This year’s other major exclusive is here, and it’s a big one.
If a few months ago you were to ask any Vita gamer what game they are most looking forward to in 2013, you’d probably have heard one of two games being mentioned. The first, Killzone Mercenary was released back in September and as Kyle and all of the The Vita Lounge staff can attest; it didn’t disappoint. The second, Tearaway has had the unfortunate fate of being delayed and is releasing right next to the Playstation 4. This is perhaps the biggest shame of all, as the hype-train for the next generation may overshadow what is the most unique experience gamers will have in years.
With the weight of perhaps every Vita gamer’s eyes on Media Molecule as they have tirelessly drip-fed morsels of information to us for months now, here comes their first new IP since they wowed the industry with the creativity and vision that was LittleBigPlanet. Media Molecule are of course known for bringing creativity and imagination to the forefront of our minds, so creating a platformer with a set story was always going to be a risk; with the multiplayer experience that was LittleBigPlanet creativity was easy to see in their level creation tools, and how this would work within a platformer I was initially unsure.
Rest assured, Tearaway delivers on the creativity front. I can confidently say that the way I have experienced and lived in Tearaway’s world since I got my review copy has been outstandingly positive and eye-moistenly enjoyable. My thoughts and feelings have been up and down (in a good way), and Tearaway has reminded me of so many things. Media Molecule have managed to make me think of the platforming days on the Nintendo 64; of Rare and Shigeru Miyamoto, of the era where the platformer was king, and even my former years as a five year old, peeling PVA glue off my fingertips.
When you first boot up Tearaway, you immediately notice no title screen. You are thrust straight into the world, with the storybook telling of legend. You see, the same story has been told time and time again, and it’s time for something new. A few quick choices later (skin tone, finger size and whether you are referred to as a man or woman) you are thrown straight into Tearaway as either Iota or Atoi, the messenger for your journey. Whichever you choose, you are guaranteed to build a bond with either, as although they don’t speak, they really don’t need to.
As you begin your travels you find confetti is scattered throughout the world, which serves as your currency for unlocking new features for your messenger as well as new filters and types of shot for the camera you pick up near the beginning of the game. As you play, you are frequently reminded that you are “a You”. While this might seem something small, the fact that your face appears in the sun and that you are constantly referred to helps create an unshakable bond between you and the messenger. Neither can do this quest alone, and you are frequently reminded of this.
Tearaway’s story is actually fairly gentle; there are a few cut scenes here and there which pave the way and help connect the levels, but instead it’s up to you to wander around talking to the characters and discovering what’s next. Tearaway’s world is in fact entirely linear, but some areas are completely open to explore which makes things feel a lot less restrictive than they could have felt. Each area blends seamlessly into the next with no loading at all, and each level begins with a bookmark, so you can repeat previous areas to gather anything you’ve missed.
Throughout the world collectibles can be found which are generally hidden off the beaten track. Aside from the confetti I’ve mentioned, Scraps, the game’s enemies often appear in an attempt to stop you. They first appear through the hole in the sun; they’re from the world of the You’s, and they are infecting Tearaway’s world. While they’re fairly easy to dispatch, they do allow you to mix things up a bit and using the touchscreen and rear touch pad to dispose of them is a joy. Although they start in a basic form, they come in several flavours and as you progress new Scraps stand on stilts and fire at you, and later on they can fly. Curiously enough the Scraps are all created from newspaper; could this be Media Molecule trying to get us to read between the lines?
Red presents are hidden in each level, and some are particularly hard to track down. Once opened these give you a bonus of extra confetti. Blue presents are in shorter supply, but are given to you by completing “Extra things to do”. Each blue present can only be rewarded if you complete tasks given to you by specific characters. One such character asked me to place a tie on his chest, whereas another told me to “Unleash the power of the You” to get to him. Some of the requests are a little basic, but others had me scratching my head. All were enjoyable.
Other requests from characters involve the in-game paper craft creation tool, which, while fairly basic, is simple enough and easy to use. Whether it be creating a crown for a squirrel, a pumpkin to show another character what they look like or some evil eyes for a Wendigo (a huge enemy that hurls rocks at you), the creation tool always works the same. You have many different colours of paper to work with and you draw on them with a pencil before cutting out the shapes in order to design each item. Your imagination is the only limit here, as you can cut shapes out and create layers upon layers of features into each design if you wish – the more elaborate the design, the more exciting it is to see it appear in real time in Tearaway’s world.
The final collectible you will uncover is easily the most rewarding; the paper craft plans. Once you have been given your camera you will notice (or have to search for) characters and objects that are completely drained of colour. If you take a photo of these white objects you unlock their paper craft plan so you can make them in real life. Now, I’ve been thinking for days and I really cannot think of a game that’s ever crossed over in this way to reality. It means that once you have collected all 48 you can recreate your own scenes from Tearaway in your own home. You can see a few of mine in the picture below.
