Since the Vita was announced nearly two years ago, people have been waiting for the game that feels made for the system. Plenty of titles have come along and wedged in features that utilize the handheld’s features, but they’ve often been frustrating and unnatural. The Vita has finally found it’s touch-and-tilt virtuoso in Media Molecule’s stellar Tearaway.
This construction paper platformer is full of unique elements and smile-inducing wonderment. It has the same spirit of creativity found in LittleBigPlanet, but offers it in a much more structured, cohesive platforming package.
First off, Tearaway is weird. It’s a game where you control an envelope. That envelope, which is also you (you’re even referred to as a “You”), is making its way to the Sun, which prominently features your face after it’s torn open. Your face will take center stage as you guide the paper protagonist sporting your super-imposed visage thanks to the Vita’s front facing camera. It may sound quite strange, and it is, but it’s also satisfyingly simplistic. It may sound quite strange, and it is, but it’s also satisfyingly simplistic.
Depending on your gender selection, you’ll control the Messenger Aoti (boy) or Atoi (girl). Your little envelope will then star in a re-imagining of a story that’s been told numerous times over the years, in the paper world, about delivering a letter (themself) to the Sun. The Sun isn’t without its defenses though. Very early on as you’re soaring through the sky little square boxes of paper called “Scraps” jump out of the Sun and send you tumbling back down to the ground to throw a kink in the tired old story, and create one for yourself by encountering new lands and new peoples, and discovering the true intention of the “monster” in the Sun.
Much like last year’s Journey, Tearaway manages to take a basic story about reaching a destination, and turn it into an engrossing adventure. You’ll be dying to get your envelope up into the Sun to deliver yourself the message. Whereas Journey wowed audiences with its beautiful transitions between environments, Tearaway is able to do so by implementing a plethora of unique gameplay features that can only exist in this elementary, diorama-like world.
Tearaway may not have the brilliance of Mario or the chaos of Ratchet and Clank, but it crafts an unforgettable journey for the Messenger, that’s wholly unto itself, and ends up being an incredible platformer. It features basic platforming elements such as jumping on small, sometimes moving, areas, as well as running on walls and squishing enemies. It’s the way in which they’re carried out though that makes them unique to the Vita, and to the world of Tearaway.
Instead of traversing walls with special boots or powers, you’ll be able to do so thanks to glue stick streaks that allow the Messenger to stick to lines of construction paper easily. If you want to knock out some Scraps or move a platform closer or spin an object, you press your fingers against the Vita’s rear-touchpad to tear a whole in the world with your grimy digits. You can also beat drums with your finger to launch Aoti or Atoi into the air to reach a higher ledge. To scare certain enemies away, the game will allow you to record your voice to create a scream that will have them cowering under the paper rocks that dot the landscape.
You can also draw platforms to you, using the Vita’s gyroscopic motion sensor. Unraveling paper with the touch of your finger creates paths for the Messenger to walk or roll across. Even blowing into the microphone will cause gusts of wind in-game that move particles around. Every one of these features will have you grinning from ear-to-ear when watching them unfold.
Another aspect that’ll put you in a joyous mood, is the ability to customize your Messenger in any way you see fit – using the tools provided to you of course. Tearaway’s in-game currency is Confetti. You acquire it by eliminating Scraps, exploring off-beaten paths, and solving little puzzles for the denizens of the world, which are often squirrels or fishes.
Using Confetti, you can unlock things like lips, eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and noses. You’ll be able to stick them on your Messenger wherever you want, creating the oddest-looking envelope anyone ever did see. Oh, and don’t worry about the game not being able to show off your incredible skills because much like LittleBigPlanet, it has a very kid-like look to it all. It may not match the detail of most create-a-character modes, but it’s highly addictive, and will have you constantly tinkering and adjusting their appearance.
What will you be dolling up your Messenger for, exactly? Well, for selfies mostly. Yes, if you love taking pics of yourself, you’re going to love Tearaway. There will be certain segments where you’ll be snapping photos of your real-life self, but it’ll be mostly be all about the tiny, beige envelope. You can do it just for fun and upload the images with different filters and lenses to social media sites Twitter and Facebook, but often times, characters in the world will ask you to dress yourself (and sometimes them) up in some way and take a photo of it.
You can buy the requested item, or create one yourself using the Vita’s touchscreen and the object with a pencil, and then select scissors to come and cut it out to add to your cache. It adds even more creative options, and furthers the addiction of snapping the perfect image. This habit really explodes though when you start using the camera to add skins from your live environment to characters in-game, and snap photos of whited-out creatures and objects that you can upload to Tearaway.me, and be able to follow instructions on how to create actual paper-models of them for a personal collection on your bookshelf.
All of these elements are given their fair share of usage, and never go stale. Admittedly, this is partly thanks to Tearaway’s short length, but the features are never used in excess to the point of exasperation. In fact, the only aspect that will cause frustration is the game’s camera. It’s positioned mostly from an isometric angle, and its control is limited. The camera is also slow to catch up with the action, which will cause your Messenger to plummet to their death countless times, while their stamp drifts into the endless paper abyss.
Tearaway is pure charm. From the moment you see your big, goofy face in the Sun, you’ll fall in love. You’ll form an immediate attachment to your Messenger when you see their wide-eyed awe at the world, and you’ll never get sick from the sound of paper tearing as you break the fourth wall. Its unabashed cuteness pulls you in stronger than Sackboy ever could. Tearaway takes full advantage of the Vita without making it feel like a chore, and assembles one of the best platforming games of the generation. It’s bursting with creativity that’s easy to grasp, and a joy to behold. You’ll adore the (albeit brief) time you spend in this arts-and-crafts world, and will quickly want to build one your own once you finish.
*Tearaway was reviewed using a downloaded copy from the PlayStation Store purchased by OmniGamer staff.*