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Tearaway Review

Stephen Gillespie / December 10, 2013 at 8:00 AM / Gaming, Reviews

Few games take advantage of a platform in the way Tearaway does,which uses every facet of the system in your hand and includes the device itself in the storytelling. It’s a game about the PlayStation Vita almost as much as it is a game on the Vita, and it deftly manages to avoid becoming forced or gimmicky in the way that many Vita games do. The Vita is littered in bits of technology that were seemingly thrown on to be there, rather than for any specific gameplay purpose in mind, and this has had mixed consequences. Games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss constantly shoehorned in ill-advised motion or touch screen controlled segments that detracted from the pace and the overall experience but Tearaway uses these inputs in magical ways. It doesn’t just use functionality because it’s there, it is built around this functionality and it always makes sense in its implementation. It’s a charming title with a lot of heart that will make you love it and love the Vita.

At its core Tearaway is a straight forward 3D platformer. Mechanics are layered in overtime, but the core of Tearaway is rather standard – you make your way through a number of levels littered with collectibles and enemies. There’s nothing remarkable about the platforming in Tearaway, it’s not irritatingly floaty like Media Molecule’s previous LittleBigPlanet titles, but it’s not Super Meat Boy levels of tight. The end result is that the game feels fine to play and a lack of total precision is never really an issue as the game is built with its mechanics in mind. The focus is on the levels providing you with interesting things to do, rather than providing you with an overt challenge.

Tearaway really isn’t a difficult game and this works to its advantage. It’s accessible and very rarely frustrating, which makes for an enjoyable experience. There are parts where you will die, but death carries no penalty bar a brief period when you are not playing. This may sound dull to some, but this approach matches up with the design of Tearaway, where inventive levels make playing it fun independent of challenge. It’s a very enjoyable game and this enjoyment comes from just engaging with it. The wonderfully creative levels are just a joy to play through and the game’s use of control makes it inherently fun to interact with.

The key to the brilliance of Tearaway is in how it uses the Vita’s functionality. Levels intelligently take advantage of button presses, the back touch-pad, the camera, the touch screen, the microphone and tilt functionality. The game always sign posts when you need to use a function really well, with great visual cues that blend into the overall style really nicely. What is really impressive though is how often the game surprises you by its clever use of its own mechanics. It really is just a lot of fun to traverse through the world of Tearaway, and a lot of this is down to how engaging interacting with it is. The game takes advantage of everything and this keeps you on your toes, keeps things varied and ensures that the whole adventure is actually fun.

The one detraction here is the camera. A lot of the time it’s a classic 3D set up of left stick moves and right stick controls camera, but in many instances it locks you to a perspective. These moments aren’t always clear and they don’t always give you the best view. There is an inherent irritation in that moment when you go to move the camera to get the angle you want and then realised it’s fixed in place, and this crops up on a number of occasions. Sometimes the fixed perspective works really well for the game though, highlighting the incredible art design or just framing the level wonderfully. However it is an annoyance a tad to often, and does create artificial challenge that doesn’t feel fair and detracts from an experience where the fun comes from carefree play.

Another reason why playing through Tearaway is so enjoyable is down to its beautiful, and impressively consistent, art style. Tearaway places you as a messenger (a anthropomorphised envelope called Atoi or Iota) in an entirely paper craft world. Everything in Tearaway can be made from paper and looks exactly like it should, if it were made in the real world. This makes for an utterly charming aesthetic, but also a really impressive one. Tearaway commits to its look one-hundred percent in game, and even manages to go even further than this. Tearaway not only wants you to explore its world, it wants you to extend it into your own. So much effort has gone into making the entire game out of paper and you can unlock blueprints so that you can enjoy papercraft yourself. The game makes you appreciate a style and then gives you the chance to learn it and practice it, the game inspires creativity in a wonderful way and should be highly celebrated for it.

Though the external use of user-generated content is the most impressive part, there is ample opportunity to express yourself in game. You can take pictures with an in game camera and apply stickers to your character at any point. Often the game prompts you to apply these stickers to things in the game world also,  for example it tells you to give a squirrel a crown or make a pig cute. Of course the game doesn’t know what you put there (apart from in specific examples where it asks for a particular sticker), but the game uses your creation in interesting and appropriate ways so it is worth being honest with it. The deeper layer to this is sticker creation, where you place paper on board, draw an outline with your finger and tell the game to cut it out. You can add layers and make complex shapes, and at several points objectives force you to make something and the game goes on to use your creations. The whole system is really accessible and well implemented, but the controls aren’t always up to task (rotating and resizing tiny objects is difficult for example, and touch drawing lacks isn’t as precise as you’d perhaps like). Regardless of this slight complaint, the tools are impressive and bring a lot to the game.

The storytelling in Tearaway is also worthy of note, as it is as all inclusive as the gameplay. The game brings you and your console into the narrative and actually even has you as a face in the sun for the duration of the game. Using the back-touch can also make your fingers appear in the world and this small touch is actually very immersive. You feel like a part of the overall tale and your presence is an integral part of the story. Though this is no grand epic, it does tell a nice little tale and has a surprisingly emotive ending. A lot of love and passion went into the game and this permeates through everything in a charming fashion.

Overall Tearaway is a simply charming game that innovatively uses the platform it’s on. It’s a short adventure, but this low run time means that its level design never grows stale and that it is able to keep surprising you with its mechanics rather than becoming overly reliant on them. There is not too much reason to go back, but a lot of the collectables are actually appealing and even have external use. It’s a  beautiful game that reminds you why you got a Vita in the first place and makes you proud to own one.

Stephen Gillespie

I'm a game writer at TechRaptor, I like a bit of everything, but I especially like games that do interesting things with the medium. Or just Dark Souls... I REALLY like Dark Souls. Praise the sun.