Tearaway.me is the social hub for Tearaway and it’s destined to be a fantastic one. When you log in with your PSN ID your game save syncs with the Tearaway servers and all of the paper craft plans you have unlocked are available to download in colour or blank. Having chosen blank in order to save my printer’s ink something truly magical happened; within two minutes of colouring in the plans I started to put my own stamp on things. This is where I felt like a five year old again! It’s truly worth downloading and making these plans not only for the sense of achievement, but for the creativity and enjoyment that’s often lost in adulthood. (I’m just waiting for my husband, bemused at my activity today, to bring me a glass of milk and some cookies before reading me a bed-time story).
Tearaway.me also tracks all your in game photos. Every time you take a photo in Tearaway you can upload it to the website, as well as sharing it on twitter or Facebook. You can also take a picture for your Tearaway.me trophy. Media Molecule will be picking favourites from the community photo’s so those looking to take arty film noire shots, or action packed feature shots may find themselves featured on the main page. Tearaway.me will also have a news feed and be able to link to other social media sites like Tumblr, though as the website isn’t fully live yet I was unable to see this in action.
Even if you don’t decide to engage in the paper craft Tearaway is still a sheer pleasure to play. The world looks absolutely stunning in motion, and the fact that everything is made out of paper is striking. Some levels burst with colour, whereas others are considerably more muted, giving each level a distinct feel and the game as a whole a true sense of progression. The odd framerate blip I experienced during the preview build has been ironed out, and the one bug I did encounter has already been patched, meaning there’s a day one update (don’t panic, it’s 13mb). Controls are noticeably tighter than in the LittleBigPlanet series, with almost no “floaty” feeling at all. Whichever messenger you choose, they are responsive and act exactly as you would expect.
Aside from the papery world, Tearaway’s other draw is in it’s use of all of the Vita’s inputs. Those of you fearing a Little Deviants level of shoehorning need not worry, as everything in Tearaway feels entirely natural, necessary and important. Different inputs are introduced gradually throughout the game and as you are the ever omnipotent “You”, Media Molecule has created the impression that you must help the messenger in these ways. Whether it be peeling shiny thumb printed paper back to uncover jump pads, poking your finger into the world to dispose of scraps or bang drums for extended jumping with the rear touch pad or tilting the Vita to move platforms within reach, it’s all remarkably well done to the point where you don’t think about it, you just act accordingly.
Being a game of discovery I’m going to move on as I don’t want to produce any spoilers, but suffice to say Tearaway keeps things fresh from start to end by pacing everything fantastically. Gentle sections, technical sections and frantic sections all appear throughout the game, and while it could be said that Tearaway is pretty easy, it’s not really the point. Tearaway should appeal to the entire gamer demographic as everyone will find something to enjoy. I even shed a tear as the curtains closed; the end of Tearaway is the best I have seen in years.
Tearaway’s musical score is equally fantastic, to the point where I ended up humming some of the tunes while I was doing my grocery shopping. It feels classic Media Molecule while creating a unique musical score that perfectly fits the tone. It’s a difficult type of music to describe, but some areas it almost feels tribal, whereas in others it’s purely magical, to the point where you feel you’re in a fairy tale world. The messenger never says anything beyond the odd “hup” when jumping, but the facial expressions make up the rest of the story. Other characters make all manner of sounds, from grunting to bubble blowing noises.
If there’s anything bad I can say about Tearaway other than the low level of difficulty (though the experience is more important than this) it’s that as I suspected from the preview, Tearaway isn’t a particularly long game. Seasoned gamers will be able to complete it in a day but finding all of the Scraps, confetti, presents and paper craft plans will take much longer. I took my time on my first play through, and by the time I’d finished I was still only at 85% completion so I’d missed a lot, despite being careful to try and find everything. Tearaway never overstays it’s welcome and never gets boring, and perhaps it’s a testament to how amazing the game is, but I was left wanting more. Despite this it will take a seriously eagle eyed person to 100% complete to obtain all the trophies; some presents and collectibles are indeed well hidden.
Even so, despite the 6-8 hour story Tearaway is not a game to be missed. Collectibles massively extend the experience and Media Molecule has succeeded in creating a fantastic new IP. I’d love to see a bigger, badder sequel as soon as possible, and you owe it to yourself as a gamer to buy Tearaway; it’s an unashamedly creative game that stamps on the face of the gritty, realistic and often generic titles we’ve seen the industry churn out over the past few years. It’s a game of true brilliance, that will astound more or less every single person who experiences it. It’s my favourite game this year, and I just hope the launch of the PS4 doesn’t hurt sales. Buy it, love it and more importantly embrace it! I expect to see many a living room and bedroom in the next few months to have Tearaway’s characters and environment brought to life in true paper craft style.
The most creative and innovative game I’ve played in over a decade, Tearaway is a game every Vita owner should have, and is pretty close to complete perfection.