Giant Bomb Review

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Tearaway Review

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Media Molecule makes a strong case for the Vita, with a deeply charming game that thoughtfully uses everything the hardware has to offer.

It's difficult to write about Tearaway without talking about the Vita. The two are deeply intertwined. Tearaway could not exist without the Vita. The game acts as a testament to what might have been possible for a device in a parallel universe, one where it sold better and wasn't being refitted as an accessory to the PlayStation 4. It underscores what's possible when a developer views hardware features as potential, rather than marking a check box. Tearaway is a triumph for the Vita, validation of its design, even if we'll likely never get another game like it. One might be enough, especially for a game this delightful.

Tearaway's world flips, bends, and curls as you press on.

Tearaway is a world of paper, sliced and diced. Most of us can remember sitting in class rooms or summer camps, cutting up colored paper to try and bring our imaginations to life. If we saw those creations now, we would laugh. But at the time, they were incredible--real! Tearaway's world feels like the places we were trying to build, except now it's actually in front of us. Everything around you in Tearaway is playful, bouncing and hopping around, looking for your attention at every turn. Hey! Hi! Come here! You're the center of the unviverse in Tearaway, and only you can guide the game's hero, Iota, to safety. The story will turn at the drop of the hat, yet it never feels fake. It resembles a bedtime story, one a parent might be continually making up on the fly, simply because you didn't want it to end.

Gimmicks are only gimmicks if they aren't put to use. Technological gimmicks are common to video games. Sometimes they work out, often they don't. Nintendo characterized the rare instance where the raw potential of an idea, motion imbued in a controller, was perfectly realized in its first piece of software, Wii Sports. Nintendo never found a better use for motion controls after that. Sony's guilty, too. Developers tried their best to find reasons for tilting a Dual Shock 3 in a game, but it's mostly remembered for frustratingly walking across a log in Uncharted. Vita seemed liked it was chock full of these gimmicks: rear touch pad, tilt, cameras on the front and back. Rather than viewing these features as a burden, Media Molecule seemed to view it as a challenge. Rather than forcing these features onto an existing game idea, Tearaway feels like a game that was designed specifically to take advantage of every piece.

Along the way, Tearaway makes you feel deeply involved in Iota's quest, and I don't mean emotionally. You are quite literally involved, and this has everything to do with how the game takes into account what's unique on the Vita. You, the player, are constantly featured as the sun in the sky, and the camera will flip on to remind you of that fact. When put on the spot, you can make whatever face you want, it doesn't matter, but it's a constant reminder that Iota is not alone, and you are with him. The game will ask you take pictures of yourself to become part of the environment, or take snaps of what's around you, possibly to generate a texture for a moose seeking a new look. It's an interesting and effective way to ask passive players to be "creative" without demanding very much effort, and it makes the world uniquely yours.

I am the king of this world, and you cannot stop me.

This extends past aesthetic customization, and into the primary mechanics, such as rubbing your fingers on the rear touch to have fingers pop into the world (you can even customize skin color!) and flicking objects on the primary screen to reveal hidden platforms and rooms. Though Tearaway is a game you're playing on a handheld system, it feels alive and tangible in a way games usually aren't, since you are constantly physically interacting with the Vita beyond tapping X or O.

The game breaks the fourth wall in other crazy ways, too. There's an in-game camera system, one clearly inspired by Instagram. These photos do not exclusively live in the game, and can easily be shared on Twitter and elsewhere. One of Tearaway's collectibles involves snapping photos, which unlock papercraft models players can download, print out, and make on their own.

But all this love for Tearaway's effective use of the Vita could have been pretty easily undermined. Tearaway is a platformer from Media Molecule, and if you're like me, that might make you inclined to give the game a worrisome look. LittleBigPlanet was charming as hell, but a good platformer it was not. I couldn't stand the physics, even if I was enthralled by the aesthetic and soundtrack. Tearaway does not suffer the same fate. That's not accomplished by trying to compete with Mario, but embracing the quirk and charm that define Media Molecule's sense of humor, and imbuing that into the game design.

There is actually very little platforming involved with Tearaway, and the few times where the levels demand precision is when the game's at its weakest. You have some control over the camera with the right stick, but it's not consistent, and the instances where you can't seem to spin it around always felt like the points where the game is asking you to bop from one point to the next. The most frustrating moments in Tearaway are when the jumps look remarkably simple, and the camera won't let you pull it off.

