Sogport is in trouble. The port town is surrounded by an ocean of glue—that's its first problem. You see, the town is made entirely of paper. To top it off, its residents—also made of paper, of course—have been tearing pieces off for some reason. Probably because their brains are all soggy from the glue.
Welcome to Tearaway, the next game from Media Molecule and the U.K. studio's first original franchise since LittleBigPlanet. It's set in a world of paper, where the protagonists (Iota and his just-revealed female counterpart, Atoi) are envelope-shaped messengers who must deliver themselves to the proper recipients. Many of their enemies are resentful undelivered packages, jealous of Iota and Atoi's postage stamps.
In the demo I played at a Sony event last night, Iota (or Atoi, depending who you chose to play as) navigated a complex paper mâché, cardboard and construction paper environment, where structures fold and bend as easily as—well, as paper. The threat of paper-thin walkways collapsing under your feet or giant monsters ripping holes in paper mountains is a constant reminder to keep moving.
Tearaway isn't a scary game, though; it's too cute for that. Wendigos, obscure monsters from Algonquian folklore, chased Iota for the entirety of the self-contained little level I played last night, but they were too adorable for me to really be afraid of them. Gameplay gimmicks were at a minimum here; I mostly relied on Iota's ability to roll around quickly on the ground and throw tasty pearls to distract the Wendigo monsters and trap them in conveniently placed gift box-prisons.
It was all about environment navigation and quick puzzle solving—how do you lure the Wendigo away from that doorway without getting in its way? Maybe you can walk up the wall where glue has been splattered in a vertical pattern. It wasn't super challenging, but it was fast-paced and fun.
Another level introduced a new item: the accordion. It does more than play polka music, though; using the Vita's left and right triggers, you can blow out or suck air toward Iota or Atoi. It's used for everything from blowing enemies off ledges to reversing the directions of fans that control moving pathways. There was definitely some fun puzzle-solving here, and I had to stop and think several times. That bodes well for a game that sometimes looks too cute to present any real challenge.
Both of the levels I played were linear and self-contained, but Media Molecule developers who were on standby to answer questions assured me that Tearaway is a fairly open game. Sogport is just one of several hub towns, where there will be more to do than just running around and solving puzzles.
With Tearaway, Media Molecule is proving again that it can inject more originality and fun into one game than other studios exhibit in their entire lifespans. Let's just hope this paper wonderland can stand up on its own when it comes out later this year.