This article originally appeared in Volume XX, Issue VII of The University Observer’s Otwo supplement and online at universityobserver.ie
Cut from greatness
Tearaway is Media Molecule’s second wholly original game and their first since delivering the follow up to the very well received LittleBigPlanet in 2011. While it is a more traditional affair than their user generated content debut, it retains the team’s trademark stamp of cheerful creativity.
Although it may be a smaller scale project, it isn’t necessarily a less ambitious one that is simply seeking to justify the PlayStation Vita. This platform has an assorted collection of great titles, but none of which have made the argument convincingly for the system’s specific strengths. Tearaway is a roaring success on two accounts, as it also happens to be one of the finest puzzle platformers in recent memory.
Tearaway transports players, quite literally, into a storybook world composed entirely of paper of all shapes, sizes, and colours. Through the Vita’s front camera, players appear as a godlike sun in the sky, referred directly to as “the You.” This fourth-wall-breaking premise is immediately sewn into not only the fabric of the game’s narrative but also many of its core gameplay mechanics.
Using the system’s rear touchpad, players can push their fingers through thin sheets of paper to help rearrange platforms and beat on drums that act as propulsion devices for the protagonist, a personified envelope trying to deliver a message to you. The microphone, tilt sensor, and back facing camera all get ample usage too, in ways that are effortlessly grin inducing.
Overall Tearaway is a mechanically sound experience and a more tightly controlling affair than LittleBigPlanet. Combat is simple, but satisfying, and used in appropriate doses. While the developers are aware that the game’s talents are best illustrated through exploration and discovery instead. The only real issue in this regard is when camera placement takes on a more cinematic nature, making progression needlessly more difficult.
Tearaway’s visuals are utterly unique and a delight for the eyes that sticks to the paper motif rigidly, with platforms folding over, peeling back, and popping up with a great degree of believability.
Media Molecule’s determination to play within the physical confines of their papery world is admirable. The soundtrack’s wild yet cohesive variety, ranging from folksy flutes to glitchy dubstep and beyond, compliments and completes the surreal charm.
From beginning to end, Tearaway is a labour of love. It’s a simple, but hugely effective tale contemplating the reflexive nature of artistic creation and the importance of stories. A blurring of the divisions between the real and game worlds creates something of pure imagination in between.
This isn’t a game that feels obliged to offer challenge. Rather, it asks players to luxuriate and bask. Those who do so will be rewarded with a memorably joyful journey, one whose each step should be savoured.