the evil forces which you have unwittingly unleashed upon the world – Scraps. These little boxes of junk paper crop up almost everywhere, causing havoc whenever they appear, and initially it’s only through your own awesome power that you can defeat them.

The PS Vita’s various input devices are put to quite fantastic use throughout, with the front-facing camera called upon regularly to show your face peering in through the Sun, and the touch pads allowing you to reach into the game in select places and alter the world. It could be an area through which you can push your finger and sweep away Scraps or push around objects, or little taps allowing you to hit a drum skin and bounce your messenger to a higher platform.

At first, Atoi – my chosen messenger – doesn’t even have the ability to jump and this is a lovely way of creating a bond with the player. She starts completely dependent on you to progress and often keep her from losing her stamp and respawning, and even as she does gain new abilities, such as being able to roll up into a ball, there are always points where you are called upon to react and affect the world to help.

The platforming side does actually get quite challenging later on in the game, as it shifts ever further away from the rather homely Valleyfold. There’s certainly depth to what is on offer, and it’s testament to the Vita’s small analogue sticks and the handling that the trickier sections remained fun and fair. However, the game will at times ask you to command both touch points on the rear touchpad, face buttons for jumping and precision on the analogue stick, alongside the occasionally awkward camera angle which is sometimes out of your control. It could easily be overwhelming and awkward to coordinate all of the inputs for smaller hands than mine.

“By the time the final Scraps are being dispatched, combat is short, sharp and snappy”

Coming across Scraps to fight is quite a regular occurrence, and the combat mechanics are nicely varied and interesting. Initially, the messenger will have to carefully avoid the Scraps as they pounce at them, leaving dazed and upside-down Scraps that you can pick up and throw at other Scraps, off a ledge or into a wall. Combined with the moments where your fingers and thumbs are needed to intervene, there’s a refreshing feeling of being on the defensive in combat – and you’ll simply have to run away from the Wendigos – but the challenge is never overbearing.

Of course, as the game progresses, more abilities are unlocked, and you can step things up a gear as you fight. By the time the final Scraps are being dispatched, in their various guises, combat is short, sharp and snappy. Importantly, the fighting never outstays its welcome when there are such great wonders to behold all around you.

Tearaway

The journey Atoi undertook, to reach the Sun and deliver her message to me, unfolded across three quite distinct acts. Each time, the narrators called for something fresh and new, and though you can sometimes see the influences of other games, it’s from this desire that the inventively clunky Scraps came as adversaries. Soon enough, the brightly lit, verdant greenery of Valleyfold gives way to new locations which completely shift the tone and style of the game.

Each is more striking and intriguing than the last, and is perfectly matched by an excellent score of original music and environmental sounds. As the environments change, the music accompanying the messenger’s little yips and cries evolve from the rustic folk aesthetic it holds at the start to evoking sea shanties by the sea shore and seamlessly makes the jump to the later settings.

“I always delighted in being able to watch squirrels playing catch”

The music mirrors just how every single element within the game is ever so lovingly crafted out of digital paper. As you travel, you’ll come across many curious-looking characters, who will often have something to say, make burgeoning friendships or offer quick side missions for you to complete – though on a handful of occasions these side missions were broken by dim AI falling off a ledge or throwing a ball that you want into a vat of glue, with a replay of those areas giving them a second chance.

Yet, it’s a hiccup that I find forgivable when the world feels so full of life. Confetti floats around everywhere you run, and paper plants will open up as if to say hello. There are the moose who slowly amble around, the gophers, and the ever-present and ever-playful squirrels. I always delighted in being able to watch squirrels playing catch, throwing a ball or rock their way for them to chuck back and forth and joining in the fun.

Half of the fun was trying to capture it on camera, and it’s through taking photos that I really explored a lot of the world. Dotted around the place are many things which have had their colour stolen. Taking pictures of these, which restores their colour and unlocks papercraft plans for the real world, is a perfect excuse to pull out the camera that the messenger is given early in the game, and play with some of the filters and lenses.

