Media Molecule is best known for the creation of Little Big Planet, a series of games built on creativity, customisation, and imagination. After two console outings Sackboy and Craftworld hit the handheld world with LBP PS Vita, which expanded the interactive elements of the game thanks to the PlayStation Vita‘s dual touch screen controls. It was excellent.
It would have been quite easy for the team to continue on with Sackboy as their handheld mascot, but luckily for us they decided to create something completely new. Tearaway, another Sony exclusive, is Media Molecule’s next logical but delightful step.
Like in LBP, players take a customisable mascot on a journey through a dynamic, crafty world, this time based on paper craft. Despite some similarities with LBP Tearaway is very much its own thing. It’s fully 3D, has been built from the ground up for the Vita and has a much greater emphasis on touch controls and player interactivity. Where Little Big Planet poked a hole through the fourth wall, Tearaway smashes it down with a nifty paper craft hammer.
Players can choose to play as Iota or Atoi, a male or female messenger on a mission to deliver a special message to the player. The player quickly pops up in the game, with the front camera of the Vita used to stick your mug right in the game world. The narration introduces you as a helpful, godlike being who can influence the world to help Atoi or Iota deliver their message. You live in the sun, just like the baby in Teletubbies.
The bad guys in the tale are the Scraps, paper monsters terrorising the world and it’s various kooky inhabitants. Atoi can’t jump to begin with, so players must use the Vita’s front and back screens to get rid of the enemies by poking holes in the floor, moving platforms and rolling objects. What Atoi can do (aside from walk around) is pick up objects and talk, which is a deceptively simple moveset when you begin to uncover some of the more unique mechanics of Tearaway.
In keeping with the papercraft world players can be called upon to create objects by tracing and cutting pieces of paper using the touch screen as a virtual crafting board. The interface works wonderfully even if the limit on how far you can trace is a bit irksome – but that’s what layers are for!
My first design request came from a squirrel who had had his crown stolen, so I whipped him up a new one complete with gems and stuck it on his head. As it turns out he was the king of the squirrels, so my reward was generous- a camera, complete with unlockable lenses and filters.
Tearaway essentially has its own version of Instagram, and it is highly addictive. Collect enough of the confetti scattered around the landscape and you can buy a macro lens, a sepia filter, a zoom lens – all manner of photographic kit. And yes, the macro lens won’t give you a good shot unless you’re up close, and if something is moving you’ll probably get motion blur – madness! Confetti can also be used to buy objects to dress up your character, which functions in much the same way as the customise part of the Poppit in Little Big Planet.
The papercraft world is gorgeous, so you will be using that camera to snap some of the things you come across. Although the graphics are pretty simple there is a real life to the world: lighting can change from day to night in a matter of steps, grass ruffles as you run through it, you can splash through the puddles and watch waves of water crash down a waterfall. New creatures appear every now and again, gophers, deer, and a pig that you have to dress up because she isn’t quite pretty enough for Mr Pig. I came across two squirrels playing catch with an apple, and can I? Yes, I can play catch with those squirrels! I can also feel bad enough about walking away from them that I had to find some acorns to feed them – when a game is giving you virtual guilt over a game of catch with some squirrels then you know it’s sucked you in.
Tearaway is lovely, quite simply. It puts a stupid grin on your face and it will go ahead and show you that. Seeing your own face in the game is a little disconcerting at first, but when a bunch of paper critters begin to worship you that feeling is quickly displaced by a warm fluffiness that actually made me wave at one point. Terrible.
The adventure aspect of the gameplay is fairly simple, but the quickly expanded moveset hints that things will progress beyond the few areas I got to experience. At the beginning Atoi can’t even jump, but that gets unlocked and is quickly followed by the ability to roll, opening up a wider range of platforming set ups.
The levels have plenty of room to get creative thanks to the limitless papercraft theme, and the Vita has a lot of different control options available – even the microphone gets a look in. The themed areas seem to be set up in a linear fashion and there is no hub, but the presence of hidden goodies throughout the levels hints at there being at least some backtracking.
Tearaway looks like it will be a must for fans of Media Molecule’s work. It is charming, unique, and will draw you in to it’s delightful little world with ease. The game is due for release on November 20, and will be exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.