There has been a lot of buzz for Media Molecule’s newest game, Tearaway. With what can only be described as a meager release schedule, the potential of a Vita-focused game presented by the creators of Little Big Planet is a tantalizing prospect indeed. How does Tearaway hold up now that it’s been released the wild, though? Has it torn ahead of the pack or should it be ripped to pieces?
Iota (or Atoi, depending on your gender) has a mission. He must get a message to You. That’s right, his entire mission is to get the message (which his head is made of) to You, the player, and the person inside the Sun. As he works to deliver the message to You, he’ll cross vast landscapes, meet and help unique people, and fight off his nemeses, the Scraps, in a beautifully realized papercraft world.
It isn’t very long into Tearaway before you understand that a truly unique experience awaits you. As the game starts, you’ll control Iota (or Atoi) just as you would any other third-person game. You’re fairly limited out of the gate, able to move, run, and interact with items, but not much more. As you proceed through the game, however, more and more opens up to you and before you know it, your options are quite varied.
Tearaway exceeds tremendously as a Vita game. The front camera, rear camera, front and rear touch pads, accelerometer, and so on are all utilized to great effect. This makes for the single most engrossing experience on the Vita (and quite possibly several other platforms). You’ll press the rear touch pad to force your fingers into the world to manipulate objects, tap the rear touch pad like a drum to bounce Iota from platform to platform, open presents by pulling the bowstrings apart with the front touch pad, and much, much more. Media Molecule has clearly put serious effort into designing a game that takes full use of everything the hardware has to offer with nothing feeling like it was just shoveled in. Everything improves the game and it’s all incredible to witness and take part in.
The world and level design in Tearaway are immaculate. Each area is specially designed for a specific experience. Many often iterate on past experiences you’ve had and require you to adapt in order to overcome. Instead of just running around with the joystick, you’ll have to use the touchscreen to manipulate platforms with pull tabs, take out enemies, and more. It can take a fair bit of dexterity on occasion, but the sense of accomplishment you’ll earn from such contortion is reason enough to continue exploring.
As you play through Tearaway, you’ll run across NPCs who are occasionally missing something. In keeping with the heart of creation Media Molecule so finely curates, the game will give you access to a table with around 10 sheets of colored construction paper. Using the touchscreen, you’ll draw and cut out your own designs to make those in-game items, giving you a marvelous sense of agency in the beautiful papercraft world you’re exploring.
Beyond creating the occasional item for NPCs, you can customize Iota at any time simply by holding your finger on him until the menu pops up. Using currency you collect in-game, you can purchase new shapes, mouths, eyes, and more, and customize your very own Iota. Want to see the latest Final Fantasy character running around? You have the freedom to make that happen. It’s quite rewarding in its own way, granting you a great deal of control over your own experience.
Speaking of the NPCs in the world, their existence goes beyond the occasional required storied bump in the road. Many NPCs will have optional quests you can pick up. These usually require taking out a group of Scraps, designing something, or taking a picture of something in the game world. They give you an opportunity to stop chasing the main story and earn some extra money on the side for more goodies.
The cameras used in the game are employed to wonderful effect as well. There are several objects throughout the game that have had their colors stolen by the Scraps. Using your in-game camera with the accelerometer in the Vita, you can take pictures of these items to restore their color. This has an awesome side effect of unlocking an actual papercraft schematic for you to use in the real world via a service called Tearaway.me. It extends the game’s sense of whimsy far beyond the hardware in your hand to the craft table in your home.
In spite of the fact that Tearaway is not on the newest generation of console hardware, it may very well be one of the most visually stunning games released all year. The implementation of a construction paper-based papercraft world makes for a phenomenally jaw dropping aesthetic that will have you constantly smiling. On top of the preconstructed environments and characters, you can pick, choose, and customize the look of several characters to suit your fancy.
On top of the look, the animation so fluidly conveys the real world while maintaining it’s construction paper feel that you’ll hold onto a sense of awe. Sprinting through a puddles or watching the waves roll in are sure to put a smile on your face. It’s all brilliantly designed and put together, and that makes it that much more engrossing to experience.
Tearaway has an addictively entertaining soundtrack. Upbeat melodies will drive your exploration as you tap your foot along to the action on screen. The sound effects also do a wonderful job bringing the paper to life with wind blowing through the trees, waves crashing on the beach, and much, much, more. You’ll never want to play the game without experiencing the aural experience it has to offer alongside its beautiful visuals.
Tearaway is an incredible experience from start to finish. Heartwarming, whimsical visual design mix with a wonderful score to present an audio-visual experience you’ll look back on fondly for years. While the story isn’t breaking new ground, it’s well told and richly entertaining. When you combine all of that with accurate, responsive controls and world objects you manipulate using virtually every feature the Vita has to offer, Tearaway stands out as the strongest offering the PlayStation Vita has in its library. If you own a Vita or are considering the purchase, Tearaway is an absolute must-buy.
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