[Disclosure: This review based on a download copy of the game provided by the publisher]
Remember what it was like to be a kid? Everything was new, colorful and exciting. You wanted to touch and play with everything. You were constantly making discoveries and, given the proper tools—some construction paper and crayons or a stack of blocks—you were eager to create something plucked from your own imagination. Those are exactly the types of experiences I had while playing Tearaway, a game that kept a smile plastered to my face with its papercraft world of wild wonders and a never-ending stream of creativity.
In all honesty, I find it difficult to want to talk about Tearaway too much, as the minute-to-minute discoveries are a huge part of what make this Vita exclusive so wonderful. Each chapter is a bold new world of adorable creatures and twisting landscapes, all of which appear to have literally been crafted out of glue and paper. The aesthetics, much like the game itself, are unique and frequently jaw-droppingly brilliant.
When you first step foot into Tearaway, you learn that you will actually be taking on two roles in this grand tale. With the PlayStation Vita in hand, you will control a tiny messenger boy or girl, guiding them around the screen as they make new friends, solve clever puzzles and do battle with the occasional swarm of enemies.
At the same time you will be playing the part of, well, you. From tapping the back of the screen to make your messenger fly through the air to (almost) literally poking your finger through the screen to pulverize baddies, you’ll constantly find new ways of interacting with the game that take full advantage of the hardware Tearaway is running on. It’s a rare occurrence for a game to be so perfectly suited to the hardware its running on, and Tearaway is one such gem packed with so much tapping, touching, sliding, shaking and tilting that it quite simply could not have been managed on any other platform.
The latest offering from Media Molecule, the folks behind the LittleBigPlanet series, it should come as no surprise that Tearaway is equal parts charm and ingenuity; a veritable playground where goofy critters ask you to give them a new face, an in-game camera lets you take photos of whatever catches your eye and everything from your touch to your picture and your own voice becomes an integral part of the world you’re exploring.
Again, if it sounds like I’m being too vague here, it’s only because I don’t want to rob would-be players of experiencing Tearaway’s numerous marvels for themselves. It’s a wholly unique adventure and one that will best reward those who simply close their eyes and dive in headfirst.
For all of Tearaway’s successes, however, there are at least a couple of faults worth mentioning. While you typically have control of the game’s camera, a few tight spots become troublesome, occasionally getting lost in a wall or refusing to turn and give you a decent view of where you’re standing. Some of the platforming, too, can become a bother. While your arsenal of moves is very limited early on and, thus, adventuring is not quite as much fun as it gets in the later chapters, some of the jumps and maneuvers are a bit too frustrating for their own good. I eventually got where I was trying to go while birddogging a hidden bit of loot, but occasionally those detours required a frustrating number of attempts as the angles were simply too tricky to judge.
But even the occasional annoyance of a camera that disagrees with me or a platform that requires pinpoint accuratcy at a rough angle can’t put too big a blemish on the otherwise joyful experience that is Tearaway. Exploration is rewarded with additional confetti, an in-game currency that lets you buy more lenses and filters for your camera, as well as additional decorations to use on your personal messenger and a few of the creatures you come across.
Much like your involvement with the game world, Tearaway bleeds over into the real world, too. A large number of objects that you photograph can be uploaded to your account at Tearaway.me. From there, you can download the blueprints to actually make those objects as papercraft creations. You can also upload any of your photos to that account for easy access, as well as share said photos instantly via Twitter and Facebook.
Tearaway is, hands down, the most inspired game I have ever played on the Vita, one that makes the player a massive part of the experience and, in the end, delivers a (literal) message that we’d all do well to take to heart. Don’t let its bright colors and tooth-achingly sweet characters fool you. Once Tearaway gets rolling, it offers a challenging platforming experience full of twists, turns, unexpected delights and even a few surprising set pieces.
It’s taken nearly two years to get here, but the PlayStaiton Vita’s killer app has finally been delivered.
Platforms: PS Vita
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment