Cynicism is the flavour of the day, these days.
It’s easy to be negative on the internet, and with all that hate being flung indiscriminately how can a game like Tearaway survive? It’s far too cutesy, far too adorable.
How can Tearaway crack that permanent scowl brandished across gamers’ foreheads? What needs to be done to make something as outstanding as Tearaway a plausible purchase for the Call Of Duty pros and Gears Of War lovers?
In many ways Tearaway harkens back to the classic PS2 era of games, where it was okay for your character to be a little more metaphorical than the current batch clad in heavy armour and equipped with a rocket launcher.
What Is Tearaway?
You play an envelope. Well, technically you play the Sun helping an envelope, but ignoring the daft premise you do actually control a letter – known as Iota – as it takes its journey from incarnation to delivering his message to you.
If it all sounds a little bit weird, run with it; there are a multitude of reasons as to why Tearaway is an original experience, and the entertainingly twee storyline is just one of them.
At its core Tearaway is little more than a reworking of the 3D platformers we remember from way back when: Jak & Daxter, Sly Raccoon, Ratchet & Clank et al.
You know the score here. Jump across platforms and collect a plethora of pieces dotted around the world.
Sure it doesn’t sound particularly original, but Tearaway is nonetheless the only game that could only work on PS Vita.
Sure other games – such as Uncharted: Golden Abyss – make use of the myriad PS Vita features, but those are built into existing gameplay mechanics. Tearaway utilises new ones just for the PS Vita.
Tearaway’s Core Gameplay
See the thing is, Tearaway is a tactile game. Tying into the theme of papercraft – and, by extension, creativity – Tearaway has you prodding, poking, tearing, moving, sliding, grabbing and even shaking your PS Vita.
Throughout the game you’ll be physically interacting with it, starting simply by shoving your finger through the back of the PS Vita and into the game’s world.
Of course that’s not literal, with some indistinguishable magic somehow teleporting the tip of your finger from the PS Vita’s back touch panel into Tearaway, bashing baddies, sliding objects and generally assisting in Iota’s journey.
But Tearaway’s cupboard of tricks is far more plentiful than that. It’s not long until Tearaway moves away from one control method to another, adding to an increasing repertoire of means of input.
Tearaway introduces new mechanics at a very healthy rate, so you’ll never feel like you’re doing the same thing. Well, you will be jumping platform to platform and dispatching numerous enemies, but games should never be diluted to such a pure – and sparse – essence.
This is a platformer, after all.
Much of the gameplay is split up with interactions with other characters of Tearaway’s papercraft world, quite often tasking you with creating a part of the world yourself.
Make no mistake, this isn’t LittleBigPlanet level of freedom but it is equally as creative.
Whether you’re asked to make a crown or pumpkin or simpler objects such as a star or heart tattoo, you’re given the option to craft something uniquely your own.
Crafting In Tearaway
What you’re prompted with is a craft board and a handful of pieces of colourful card. Here you draw with your finger, sliding a pencil in the shape that resembles the item you’ve been asked to create – the success of which dependant largely on your own innate creativity.
Now you’re not really rated on your skills at arts and craft. Take the crown as an example: you could hamfistedly cut out a triangle and leave it at that, but you could also add colourful jewels, multiple layers to give it depth or even make something a little more off-the-cuff.
Let’s face it, though, most of you are just going to cut out penises and stick them to the poor, poor creatures of Tearaway.
But that’s the beauty of it, there really is a freedom of creativity to enjoy this aspect as much or as little as you like.
The Call Of Duty grunts might not enjoy such colourful activities, but the inquisitive among you will appreciate a more creative outlet to your videogames.
Often you’ll be asked to take photos, too, finding patterns for an elk, skins for a squirrel or even locating in-game vistas to unlock some of those precious collectables.
Best of all is how these creations then begin to fill your world: snowflakes created by your own hand, moustaches crafted by your own fingers or mittens for Iota to wear. Tearaway feels personal as a result.
The Papercraft World
Of course it’s hard not to feel the world is yours when you feature in the game’s storyline. At regular points you’ll spot the sun, and at its centre you.
Using the PS Vita camera Tearaway will plop a close up of your nose into the centre of the papercraft star, with the coloured card world of the game and its story – almost literally – revolving around you.
We’re not attractive fellows, admittedly, so while it’s not so pleasant to be reminded of our faces, it’s certainly a quaint idea suitably used.
The real star is the papercraft world you explore. Everything’s folded, crumpled or torn, and Media Molecule has made superb use of this visual direction.
As Iota steps on a pathway it’ll flatten under his weight, platforms will literally unfurl before you all the while accompanied by the rhythmic flip-flop of Iota’s ribbon feet (and his outstanding running animation).
Visually it’s crisp and clear too. There’s plenty going on within Tearaway, but that doesn’t mean there’s any compromise in fidelity. This is a game best seen in action to really appreciate.
Everyone’s whining about the PS Vita’s “killer app”, and Tearaway is about as close as it can get.
It makes full use of the platform – and not with a buffet of pointless gimmicks – and does so with an unswerving focus on quality. A lot of effort has clearly gone into making Tearaway a standout game, regardless of platform.
Sure it’s a smaller title that might not appeal to a wide market, but there’s plenty to see and do here and – if not for something different, something original – it’d be a crime to miss out.
Media Molecule might only have two brands to its name, but both focus heavily on creativity – and since that’s something that distinctly lacking in the games industry it needs praising, cherishing even.
As already mentioned, Tearaway won’t empower you to build worlds or recreate your favourite games a la LittleBigPlanet, but it does offer a more low-key, personal approach to creativity.
If we forced ourselves to look for criticism then at a push we’d have to say the touch-screen crafting sections can be a little finicky, but then even that conveniently ties into the arts and crafts nature of the game.
It’s a shame that the humble 3D platformer doesn’t share the popularity it once had, but nonetheless Tearaway is a game you really ought to play – whether you own a PS Vita or not.