- Format: Vita
- Unleashed: November 22nd
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Media Molecule
- Players: 1
- Site: http://tearaway.mediamolecule.com/
LittleBigPlanet was one of the most exciting and, arguably, important things to happen to the gaming industry for years. Having slowly passed the franchise off to other developers, Media Molecule have now moved on to pastures new with Vita exclusive Tearaway. The studio here proves that they have an extremely strong identity, and even a personality that continues to shine through in their work. Most importantly, it gives us an excellent excuse to crowbar in as many paper-related puns as we please into the review.
You see, whereas the worlds of LBP titles are made out of just about every craft material you could possibly think of, the world of Tearaway is made entirely out of paper. Everything; the ground on which you walk, the characters that you meet, the flora and fauna – everything. This is a universe made by somebody with a black belt in origami; and it’s an idea used to promote Media Molecule’s themes of empowerment and creativity.
Theoretically speaking, this is a platformer. Your avatar is the ‘messenger’ who, indeed, will be fighting enemies (‘Scraps’ – discarded paper litter), performing optional tasks for NPCs, and bouncing across platforms. You choose its sex and, while he/she can run and jump (and later use a basic weapon), you will quite literally need to give them a helping hand on a regular basis. Rustle up some help, if you will.
This is a game that could only ever happen on the Vita, taking advantage of virtually every element – both cameras, the touchscreen, the rear touchpad, the motion controls, and even the microphone – without ever seeming desperate to do so. In fact, the rear touchpad (usually sloppily implemented or forgotten entirely by developers) gets a real workout here. Tap it to bounce the messenger off a trampoline platform; tap it firmly and hold under paper with the PlayStation symbols, and pow – your finger appears to have broken through the machine and into the world, allowing you to send enemies flying or move obstacles & platforms around. You are this world’s god, welcoming your paper prophet into the fold.
In a smart touch, the player will regularly see themselves during play, as the camera pans around to show the sun – with their face in the middle in real-time (instantly bringing to mind unavoidable comparisons with Teletubbies). The touchscreen is often used to encourage you to reach into the world too and, though there are traditional tutorials, it’s usually the developer’s flair for smart visual touches that teaches you what to do and how to do it. A rolled-up line of paper with an inviting fingerprint, for example. You can occasionally be a vengeful god too, squashing Scraps to help the Messenger on his/her journey. You’ll never harm the good guys, though – you are a deity of good moral fibre.
Where LBP allowed you to create almost anything from scratch, Tearaway allows you to customise the existing game world – to an extent. At certain points during the adventure you’re instructed to create certain decorations. On your way therefore you will create a crown for a squirrel (yes), do your best to replicate a pumpkin, make a pig as attractive as possible, create a pair of eyes, and much more. You can however stop to make whatever you like whenever you like, and creation is incredibly easy and intuitive. It basically boils down to choosing a coloured piece of paper, drawing a shape, and cutting it out (which is a simple tap of the screen). You can do this multiple times to have overlapping shapes, meaning that people of great talent will no doubt come up with some amazing virtual papercraft. Though you can create when you like, you’re extremely limited in where you can stick what you’ve made – which seems to defeat the point somewhat. What a rip.
The in-game currency is confetti, which is easy to find and gather, and is used to unlock pre-made shapes and objects – and lenses & filters for your camera. The Messenger is quickly handed a camera to take pictures in first-person whenever you like (including selfies), and these allow you to fiddle with the default camera settings to make the world look even more interesting. Later you can switch to the external camera and, while you lose the lens options, you can still use any filters you’ve bought. Most people’s interest in this distraction will crumple before long, however.
Tearaway is a memorable and enthralling game. Tearaway is also a very short and very easy game. The presentation is geared toward younger players, like LBP – only even more so, with a little less charm for adults. Even taking into consideration replays for hidden collectables, it’s likely that the majority of experienced gamers will struggle to squeeze over six hours of play out of this. The gamble here is that people will pump countless hours into creative customisations and photos, and sharing those photos via tearaway.me. While hardcore Media Molecule fans undoubtedly will, there’s a big question mark over how much of the wider audience would. Compared to creating levels and even whole new games, the idea of photography just doesn’t cut it in this industry.
There are a large number of papercraft plans of models featured in the game to find and upload to your Tearaway account, which is a nice idea bound to be appreciated by many children and older dedicated fans alike. Make no mistake – releasing at a budget price and crammed full of creativity and great ideas, if you own a Vita then you need Tearaway. When held up next to LittleBigPlanet, however, it looks just a little bit crepe.