The story of Iota and Atoi in Tearaway was one of the most heartwarming tales of recent years. Whether it’s the charming first few levels, the kitchy 60s Sci-Fi of the Observatory, squirrels playing football (kind of), or the way the game ends as the messengers complete their delivery, it’s a game which delighted at every turn and left me with a bit of a lump in my throat.
For that world, that story and that message to have been trapped on the PS Vita forevermore – a fantastic machine, yes, but not one that’s sold as many as Sony would like – would have been sheer madness. So Media Molecule have been hard at work bringing it to the PS4, carefully unsticking all of the PS Vita specific controls and ideas and adapting or replacing them with the unique capabilities of the DualShock 4. Tearaway Unfolded loses absolutely none of that charm in the process, as Atoi takes centre stage – let’s face it, Atoi is cuter than Iota anyway.
As soon as I sit down with controller in hand, I’m humming along to the music, recognising the barn level and marvelling at just how gorgeous it looks. Though the game was already vibrant and the world was full of motion on the PS Vita, Unfolded seems to take that to the next level. The barn just felt that little bit more dynamic, more spacious and grander in scale – with effects like depth of field in play – even if, in truth, the layout is very similar to the original.
Patterned drumskins bounce whatever is on top of them into the sky as you click the touchpad, akin to tapping on the rear touchpad on the Vita, which startles one of the barn’s inhabitants as you bounce his cauliflowers. That’s a handy hint, as it happens, for a simple little challenge just a few moments later, as an endless stream of cauliflowers clatter into a bridge and prevent you from continuing. Frantically clicking the touchpad with one thumb bounces them over the top as you run across the bridge.
However, this is joined by completely new ideas, such as the ability to grab something from within the world with the messenger, then tilt the controller upwards and throw it into the sky. Maybe it’s an acorn or maybe it’s a squirrel; shaking the controller rattles it around inside, and makes noises out of the little loudspeaker.
Moving and pointing with the controller, you can then swipe on the touchpad to fire whatever object or creature you had in the Dualshock back out into the world, smashing plates, tearing drum skins, shocking the world’s inhabitants or taking out those pesky little Scraps.
There’s actually a brand new way to take out those Scraps too, at least in the section with a cunningly placed trapped door. Pulling in both of the triggers focusses your godly powers and shines a powerful beam of light into the world, hypnotising any Scraps in its area, and allowing you to drag them around on screen. It’s just as easy to hypnotise them as it is to move too fast and lose hold of them, but pulling them over to the trap door before clicking the touchpad to drop them into the darkness below is simple enough.
Sprinkled throughout the world are also those characters in need of your help and crafting abilities. Just as before, you’ll be asked to make a replacement moustache or show someone what kind of pumpkin you’re looking for, and will dive into the create area. Of course, without a direct touch screen, you’re now controlling a cutting cursor with the analogue sticks, but I actually found this much easier than using the touchscreen on the Vita. Simply not having my fingers in the way when trying to do something relatively precise like making a really twirly moustache helped a great deal and could, I feel, easily resolve one of the minor niggles I had with the original game.
Though I’ve spent the last few hundred words simply describing new controls, it’s really how Media Molecule wield these within the game. There’s a delightful level of ingenuity to some of the ideas, leading to a slightly rejigged experience that fits the home console just as well as the original did the handheld.
Of course, the most important thing is that it put a smile on my face, something it will surely do next year as they invite players new and old into the wonderful papercraft world that they’ve created. I know how the story will end, but I can’t wait to play through and see it again.