The saddest thing about the release of Tearaway is that it will most likely get written off as just another cutesy, puzzler aimed at little kids. While it is child friendly, grown up gamers will appreciate it more-so as the style of storytelling is remarkably mature. Tearaway isn’t only a great game but it has marked the the first time ever that a developer has been able to take full advantage of the PS Vita’s hardware without it coming off forced or senseless.
"Pulling down curled paper to make a bridge or pushing domed beasts up through paper-lined floors feel like a means to a greater end and not a reflex test."
Tearaway follows the journey of paper-made heroine and hero messengers Atoi and Iota. The player controls either one and plays as a god-like presence simply called, “The You”. As “The You”, the player rests in the sun—a destination Atoi or Iota is trying to get to and deliver a special message to. While on delivery duty, the protagonists come across a number of characters who face their own struggles and are in need of help. As each quest is finished, the truth behind the sudden collision of the human and paper worlds is unlocked.
Players should know right from the start that the story development and move-set unlocking is a slower build-up than most games but there is a reason for it. Tearaway is about telling a story and that’s that's priority over showing off it's stunning art and whimsical music. Every new move acquired is done so to move the story along. So while it would seem frustrating in theory, the execution is spot on. For example, it isn’t until about a third’s way into the story that the character is able to jump. Once that happens, the act of jumping takes on a special meaning. It even makes one wonder why the ability of jumping in a video game has been for granted for so long. Alright, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it does feel good and is reminiscent of the feeling of being able to wield a light saber for the first time in the 2003 release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
What Tearaway also does right is create a puzzle experience that doesn’t feel like they’re included just to say that they exist. As a “You” the objective is to help out the messenger in every way possible, so pulling down curled paper to make a bridge or pushing domed beasts up through paper-lined floors feel like a means to a greater end and not a reflex test.
Visually, Tearaway has got to be the best looking game to come out on the Vita ever. Small details like paper leaves blowing in the wind or paper squirrels scurrying through a paper forest in the background bring a three dimensional perspective to what could have easily been a two-dimensional hack job. That along with the imaginative use of the Vita’s front-facing camera, motion sensor and rear touchpad-that thankfully isn’t overused-make for an addictive ride.
With Media Molecule being the creators of Tearaway and Little Big Planet, it’s difficult to not make comparisons. Some concept overlap is to be expected but it’s refreshing that it’s not a straight duplicate. Both games are able to stand by their own merit but Tearaway is a better experience.
Tearaway does have a few faults but fortunately, there aren't a lot and they are far from being deal-breakers. The one that sticks out the most is when a player must create objects out of the virtual construction paper. Using the touch screen, the player must draw, cut-out and then paste them together to make a finished object. Obsessive, compulsive, perfectionists will crap their undies playing this one. Unless finger-nailing it or having a stylus handy is an option, expect all crafts to look like a drunk pre-schooler did it. It's virtually impossible to draw lines that connect—which you have to do in order for it to be later cut properly—with a finger in the way. Maybe if there were one of those pop-up magnification circles like on iOS, it would help things. As for now, do some finger aerobics and lose a few ounces from those bratwursts you call fingers.
For those interested in bringing some of the characters from the game into the human realm, there is the ability to download instructions on how to create real-life versions with construction paper and some extra time. These instructions are acquired by completing photographic tasks throughout the game. It probably won’t be the most used feature but it’s something great to keep a younger child (sibling or offspring) occupied while playing yourself. Finally, Tearaway is very short and can be conquered in about eight hours if uninterrupted. That may not be a problem for gamers who play in spurts while commuting or during lunch breaks, but those looking for an extensive experience will have to hope and wait for a sequel or DLC.
For $40, Tearaway is a fair deal. It’s a well put together game that brings out everything that’s cool about the PS Vita hardware. If possible, go for the digital download version (via Amazon) which will only run $20 and avoid having yet another Vita card laying around.
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