- Street Date:
- November 22nd, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Bill Braun
- Review Date:1
- December 30th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- PS Vita
- Sony Computer Entertainment
- Media Molecule
- ESRB Rating:
- E (Everyone)
Vita game card version reviewed. 'Tearaway' is also available digitally.
Media Molecule, Sony's first party game developer, started creating games in 2008. With a strong focus on unique gameplay experiences, they began their notoriety with 'Little Big Planet', a title that was lauded for its creativity, family-friendly theme, and user-generated content. It won numerous awards, including the Game Developers Choice Award for Best Debut Game. Their success prompted a sequel in 2011 with 'Little Big Planet 2' and their most recent effort, 'Tearaway' for the PlayStation Vita. Released at the peak of excitement for the PlayStation 4, 'Tearaway' may have been buried in next-gen hype, but Media Molecule's latest effort may just be a Vita that should not be missed.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Tearaway' tells a story . . . your story, the story of the 'You', a mysterious figure that has appeared in the face of the sun. But this story cannot be fully told without the help of iota the messenger, a curious little character determined to reach the height of the sun in order deliver this story. Taking control of iota you will travel across the lands of 'Tearaway' - from the deepest caverns to the top of the highest mountain - never faltering, never shying away from danger. During this puzzle platformer you'll experience every feature the PlayStation Vita has to offer.
When SCE Bend Studios released 'Uncharted Golden Abyss' as a premiere launch title for the PlayStation Vita in December 2011 it was well received but often thought of as a highly motivated tech demo, displaying every capability of Sony's newest hand held. While it was still an enjoyable game, many of the game's mechanics and Vita-based controls felt forced and tacked-on. The same cannot be said about 'Tearaway.'
Although 'Tearaway' forces you to utilize the motion and touch-based controls of the Vita in order to complete the game, you will quickly realize that the controls are so closely integrated with the overall story that they never feel forced or out of place. By elevating the player to god-like status to guide iota along his journey, 'Tearaway' empowers the gamer to completely break through the fourth wall in the most ingenious of ways.
The rear touch pad of the PlayStation Vita is probably most often utilized. Whether through simple taps that catapult iota from a variety of drum-like trampoline pads, or by literally tearing through the gaming barrier to push your fingers through the floor of the screen to move objects or help iota fend off creatures appropriately referred to as scraps. (You choose a skin color to apply to your in-game dopple-fingers.)The front and rear cameras are used to take images of yourself and your environment that are lovingly inserted into the world of 'Tearaway' in one manner or another. Later levels eventually make use of the Vita's Sixaxis controls to further the difficulty of some of the more routine puzzles.
Because 'Tearaway' is a game made entirely of paper craft, one of the more original game mechanics is the need to create your own artwork. When prompted to do so, you are taken to a separate crafting menu that allows you to pick and choose from a variety of colored paper. From there you select the available pencil to draw your artwork with. The act of drawing on paper is as simple as using your finger on the Vita's touchscreen. When your masterpiece is complete, tap the scissors icon and watch as the picture is quickly cut out and integrated into the game. It could be as simple as creating a crown for the local squirrel or a unique snowflake that, when finished, is replicated to create a mountain top snowstorm. The level of precision and ease of use was quite simply, astonishing.
And therein lies the beauty of 'Tearaway'. Everything about this ambitious title works, and works incredibly well. There is no question that the developers at Media Molecule took great care in thinking through every detail of this game to ensure that the mechanics appropriately fit with the progression of the story. Nothing felt forced or out of place. If I had to take issue with anything 'Tearaway' has to offer it would be with the occasional less-than- ideal fixed camera perspective. While controlling iota from a birds-eye-view would generally allow for appropriate camera rotation, the fixed camera/tough platforming sections meant an occasionally missed jump via camera. This issue was slight enough as to not really disrupt an otherwise unique and entirely immersive experience.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
A game like 'Tearaway' could not be any more charming than its intended designed. Everything, and I mean everything, is represented by paper craft. Every character or creature you encounter and every environment you explore; even the wisps of wind and drops of rain are generated to represent this incredible art style. Adding the ability to create new character features for iota and the world he inhabits elevates the game to even greater style and narrative.
With a heavy focus on direct environmental interaction, on-screen indicators are always easy to identify. Whether a pull-tab to open new areas, flat surfaces to push your fingers through, or pop-up book style platforming sections, they all seamlessly blend into the environment in a way that never pulls you away from the story. Watching as the world changes before your eyes is always a wonderful experience and continues to enforce the notion that the You is all-powerful.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
There is very little voice acting that makes up the story of 'Tearaway'. The creatures you encounter – woodland animals, pesky scraps, and brutish Wendigos – are all nicely represented with appropriate squeaks, grunts, and growls. Those few characters that speak directly to the player are exceptionally well done. They communicate as an adult reading a fairytale to a group of children. They annunciate in grand tones and continually encourage the You and iota to carry on with their quest.
Of even greater note is the musical score that accompanies iota every step of the way. Reminiscent of the sounds one might experience during a carnival performance, every encounter and event is perfectly balanced. Riding on the back of a paper craft pig is exciting and comical. Similarly, the moody depth's of 'Tearaway's' underworld is scored to near perfection. There is rarely a dull moment throughout the brief six-hour campaign and the variety in music does a tremendous job of reinforcing this concept.
Although 'Tearaway' is rather short, the experience gained is more than enough to encourage an almost immediate second play through. There is a good amount of collectibles and side quests that you might be hard pressed to find or complete all of on your first run. Starting each new level of 'Tearaway' provides a list of these collectibles – hidden presents, pictures to be taken, scraps to be collected, and paper crafts to be unlocked - and you'll want to take the time to locate each and every one of them. The gameplay is so fun and addictive that replaying 'Tearaway' will never feel like a chore.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
If you enjoy the art style of 'Tearaway' then you will surely be a fan of the bonus content that comes with it. As you progress through the single-player story you will discover and unlock a variety of paper craft collectibles. These individual characters, creatures, and pieces from the environment are uploaded to an external website – www.tearaway.me - and stored under your PlayStation Network ID. As a community driven site, you will be able to see how many individual paper crafts have been unlocked and photos uploaded. More importantly, you have the opportunity to print out the individual paper crafts from your play through of the game to be cut out, folded, and created; almost like a 'Skylanders' concept in reverse. Instead of bringing your toys into the game, you're pulling them out. The individual paper crafts come in a variety of creation difficulties – easy, medium, and tricky – and will take a fair amount of time and dedication to complete. With up to 60 paper crafts to collect and create, this is yet another example of the creativity and care that went into the development of 'Tearaway.'
The creative use of the Vita's many functions, along with the endearing story and lovable characters, makes 'Tearaway' a game that simply must be experienced. I liken the conclusion of the game to the feeling I received when completing thatgamecompany's 'Journey'. It is enough to bring a smile of utter joy to your face while you struggle to hold back tears. There are very few console games that leave a truly lasting affect on me, and even fewer Vita titles. Still, I'm quite happy to add 'Tearaway' into the category of memorable gaming experiences. If you own a PlayStation Vita you would be doing yourself a disservice by not playing this game. Kudos to the highly creative developers at Media Molecule for delivering this gem, it is greatly appreciated.
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