There are certain things we do that capture the essence of being a kid. Whether that’s splashing in a puddle or watching an old movie, anytime that special kind of nostalgia kicks in there really is nothing better. Tearaway’s minimal mechanics blended with a world ripped straight out of elementary art class manage to provoke these same feelings. Running around the intricate paper craft world reveals Media Molecule’s (MM) devotion to authenticity. Whether in characters, puzzles, platforming or combat, the game is a clear homage to the 3D platformers of old (aspects both good and bad). Every aspects of the world seems cohesive in a way few games can boast, and many of them are drawn together in a singular fashion. While all the different pieces could have gelled fairly well to begin with, it is the Vita’s unique control options that make the world seem, in a way, real. When a player sticks their fingers through the back touch pad or see’s their face in the papery sun it capitalizes on every input device the handheld has to offer, and all of them work together in a very tactile manner. The combination of unique inputs, relaxed gameplay and creative opportunities combine to make Tearaway a standout experience.
The story of Tearaway not only provides an interesting framework and structure but also offers its own touching tale. During the opening cutscene it is revealed that there is a message that needs to be delivered to you, and so the letter itself becomes a messenger. With the envelope folded up and used as a head, the little postman (or postwoman) sets off towards the sun, carried forward by the players button presses. The sun is you, as the Vita’s front camera captures your personal likeness anytime the sphere is in view. Armed with nothing except the letter, the messenger (Iota) sets out. In the beginning Iota has no skills other than running, but as the game progresses characters bestow abilities and items at a leisurely pace, ensure there is always a new mechanic to tamper with. The individual mechanics slowly reveal themselves to be useful additions every time. Precise jumping forms a vital foundation as the first ‘power’.The actual maneuvering of environments maintains a level of freshness throughout due to inventive environments that rivals even the best platformers. The slowly revealed combat never gets too complicated, in fact many knock it for being too bland. While the combat never evolves to a level of genuine complexity, it is quick and can generally be finished swiftly, so I never felt it was a downside, just another facet of the gameplay (albeit a weaker one). While there are staples to the genre, such as sticky walls and jump pads, Tearaways more interesting sequences lie in the tilt and touch puzzles. The touch puzzles involve pulling apart layers of craft paper within the world and folding sheets into shapes for the protagonist’s use. The tilt puzzles are precise and accurate, providing for some fun jump puzzles and hidden collectibles. Of all the older pieces MM used none feels more updated than the collectibles. Not only are there thousands of little floating colorful bits present, they also have a significant reward that ties back into the world itself. The mechanics of Tearaway really do blend with the world in a way few games manage and it’s refreshing to see.
The collectibles MM have crafted create true significance for what were once meaningless numbers. The first step taken in that direction can be seen form the start. Every Level start prominently displays the number of each specific collectible type, inviting players to track them down. Once these differing collectibles are tracked down, rewards come in varying fashions. For the most prominent type, confetti, these little yet numerous collectibles serve as a currency. At many times during the game Iota will be prompted to decorate something or someone, and he can earn decorations in a number of ways. There are many pre-made decorations that can be bought with the confetti, and the attraction to these is their ability to animate. For example, if I bought eyes and a mouth then they will blink and move. The alternative requires no confetti, and although it may lack the animations of purchasable decorations there is infinity more creative ability. Players can hand make decorations using a number of sheets of craft paper, in numerous colors. After cutting out a shape it can be layered onto others in an endless variety of ways, just take a look at this crown I made for a squirrel!
Looking at that crown, it is a perfect example of Tearaway’s true strength. The real reason this game can be so encapsulating is its tone. In a culture of gritty, realistic, violent game it’s refreshing when a game’s tone, that so often calls back to older game design, can be so whimsical and at the same time embody the word fun. Running through this world captures what it is to imagine. Tearaway is the embodiment of an unrelenting commitment to a fantastical vision, infused with all the sensibilities of classic 3D platformers, for better and worse. The culmination of the hard work put forward by Media Molecule is well deserving of a solid 9/10.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any feedback be sure to leave it in the comments or Tweet me @CometIndy- Ethan H.