Tearaway – Review

Title   Tearaway
Developer  Media Molecule
Publisher  Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Platform  PlayStation Vita
Genre  Platformer
Release Date  November 22, 2013

If there’s one thing I’ve missed in my last seven years as a gamer, it’s that time when games like this could actually be released like proper games and not apologetically snuck out as indie titles. As an Xbox 360 player, I’ve seen gaming become big business with huge development costs and tight deadlines leaving little room for real creativity. Not like the old days when I was an avid PlayStation player. I mean, I never cared much for all the first-person shooters and driving games, but back in the day, Sony would let through some really insane games like Katamari Damacy (before Namco turned it into a horrible DLC cash cow), Vib Ribbon and Parappa The Rapper. This was pre-PSN and Xbox Live Arcade. We’re talking about full retail disc releases.

Tearaway on the PlayStation Vita really evokes that era for me. A proper retail release that has so many interesting ideas, it’s almost exhausting. The game tells the story of Iota (or Atoi if you pick the alternate female character – or, at least, I think she’s female) who has to deliver a message, one that’s inside his envelope head, to You. Yes, the character is called You and it’s actually you. One of Tearaway‘s early tricks is to use the Vita’s camera to place your face inside the sun, looking down at the adventures of Iota. It’s odd but it’s perfect.

There’s not a whole lot more to the plot, but that doesn’t matter because before long you are exploring Tearaway‘s world. And what a world it is. Everything in the game is designed to look like crafting paper. The environments, the characters and the monsters within are all made of colourful, flat textures that behave like paper to your touch. This manifests itself in different ways as you pull and push platforms and objects using the front screen or, quite brilliantly, use the rear touch pad to poke your fingers through the scenery to great effect.

The idea is that there is a world inside your Vita and that you get to observe and interact with it directly to allow Iota to progress through it. Now this could be seen as gimmicky, and if Tearaway had been handled by any other team it probably would have been, but Media Molecule (of Little Big Planet fame) have absolutely nailed it. Sure, Tearaway throws in almost every trick you can and can’t think of, but it feels right and is far more natural than Little Big Planet. The way they pace out each control revelation is spot on and I lost count of how many times this game had me chuckling away or smiling with total admiration.

Now I’ve never been a huge fan of the 3D platformer. I cut my teeth on 8 and 16-bit 2D platformers and have also found the post Super Mario 64 platformer to be too imprecise and meandering to ever really hook me in, but Tearaway‘s papery world, full as it is with inventive new puzzles and fun platforming mechanics has changed my mind. Sure, there are still times where I fail to line up properly with the next platform, but the penalty for failure is never anything to worry about and so you can enjoy a steady forward progression with the game.

The papercraft element of Tearaway is always evident. You are often required to make a specific object for characters that you meet, such as a crown early on in the game. During these sections you are whisked over to a crafting table with sheets of coloured paper where you can make whatever shape you like using the drawing and cutting tools. Customising Iota is both fun and easy to execute using the front screen of the Vita. In an interesting twist, the game also unlocks paper plans to create Tearaway‘s shapes in the real world, if you can be bothered with all that. I can’t but, that said, if I had the paper right here I’d probably give it a go. Those of you with kids may end up having a lot of fun with it.

That overused games journalism expression ‘effortlessly charming’ will no doubt be applied to Tearaway, but there’s nothing effortless about the game. Beyond the sheer creativity on show, the game itself has fantastic presentation with some lovely, detailed visuals and one of the most cheerful soundtracks you’ve heard since you retired your SNES. It would have been easy to use the papercraft visuals as an excuse to give the game a cheaper look and feel but they’ve cut no corners here, which is great because there’s a lot going on in the game and so clear visuals are essential.

The game world is fantastic and how you interact with it is a real treat for cynical gamers such as myself. The game is so creative, so often, that it would be easy for Media Molecule to do a Just Cause 2 and forget to put an actual game in there but Tearaway is also great fun to play. The controls are great, even if you do occasionally have to start switching hands to press various things on the screen, and the added complexity of all the control methods works well without feeling over-complicated. That said, Tearaway offers little challenge to the average adult gamer and clocks in at just a few hours if you’re not spending time looking for the myriad collectibles on offer.

My feeling is that Tearaway is a game based on replayability rather than trying to be any kind of epic and while that suits me just fine, others may wonder where their money went when staring at the final screen sooner than they expected. But at twenty quid (both online and in the shops), you can’t moan too much, especially when the game is just so lovely.

With PS Plus doing a great job of filling my Vita’s memory card with dozens of games, it was always going to take a great game to hold my attention and settle on just one. Tearaway is that game. It could be longer, and it could offer up more of a challenge, but Tearaway just wants to make you smile and everytime I see the sun in this game, it appears that’s exactly what I’m doing.

  • Masterful and inventive use of all aspects of the PlayStation Vita without ever feeling clumsily done
  • As creative a world as you've seen in the last few years
  • Beautiful visuals that charm and surprise in equal measure
  • A more than fair asking price
  • May be too short for people who like their games to be a bit more boring
  • Puzzles and combat don't offer up much of a challenge

The PlayStation Vita is the most capable handheld out there, and Tearaway hammers home just what a great machine it can be in hands of the right developer. This echo of Sony's more eccentric past is just what you need as you slowly watch this generation of big consoles die and be replaced by the underwhelming new ones and even without the tricks, Tearaway is a fun platformer for those of you who still retain any sense of whimsy.

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One Comment

  1. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    So… um… yeah… SOLD!

    I love how this looks, really like the premise, and I want to see my face in the sun.

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