Unlike other games, Tearaway doesn't ignore your presence. Instead, you are the star of the show.

These bits are few and far between, however. Tearaway leans on our ingrained desire to poke and prod at the worlds created for us, and find what has been hidden away. It's slightly unfair for Super Mario 3D World to have been released on the same day as Tearaway, a game that empitomizes the balance between encouraging players to explore and making sure the exploration itself is fun, not just the reward of a dancing collectible. In this, Tearaway works as often as it doesn't, with the game struggling to decide whether its world is compelling enough to entice players to look around, or whether collectibles are needed to make them stick around. Tearaway works best when its collectibles are tied to making use of the Vita itself in unique ways, particularly the blank papercraft models littered through each stage. To fill the papercraft in, players must point their camera and usher them into the world, and each time is as satisfying as the last. Even though they are, by definition, a collectible, it doesn't feel that way. Instead, it's about completing this lovely, living world surrounding you. It's far less fun when you're missing one, solitary piece of confetti, and it's seemingly nowhere to be found. That just feels like work.

Tearaway does not last very long. We're talking five or six hours at most. But take a good look; it's worth it. The view is spectacular, and over at just the right time. Games can outstay their welcome, and the best leave us wanting more, wishing to see one more stage. Tearway is a video game that happens to be about video games, as well. It's about you, the player, and it's about the people who make them, too. To say much more would unravel the touching, passionate message behind Tearaway, especially its remarkable ending, but the game leaves you in the same way it greets you: with a smile.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
74 Comments
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Posted by JammyJesus

Really looking forward to this!

Posted by ViciousBearMauling

This looks adorable

Edited by Familyguy1

Woah. I laughed hard when I saw your face in that screenshot. This game looks excellent. No Quick Look for this? Aww :(

Posted by Stimpack

I'm going to be buying my little sister a 3DS for Christmas this year. I wish I could buy her a Vita instead, but I still don't see enough of a use-case for it. There's just not enough solid content compared to what the 3DS can offer.

Posted by BaconGames

I am the center of the unviverse!

Posted by csl316

You know, accidentally clicking on the Vita's video section from this review led me to this beautiful thing, so I'm glad this game exists.

Posted by smashed_pumpkins

I just finished this tonight. Other than occasional issues with the camera, I loved the experience.

The game has of my favourite soundtracks of the year as well.

Posted by Crunchman

Media Molecule has some seriously talented people. They didn't compromise at all with the visuals. This game absolutely loves its papercraft.

Posted by AMyggen

God, this game looks amazing. Shame I'll probably never gonna buy a Vita. Great review, Patrick!

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Posted by mrfluke

5-6 hours and the core of it is the experience with no real replay value.

i think ill rent this, no dis to the game, game looks hell of cool.

Posted by scaramoosh

It's just too short, such a shame it failed, this could have been a reason to buy a Vita, instead we still wait for a reason to buy one...

5-6 hours just isn't enough.

Posted by jimmyfenix

Solo quicklook please!

Posted by Intangible_360

I spent $35 and got the best 6+ hours I've ever spent with the Vita, money well spent if you ask me.

Posted by Atwa

Woah. I laughed hard when I saw your face in that screenshot. This game looks excellent. No Quick Look for this? Aww :(

Vita games are still kinda bad to capture video of.

Posted by WesleyWyndam

My copy just arrived today!

Posted by rekon

@jimmyfenix: That's not going to happen unfortunately. Patrick is back in Chicago and I doubt he has any sort of Vita capture hardware at his parents house. Hopefully the guys in SF will play it on the Unprofessional Friday Wednesday they filmed tonight, or maybe sometime in the future

Edited by ColonelRick

Having finished the game today; the Vita needs more of this. More precisely, it needed games like this when it was launching. I feel kind of cheated by Sony on the (admittedly, implied) promise that they were going to put some effort into the Vita, which has largely translated to a few good games, and a whole lot of -as of yet unreleased- indie games. Like Patrick says in the article, it's going to end up an expensive accessory to the Ps4, which is a terrible waste of potential.

Edited by MeierTheRed

It's just too short, such a shame it failed, this could have been a reason to buy a Vita, instead we still wait for a reason to buy one...

5-6 hours just isn't enough.

What on earth are you talking about. The game failed because it gave you 5-6 of concentrated fun, you have got to be shitting me.

Posted by smashed_pumpkins

The game launched at £20 instead of the normal £35-40 for a new release. There may be some replay value. You can go through levels you have already played with the couple of new abilities you gain. I don't think any of the collectibles are gated by the abilities you have though. I haven't tried yet. I'm going to go and replay some levels tomorrow.

