Media Molecule excels at delivering titles with a unique, hand-crafted aesthetic and entertaining platforming. The developer’s upcoming Vita title, Tearaway, combines a papercraft world, 3D exploration, and a charming touch-enabled twist. Players interact with the game by tapping the front and back of the system. I ran and tapped my way through a playable section of the game during a pre-E3 event in Santa Monica, California last week.
Tearaway plays like your average platformer at its core. An open, colorful space is filled with obstacles to overcome and enemies to confront. The innovation comes with how players’ fingers impact the game world. In certain areas Iota, the protagonist, needs help dispatching a group of foes or reaching new heights. I loved baiting a pack of enemies over a special patch of ground which can be broken by my fingers using the back touchpanel. Tearaway asks you questions about your skin color and gender before starting, so the fingers poking through into the game world looking convincing. I caught myself tinkering with this mechanic more than the game necessitated – it’s pretty magical. The sensation of poking your fingers into the game and flicking enemies into oblivion is convincing. Other areas required me to tap the bottom screen like a drum to bounce Iota on special trampolines. Some of these sections require careful timing of touchpanel tapping and analog stick-based character movement.
Less obvious touch-enabled puzzles are scattered across the world. In one area I had to touch the screen to interact with a record – something I didn’t understand until a Media Molecule developer pointed it out to me. I played an early version of the game, and Media Molecule says that it’s still fine-tuning how to cue players to use the touchscreen. One I figured it out, I enjoyed spinning the record – which controlled a series of platforms – like I was a gigantic DJ.
Near the end of the demo I gained the ability to jump, which added a new level to platforming and environmental puzzles. So far I like the pace that Tearaway sets. The touch-mechanics combines with regular character movement have the potential to be confusing and challenging, but Media Molecule is taking special care to gradually show players the ropes. Given the game’s colorful papercraft visuals and charming folk soundtrack, I wasn’t opposed to taking my time to experiment and learn. Tearaway hits the Vita October 22.