Without An Iota of Doubt, You Must Play Tearaway.
When Media Molecule first came on the scene with Little Big Planet in 2008, they pushed the creative boundaries of user-created content in a way that was never seen before on console (as well as introducing us to Sony’s de-facto mascot Sackboy). Fast-forward to 2013 and we are again treated to another masterful game by the Surrey, England based developers in the form of the papercraft-themed Tearaway.
I can easily say after completing the game that it surpassed my already high expectations, provided numerous memorable moments, and absolutely should be in the running for one of the best games of 2013.
Tearaway opens a story-book world in which your character is a whimsical paper puppet envelope named Iota or Atoi. Figuratively and literally you are a message being sent to you the player. In a continued effort to engage the player, the world casts you as the other major character in the narrative. You play the role of the sun and are shown in the world via the Vita’s front camera.
Small ideas like this wrap the world around you and at the same time ground you in it. Tearaway’s characters and enemies are absurdly cute. New gameplay and puzzle elements are introduced over the game’s five plus hours. Locales and environments evolve and are stunning to play in.
CRAFTY, CRAFTY, CRAFTY
I really don’t know if I have enough adjectives to describe how gorgeous Media Molecule’s take on papercraft is. Colors are vibrant and pop off the OLED screen, intricate touches are all over the game. The ways paper elements bend, crumple and fold give everything in the world a faithful and tactile feel. Background and foreground elements animate with an almost stop-motion feel that gives things like the blue uncurling paper of a waterfall, or the origami shape of a squirrel, a very stylized look.
Style isn’t just about your surroundings, here. Iota/Atoi have a bundle of customizable parts that you can mix and match to make the character you’re playing entirely unique.
At some points, you are tasked with making your own accessories for Atoi, with construction paper, pencil and scissors. Or, you can purchase from pre-configured options for facial features and accessories, using confetti, the in-game currency.
Confetti is everywhere: you can earn confetti by picking up pieces that are strewn around the world, opening up hidden gift boxes, or using your camera to bring silhouetted papercraft characters and objects back to life. The camera also plays into the confetti system, allowing you the ability to purchase different lenses and filters.
I found camera inclusion extremely fun and don’t think the game would have been the same without its incorporation. You can tell that in the development phases of the game the team put a real emphasis on uses of the in-game and Vita cameras, and those implementations. I found myself stopping everywhere in the game to take pictures of the world and selfies of me with grazing elk in the background. To my surprise at the end of my playthrough I’d taken almost 100 pictures.
The game’s soundtrack is another highlight. Genres run the gamut from ska to celtic with a dub step beat to straightforward orchestral score, all without skipping a beat or ever sounding out of place. And a pro-tip: play the game with headphones on, as the environmental sounds are amazing as well. Massive kudos goes out to the sound team on this one.
Tearaway is by far the most compelling reason to buy a Vita, and the best game you could own for the system. It utilizes all the functions of the system in ways that are inventive and fun, and is ripe for replaying. Throughout the whole experience you never feel like the game asks you to do something that doesn’t make sense or asks too much of the hardware itself. Use the front touch to draw an item on the craft table? Done. Press the rear touch pad to move a puzzle element into place? Gotcha. Take a picture of your real world environment to apply as a skin for a character? Bam! Again it seems like intense thought went into how best to mesh the user experience and hardware to make the Vita an enjoyable device to use---and it all works flawlessly.
If there was ever a love letter to a piece of hardware, Tearaway is it. It is very rare that a game pulls off all its proposed ideas with such a deft hand, and it really makes you wonder why Sony didn’t have MM working on Vita games before Little Big Planet Vita.
A MUST PLAY
I know I’m gushing but I absolutely loved the time I had with this game. Everything from traversing the levels to collecting the papercraft figures (that you can print out online), to taking pictures of the world made me again appreciate the genius that runs through the Media Molecule team. Tearaway, like Game-of-The-Year Journey, was an experience for me, more than just a game, and one that I will have fond memories of for a lifetime.