I have paid more for less. The game felt like it lasted as long as it needed to. Also I can see why people may be bummed it is not longer.

On a side note, I really liked the design of the default Atoi, so I only made superficial changes to how the character looked. Some people have made some incredible looking character designs

Posted by Noctorrent

This is a good review; however I feel the first paragraph was unnecessary. Personally I find it a little tedious to keep reading the same thing in so many articles. This recurring trend of journalists putting out a somewhat lazy and inaccurate viewpoint, only serves to act as some sort of doomsday preaching for a device that hasn't yet reached its maturity.

Let me bring to your attention a console called the Playstation 3. Now, I'm sure it's hard to remember this console. It was inhibitingly expensive for the consumer, and notoriously hard to develop for. Also, it had a worse user experience than its Xbox rival in terms of installation and patching among other things. People globally recognised this console as a failure, even inspiring the "ps3 has no game(s)" meme.

This console obviously died a short death, similar to what the Vita will suffer.

But no, the PS3 thrived a couple years down the line. It is now responsible for games that are arguably the best of the generation. We can make similar discussions regarding the 3DS and WiiU, even the PSP, among plenty of others I'm sure.

The Vita is backed by not some small corporation that appeared from a kickstarter, we are talking about one of the largest electronics company in existence. They have long term plans. One of which is to boost sales by it being a companion device to the PS4 (also has no games, by the way). Is it really believable that people which buy the Vita in this fashion, won't be at least somewhat tempted to pick up a game or two? Therefore inspiring confidence in sales numbers to developers new and old.

In conclusion, I wish and hope that people writing these articles and reviews would leave out the introductory paragraph about how a device is struggling and will likely die. Instead, perhaps, be excited and interested in a new consoles future.

We are gamers after all, we should do what we can to encourage these devices to succeed. It only benefits us to do so.

Posted by Miyuki

Tearaway is one of the best games I've played this year. It isn't terribly long, but then since I like to 100% my games that doesn't matter... makes this one easier. Very charming, and justifies my Vita purchase. I really hope this will bring a few new owners to the platform!

Posted by JimiPeppr

I found seeing my face in the game to be funnier than perhaps is should have been.

Posted by PXAbstraction

I pre-ordered this game on a sale earlier this year and so far don't regret it. There's a good chance this could be my Game of the Year, it's that good and inventive for me. It's a crime that Sony put this out the same day Mario 3D World and the Xbox One launched and did so with no promotion. I suspect this game will sell poorly, even in the scope of the meagre Vita numbers in the world. That's truly a crime against the medium. If this has somehow managed to come out at the launch of the Vita, I bet there would be a lot more of them in the world. If you own, a Vita, buy and play this game. If you don't own a Vita, this with the awesome lineup of PS+ games is probably worth getting one for. Seriously.

Posted by Video_Game_King

You just know that somebody's gonna post their dick in one of those level pictures.

Posted by Jack_Lafayette

This seems like a game that really deserves to be financially successful, but I won't be the one to prove that out.

Posted by porr

My Vita's back touchpad is hardly working, making it nearly impossible to play this game. I so sad :(

Edited by beard_of_zeus

I finished this last night, and it was brilliant. The ways in which You (with a capital 'Y') get to interact and change the game world always brought a smile to my face.

I would disagree with the assessment that the game features very little platforming, though. It doesn't get super tricky until the last third or so, but there's still a lot of jumping around (especially using the back touch to pop Iota into the air). Iota has a nice precise jump, unlike Sackboy, so don't fret about that, dear readers :)

The last sentence of the review really summarizes the game quite well. Glad you enjoyed this game, Patrick!

I'm at a point in my life where I don't mind games being on the shorter side (so I didn't mind the runtime), and plus in the cases where they are, I actually feel compelled to try and 100% the game. I'll definitely be doing another runthrough of all the levels to get all the collectibles and trophies, which should extend the game by another few hours.

Posted by RetroVirus

I'm going to be too busy with upcoming finals, but I will dig into this during Christmas break. Good review, Patrick.

Posted by fargofallout

If I can find a good deal on a Vita during the next few days of idiotic shopping, I'm going to pick one up, and this will be the first game I purchase, if for no more reason than to feel like I'm contributing to developers trying something different.