Really, I needed no excuse to pull out the camera to take a few snaps, though the game does often push you to use the camera to take pictures and this often ties in with a continuation of Media Molecule’s creative spark. It will ask you to customise your messenger, create papercraft objects for the world’s inhabitants, give a scientist a tie… It’s always inventive and quite cute about the way it gets you to do things. I finished the game with an Atoi who, bit-by-bit, came to look very different to how she started off.

My only real complaint would be that the creation tools aren’t quite as precise as I’d like them to be. The input relied on my large digits being able to draw out perfectly what I had in mind, or position an object just so. Sadly, even with being able to zoom in quite far, I just wasn’t able to satisfy my quest for perfection or match the quality of the items in game with the simple tools available.

And the game’s quality is exemplified by the final moments, as the message is delivered. It’s such a simple idea, but I found it catching me by surprise after the various tangents the game had taken, and was just created so beautifully and perfectly.

What’s Good:

  • A fantastic art style and world created from paper.
  • A story that heads in several interesting an unexpected areas from the opening in Valleyfold.
  • Taking pictures of every beautiful little thing.
  • Precise controls and snappy combat keep the gameplay light and fun.

What’s Bad:

  • Some later sections could be quite hard for a younger audience and small hands.
  • The in game papercraft creating tools felt imprecise to create quality items.
  • Occasional side missions broken by dumb AI, requiring you to replay the area.

Tearaway is the kind of game that the PS Vita has demanded since launch, something crafted and tailored to its form and its capabilities, but rather than feeling forced, creating an easy sense of wonder fun and inventiveness. Continuing Media Molecule’s push to unleashing our creativity, it also features a story, a world and creations which delight at every turn, no matter how old you are.

Score: 9/10

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20 Comments
  1. Erroneus
    Wanted "Trophy Hunter" but was too late.
    Since: May 2009

    It’s an amazing game and a must own for every Vita owner. Go preorder it now! :)

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:07.
  2. Germanos
    Member
    Since: May 2011

    Can’t wait for my copy to arrive :D

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:11.
  3. ron_mcphatty
    Member
    Since: Sep 2008

    Sounds fantastic, great review. Now all I need is a Vita… another one :P

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:21.
  4. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Good review, you’ve very much tempted me to buy but sadly it’ll have to wait. All of my gaming money is going on ps4 right now and all of my vita time is eaten by the sublime Pixeljunk monsters ultimate.
    I reckon this will end up on plus so I’ll wait for that.

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:23.
    • jimmy-google
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      Doubt it will be for a while though. Littlebigplanet still hasn’t shown up yet. I don’t think sony want all their games on plus. I can only see it being in their soon if the sales are really poor.

      Ive got the same issue with ps4 games so I’ll probably rent it and buy it in the new year.

      Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:34.
  5. gaffers101
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    I had a play with this at Eurogamer it was great. The only downside is that it clashes with PS4 release, I really can’t see myself playing anything else for a while.

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:40.
  6. Taylor Made
    Member
    Since: Oct 2011

    My vita square button has broken, I’m replacing it next week (Thank God I insured my toy)

    Any who can I play the game with no physical buttons (especially square)?

    Good review

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:47.
  7. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    Had it pre-ordered for ages, can’t wait!

    I use my Vita for lunch breaks so this will still get my attention, even with my PS4 arriving….IN NINE DAYS!!! :O

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 08:51.
  8. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    Im sure it’s good but these cutsey games really don’t interest me. I’d prefer to shoot things in the face, Killzone Vita FTW :)

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 09:10.
  9. Kennykazey
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    Lovely. I’ve had it sitting on my PS3 for ages, waiting to be unlocked so it can wander over to the Vita.

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 11:28.
    • OnlineAssassinOA
      Member
      Since: Jun 2012

      I’ve bought it earlier and transfered it via WiFi to the Vita and is now sat on vita awaiting unlock.

      Comment posted on 21/11/2013 at 01:03.
  10. bunimomike
    Member
    Since: Jul 2009

    To see Media Molecule perform at the very best a platform has to offer is so heartwarming. You quietly hope but never expect too much… then… Skadoosh! A stunning game is created. Top effort.

    Lovely article too, Tef. Don’t even have a Vita and I’ve been hankering after this game for ages.

    Comment posted on 20/11/2013 at 12:16.

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