I’m looking out upon the papercraft landscapes of Tearaway through a window in its sun. With my guidance, a tiny paper being sets out on a journey to deliver an important message. Together, we’ll put together an exciting new story for the residents of the game’s colorful world. Tearaway is the latest creation of developer Media Molecule, of LittleBigPlanet fame. Like LBP, Tearaway is full of innovative gameplay, inspires creativity, and is a real joy to play.
Tearaway is tailor-made for the PlayStation Vita, utilizing mechanics that would be impossible without the rear touchscreen of Sony’s handheld. Special patches, patterned with the signature PlayStation shapes, are strewn throughout the Tearaway world. Using the rear touchscreen, players can interact with these patches, and can even manifest human fingers into the game world to batter enemies – called Scraps – and move obstacles. At its start, the game asks players a series of questions that determine how they’re addressed and the in-game appearance of these fingers, and given a choice between the hero Iota and the heroine Atoi as their messenger. I picked Atoi, but the choice doesn’t need to match the player’s gender, and both characters are customizable.
Both touchscreens are used in platforming, puzzle-solving, and collecting items. In addition to rear touchscreen-enabled patches, shiny, fingerprint-patterned patches that appear on various surfaces in the game and can be manipulated with the front touchscreen. Different situations require the use for one or both screens, sometimes in tandem with traditional controls. For example, I’d often clear obstacles ahead using the front touchscreen. Once in a while, I’d have to use the rear touchscreen to move an obstacle while simultaneously using the control stick to keep Atoi upright on top of it. Juggling both the touch screens and control stick can be difficult at first, but it soon becomes second-nature. New mechanics like the ability to jump or roll into a ball are introduced gradually, so getting a grip on the game’s many controls is never downright confusing.
Tearaway’s immersive control scheme is delightful, but so is the world Media Molecule has created for the game. The player’s face is shown in the world’s sun, displayed in real-time by the Vita’s front camera. Environments and characters in Tearaway are designed in the style of papercraft, and are very authentic. Not only do they look like they’re made of paper, they sound like it too. When a section of the world moves, for instance, it sounds like crinkling paper. The characters have cute gibberish voices, a function that players can switch off if they choose. Tearaway’s soundtrack is as charming as its environments, and is catchy to boot. It’s actually a pleasure to have these folksy tunes still running through my head. The fiddle and flute feature prominently in the music, sometimes combined with drums to create particularly memorable melodies.
The game also includes a virtual cutting board of sorts, where players can create designs of their own by cutting and layering paper of various colors. This mechanic is used several times in the game to replace stolen items with new player-created ones, which can be as simple or complicated as the player wishes. The reward for replacing the first of these items is an in-game camera. While playing through Tearaway, I’d noticed a number of characters and objects devoid of color. By taking their picture, each character or object not only regains its color, but also awards the player a papercraft design template. By syncing the game’s progress with a particular website, players can upload these templates to print off and create in real life.
From what I’ve seen of the game, it’s clear why Tearaway was the recipient of the Game Critic’s best handheld/mobile award at E3 2013. Tearaway is launching onto the PS Vita on November 22nd. Check out a new trailer for the game here, and see our previous coverage for more information about Tearaway.