Posted by ToniMcKernt

very good review! i was always making faces when playing the demo too haha.

but i'll wait with picking it up. its got ps+ written all over it.

Posted by Mendelson9

I forgot about that log in Uncharted. It probably took me a solid 5 minutes to cross that thing. Rest of that game is great.

Posted by GS_Dan

I adore this game. Anyone considering a purchase should absolutely jump on it.

Am actually really looking forward to trying some of the papercraft.

Wish we could have gotten a quicklook of this game :/

Posted by Nashvilleskyline

superbe review

Edited by eduardo

Don't mean to sound snarky, but I'll totally play this once it's free on PS Plus. Thanks for the review, Patrick.

Posted by AMyggen

@noctorrent: But the fact remains that the device has struggled with sales (good sales last week I see, but it's a long way to go), with the general consensus being that it has few must play games compared to the 3DS. I think it's fair to point that out in a review.

And does it have the backing of Sony? Shu said in the GB interview that they're moving all their bigger studios to the PS4, leaving the Vita and the PS3 behind (he mentioned those two in the same breath). If you look at the release schedule for the Vita, it's clear that Sony isn't focussing on it with new first party/exclusive third party games. That they let Nintendo have Monster Hunter 4, a series that drove a lot of the PSP sales in Japan, speaks volumes I think.

While being really cool, remote play will likely be a niche feature that will be cool for the people who already own the Vita, but I doubt it'll sell a lot of new Vitas. It's way too expensive to be an accessory to the PS4 that "normals" will buy.

With all that said, I think it's fair to say that the Vita is struggling, and that it's unlikely to be more than a niche device. Sony's focus just seem to be on the PS4, and other than some indie games the "coming up" section for the Vita is a bit of a wasteland right now. I personally think Nintendo has already won the fight of the dedicated handhelds, and that Sony has realized that they can't support two systems (which you could argue that Nintendo can't either, given the state of the Wii U).

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Posted by gerrid

I love Tearaway so much. It's joyful and charming and inventive and the music is some of the best ever in a video game. Using the camera to take pictures of things and the way it surprises you endlessly by putting those pictures all about is wonderful.

Criminal that it won't get as much attention as it deserves, and that so many people will gripe and moan that it is "only 6 hours long", or that it's on the Vita and there are "no other games", or whatever other reasons people find to not play it.

Posted by Deadmanforking

This game looks really awesome. Can't wait to get home and download it.

Posted by Lurkero

The Vita is backed by not some small corporation that appeared from a kickstarter, we are talking about one of the largest electronics company in existence. They have long term plans. One of which is to boost sales by it being a companion device to the PS4 (also has no games, by the way). Is it really believable that people which buy the Vita in this fashion, won't be at least somewhat tempted to pick up a game or two? Therefore inspiring confidence in sales numbers to developers new and old.

I think it is important to mention the pertinent features of the hardware that a game is being featured on. For example, if a game is available on Vita and 3DS what would make someone buy the Vita version of over the 3DS version? Similarly, if a game is available on PSN for PS3 and on PSN for Vita, does the Vita version matter?

Sony should be trying to justify the special features of its hardware by encouraging developers to support it. Another example would be the Sixaxis controller. I can only remember 4 games that tried to justify the sixaxis movement of the dualshock 3 controller and one of those games was notoriously bad for it (Lair).

If Sony doesn't encourage developers to support the back touch pad or the touch screen then the Vita will just become another device to which games can be ported. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it decreases the number of reasons why someone would buy a Vita for exclusive games.

Edited by BlackLagoon
@amyggen said:

But the fact remains that the device has struggled with sales (good sales last week I see, but it's a long way to go), with the general consensus being that it has few must play games compared to the 3DS. I think it's fair to point that out in a review.

Depends on how you define "must play" I suppose. As someone who's not that excited about Nintendo's near complete reliance on decades old franchises, I find much more interesting stuff on the Vita.

And does it have the backing of Sony? Shu said in the GB interview that they're moving all their bigger studios to the PS4, leaving the Vita and the PS3 behind (he mentioned those two in the same breath).

...and he then says that they're continuing to produce Vita games at their smaller studios and with external partners. Which is how it's been for the most part with their portable titles. Not to mention Studio Japan does actually have a new Gravity Rush in production.

If you look at the release schedule for the Vita, it's clear that Sony isn't focussing on it with new first party/exclusive third party games.

Soul Sacrifice Delta, Freedom Wars, Phantasy Star Nova, new Gravity Rush, Over My Dead Body 2, Danganronpa 3...

