Sandwiched between LittleBigPlanet and Dreams, Tearaway could be seen as something of an oddity from Media Molecule. Rather than putting the tools of creation in your hands and letting your own imagination run wild, the PlayStation Vita exclusive was an exercise of their own creativity to bring a world of paper to life.
Yet that story was trapped on the Vita and could only to be enjoyed by its comparatively small audience. For a messenger and their story to be stranded so is an unimaginable shame in the world of Tearaway, and so with the unbridled success of the PlayStation 4, Tearaway Unfolded quite fittingly gives it another chance to spread its wings and be enjoyed by so many more.
However, this is no mere port. Media Molecule had made full use of the Vita’s many capabilities, from its built in camera to its front and rear touch pads, but the DualShock 4 has a different set of capabilities. It was entirely necessary to go back to the drawing board and craft new methods of interactivity, and yet they’ve gone above and beyond the obvious, to expand upon and retell what was there to begin with.
Your messenger, whether Atoi or Iota, and the journey that they go on is still utterly beholden to your influence and impact upon the papercraft world in the game. No longer do your fingers poke into the world, as your first power is to give the gift of light – how godlike of you – by pulling in one of the triggers and emitting a DualShock 4 light bar shaped beam into the game, tilting and pointing it by way of the controllers motion sensors.
For the first hour or so, a tap of the X button does little more than confuse your messenger, as they rely upon you to depress drum skins with the DS4’s touchpad and bounce them around the world at specific points. However, it’s not long before Atoi and Iota are able to make tiny little leaps that elicit quite adorable yelps of exertion.
However, that touchpad comes to let you control the wind and send a gust of air in the direction of your swipe, allowing you blow and move certain parts of the environment. It’s not the direct interactions of the Vita version, but a nice alternative. In a similar vein, tilting your controller up lets your messenger throw certain small objects and animals into your controller, before letting you aim and swipe to send it firing back into the world.
There’s a gradual build of abilities and new controls to learn over the first half of the game, and the puzzles gradually become more complex and demanding of your skills – no mean feat when you’re so often stretching to reach the touchpad – with the occasional one off ability thrown in for good measure. I’ll admit there were one or two little moments that had me stumped for a while, as I forgot one key skill and had dismissed the blue help squirrel.
By and large, the original’s charming and beguiling story remains intact, with two near omnipresent voices acting as your guides and as slightly mischievous manipulators of events. With three distinct acts, you and your messenger first journey through Valleyfold, fighting Scraps and crows along the way, before delving into the curious secluded land of Sogport to defeat the Scraps once and for all. However, it still remains to deliver your message, as the game takes a turn for the abstract and surreal. The final sequence is no less beautiful the second time around, and especially so with the continually wonderful soundtrack.
Media Molecule have crafted and injected life into a world full of papercraft delights. Squirrels play catch or join you in fighting off Scraps, an elk will challenge you to create them a new look, and so forth. You’re constantly asked to add to the world and pushed to take photos or, in a neat addition on PS4, make a gif – all of which can be uploaded and shared on tearaway.me.
The leap to the PS4 has allowed for expansions and changes to the game world in a number of ways. Naturally levels have been redesigned to cater to the new inputs and powers, but those familiar with the original will be able to see many moments make the transition almost completely intact. The world as a whole feels larger though, and there and there are one or two places where it genuinely is. As you soar above Sogport’s harbour on the back of a paper aeroplane, you can see just how much bigger it is on the PS4, while there’s an expansive new area to play through in Valleyfold.
It’s slightly disappointing to see the odd hitch in performance and a handful of bugs rear their heads. Paper windmills occasionally refused to respond to wind, which forced me to restart from the last checkpoint, and the friendly AI squirrels are still a little dim and a bit too happy to throw important objects off into the abyss. These were compounded by a camera which, while generally fine, occasionally finds itself torn between wanting to set a scene and responding to your right analogue stick. As a result it can get end up giving you the worst of both worlds, with scenery either in the way or forcing the camera into an awkward position.
Unfolded can also grapple with what the PS4 lacks compared to the Vita. If you don’t have a PlayStation Camera plugged in, you won’t see yourself peering down into the world from the sun, and without a microphone, you can’t send your voice echoing through the world when invited to. The moments centred around optional peripherals are kept to a minimum, so it’s with the regular appearance of the decoration creator that the deficiencies to the Vita are most keenly felt. It does a relatively decent job with the diminutive touchpad as a drawing tool, but it’s far too imprecise and doesn’t include such basic things as an undo button or the ability to copy a paper cutout.
There’s also a missed opportunity to include a fuller and more flexible set of tools when using a Vita, smartphone or tablet as a second screen. Instead, all you can do is create a single shape to send across. Although these options are a decent alternative to take photos and get them into the game. Amusingly, Tearaway Unfolded is quite lovely via Remote Play, bringing the game back to the handheld on which it started, albeit with DualShock 4-like controls.
Tearaway was a game deserving of a much greater audience than the one that it got on the PS Vita, but Unfolded goes a long way beyond simply trying to port that game across to the PS4. It reimagines many of the ways you interact with the game’s papercraft world and it expands and builds upon some of the ideas in the handheld version, yet never strays too far from what was already a wonderful experience.