Hands on with Tearaway – bringing the Vita to life

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I’m going to apologise in advance if this preview reads like “a scented letter of adoration penned by a lovestruck schoolgirl”, but I can hardly contain myself. There’s just something magical about Media Molecule’s latest creation. In case you need a subtle nudge to the grey matter, Media Molecule is the creative force behind Little Big Planet – arguably one of the finest titles to ever grace the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

 I had my reservations about Tearaway. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Will a new title be sufficiently different from Sackboy and his friends, and how on Earth will they be able to top Little Big Planet?”. We’ve seen it countless times, especially when a developer becomes comfortable with their genre of choice, and each iteration is merely a shadow of the former. The trailers didn’t help either, because all I could think of was “Oh Great It’s a colourful 3D platformer”.

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But, you see, this is why I love being a video game critic, because every once in a while, a game comes along that just throws you for a loop. It breaks down that cynical wall of preconceptions and lazy prejudices. It also helped that the preview was deliciously comprehensive with a sizeable weight to it. It left me pleasantly surprised at the scope of the game, and there’s definitely a tangible promise of “something quite special”. Tearaway isn’t just colourful and pretty, it’s literally bursting with creative juices. To be honest, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Media Molecule.

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Tearaway rips through the play-book by making you the star. I’m not joking, you’re literally the SUN, or should I say a pasty wide-eyed face peering through a rip in the fabric of space, starring down on the strange denizens of a colourful and gorgeous origami world. It’s a magical feat courtesy of the PlayStation Vita’s front-facing camera. But, you’re even more involved than that. When you first startup the game, you’re asked to choose your skin tone, your gender and even how massive your paws are. Thereafter, you’re introduced to Iota, a strange fella made completely out of paper. You see, Iota is your avatar, and just like Sackboy, you can customise his or her appearance. The world of Tearaway needs to be seen to believed, every building, inhabitant, plant and animal are neatly folded pieces of paper. If you run through water, it creates ripples out of creases. Plants will fold over if you run through them and bridges curl out in front of you.

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The aim of the game is to guide Iota through the massive paper-themed world, and in classic 3D platformer vein there’s even an infestation of dastardly paper-villains called Scraps. The controls aren’t that much different from similar titles, and Iota can pick up items, throw them around. But, what impressed me was how responsive it all is. You can unlock additional abilities as you play, and eventually Iota puts even Sackboy to shame, by rolling and jumping like the best of them. Iota isn’t a slouch in the fighting department either, although he’s more of an Aikido master than an MMA fighter. Given the theme of the world, and relaxed nature of it all, it kind of makes sense. A burly paper brawler in swimming trunks would have looked completely out of place. If you defeat the Scraps you can use the confetti, they drop to buy additional objects to adorn Iota with. At the end of my play-through, my poor paper avatar had multiple eyes, and looked quite horrifying.

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By the way, one of my favourite bits was riding a paper pig, and ramming Scraps out of the way with its bulky cardboard frame. The game slowly ramps up the difficulty, and at times feels like a massive sandbox. Not in the “Grand Theft Auto -sense of a massive world to explore”, but rather what Little Big Planet stood for, with your own creativity guiding how you play. Tearaway makes ample use of the Vita’s touch screen functionality, and in a way where it definitely does not feel like a gimmick. You’re brought into the world as an additional character, and it actually feels natural to use your fingers to launch Iota into the air, or to hold down strips of paper for him. This is also where you realise why they wanted to get your skin tone, because seeing your finger pushing through the game world, left me chuckling.

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In addition, Tearaway features an object editor that resembles a craft table. You have different pieces of coloured paper at your disposal. You can use the pencil to draw objects and then cut them out using a pair of scissors. Whatever you create can be used in the game, so fancy giving some paper lad a crown, just draw it on some paper and cut it out. You can even cover poor Iota with paper bananas; it’s a game in itself. To top it all, as you play through the game, you can also unlock papercraft blueprints. These are actual papercraft blueprints that you can download and print from the Media Molecule website. My sister loves papercraft, so I can’t wait to send her a few of them.

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There were a few issues that cropped up that I feel should be addressed. While, the controls are smooth as butter, the camera can be finicky. It’s one of those issues that tend to crop up with 3D platformers. I know, it’s all about personal preference, but I like a free-floating camera that doesn’t need to be babysat. Finally, while the object editor is impressive, I am saddened that I can’t unleash my true artistic vision for this paper world, “paper bananas everywhere”! At present, you’re limited to specific places where you can awaken your inner Picasso – one of which being Iota, of course.

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Through the Preview code – I found the promise of a fantastic new title. Media Molecule has piqued my interest, and I’m definitely anxious to get my hands on the retail copy as soon as it’s available. I hate to make predictions, but if this isn’t one of the best Vita titles for 2013, then I’ll eat my yellow fedora, tie and socks

Last Updated: November 8, 2013

JamesLenoir

One Large Banana

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