With all that said, I think it's fair to say that the Vita is struggling, and that it's unlikely to be more than a niche device. Sony's focus just seem to be on the PS4, and other than some indie games the "coming up" section for the Vita is a bit of a wasteland right now.

I think you've been looking at the wrong "coming up" section. Try this one:

http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/blacklagoon/blog/

There's a TON of indes coming, and the retail selection isn't bad either. Most of the latter are Japanese of course, but then outside licensed shovelware, the 3DS isn't exactly drowning in western retail games, is it?

Edited by RuthLoose

@amyggen said:

But the fact remains that the device has struggled with sales (good sales last week I see, but it's a long way to go), with the general consensus being that it has few must play games compared to the 3DS. I think it's fair to point that out in a review.

Depends on how you define "must play" I suppose. As someone who's not that excited about Nintendo's near complete reliance on decades old franchises, I find much more interesting stuff on the Vita.

And does it have the backing of Sony? Shu said in the GB interview that they're moving all their bigger studios to the PS4, leaving the Vita and the PS3 behind (he mentioned those two in the same breath).

...and he then says that they're continuing to produce Vita games at their smaller studios and with external partners. Which is how it's been for the most part with their portable titles. Not to mention Studio Japan does actually have a new Gravity Rush in production.

If you look at the release schedule for the Vita, it's clear that Sony isn't focussing on it with new first party/exclusive third party games.

Soul Sacrifice Delta, Freedom Wars, Phantasy Star Nova, new Gravity Rush, Over My Dead Body 2, Danganronpa 3...

With all that said, I think it's fair to say that the Vita is struggling, and that it's unlikely to be more than a niche device. Sony's focus just seem to be on the PS4, and other than some indie games the "coming up" section for the Vita is a bit of a wasteland right now.

I think you've been looking at the wrong "coming up" section. Try this one:

http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/blacklagoon/blog/

There's a TON of indes coming, and the retail selection isn't bad either. Most of the latter are Japanese of course, but then outside licensed shovelware, the 3DS isn't exactly drowning in western retail games, is it?

Indie developers have realized that the real money is in F2P or Steam Indie Channel as insidious as both models have become in the past year or so. Sadly, it seems developing for 3DS or Vita is not as hip as it once was for the DS/ DSWare or PSP.

Posted by Zevvion

I would get this, but I'm getting my PS4 tomorrow already. I'm afraid this game will have to wait a month or so for my purchase.

What am I saying... I only played 100 hours of Enemy Within so far. The next 6 months are just that game.

Posted by megalowho

This game is fantastic, just dripping with charm and creativity. Looks and sounds incredible too. Worth buying a Vita for.

Edited by Secrettalkshowhost

I think this idea that Tearaway "couldn't exist without the Vita" is goofy. Tearaway is compelling to me for 2 reasons: the fact that it's a 3d platformer and the fact that it has a great art style. The vita features are completely uninteresting and arbitrary to me. I love the genera, the world, the character design, and the atmosphere, not the fact that the game constantly says "touch the screen because that's a thing this console does."

Every single touch/motion/camera/microphone element in this game is just an arbitrary action that doesn't tie into any sort of actual gameplay system; you're just using a thing for no reason. You touch the rear touchpad to trigger jump pads that would normally be automatic, you touch the touch screen to interact with objects you would normally interact with by simply pressing a button. You're doing the same old things, only with an extra step that just happens to use an input device. These actions don't require any extra finesse the player's part and they don't tie into any dynamics that add extra depth to the gameplay. I'd rather they focused on making non linear levels and giving the main character more abilities rather than focusing on shoving in all these meaningless feature checklisting things.

I'd rather have Tearaway on the PS3, or PS4 where I can enjoy it's sound and visuals on a big screen with good speakers. I'd rather it focused on actual gameplay in the game rather than focusing on trying to alert me to the fact that certain hardware features exist. I'd rather they focused strictly on making a better, more expansive 3d platformer & abandoned the tech demo part.

Posted by wibby

I own this, I enjoy this, I like this review ;)

Edited by dablemont

This game was an incredible experience for me. But I felt the game was a bit short and I was left wanting more of it.

Posted by ptys

Great Review man. I only wish Sony would embrace more traditional character design. Its like Nintendo, they have a theme pretty much with all their characters which stays somewhat consistent, but Sony just reinvents the wheel every outing. You can see the contrast when you compare Smash Bros. to PS All Stars.

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