Tearaway was the 2013 PlayStation Vita exclusive that managed to make me look at the Vita and decided it was almost all worth it for that one game. Not many people bought the Vita, so the smart move was made to bring Tearaway to the PlayStation 4. A remake from the ground up, can Tearaway Unfolded keep the charm of the original game, or has this remake lost it.
The story in Tearaway Unfolded is largely the same as the original. Two narrators, known as the Green Man and Purple Woman, aren’t entertained by what’s on TV. So they create their own story, crafting Tearaway‘s tale as it plays out. You play as either Iota or Atoi, a living letter who has an important message to deliver to the You, who he can only reach by getting to a hole in the sky. Fittingly, the You is literally you. If you have a PlayStation Camera attached to your PS4, then it will display you in the hole at all times. While the hole in the sky may provide Iota/Atoi a way to reach You, it also allows the Scraps, a strange boxy race of newspaper clippings, to leak into the crafted world of Tearaway. They seem to have a plan of their own, and along the way, you must stop it.
The story isn’t anything crazy or revolutionary, but it’s a good enough and entertaining tale that fits the tone of the game well. It can be both heartwarming and sad at times, and it is often funny. The Green Man and Purple Woman’s arguments over how the story should continue made me chuckle more than once, while the simple act of getting to mess with the creatures that live in Tearaway‘s world is entertaining. Unfolded does add some new content to the original. The Scraps have a purpose now, rather than being “bad guys because bad guys”, and their plot line gets something of a resolution. On the other hand a couple of new chapters, one that involves wandering into a crow-infested forest and another that includes a last-minute desert romp, seems to serve no story purpose and is awkwardly mashed in between two other chapters. The journey is a little less personal than the one depicted in the Vita version, but maybe that’s just because I don’t have the PlayStation Camera compared to the Vita having one built-in, so I never got to see myself in the game. Either way, it’s still a big adventure with enough for people who played the original to find new things they can enjoy.
Tearaway was so reliant on the Vita’s built-in features that at first it may seem like it would be impossible on the PS4. Luckily the remake includes a host of new functions that utilize the PS4’s controller in strange and unusual ways. At the start of the game, you can hold down R2 or L2 to shine a beam of light into the game, specifically the light on the back of the PS4’s controller. You can move the controller around to control that light which can then be used for many things. Later, you can blow a gust of wind by swiping on the touchpad or press the touchpad to activate bounce pads. One really neat feature lets you throw items into your controller to launch back into the game. While the items or characters are in your controller, you can still interact with them in funny ways. For example, you can rub the touchpad to pet them, or you can shake the controller to annoy them and hear them rattling around thanks to the controller’s built-in speaker. It even leads to some interesting puzzles, like one where you need to find a bell hidden inside of an acorn by tossing them into your controller and shaking it until you hear a bell. The amount of ways that the game makes use of the controller is fascinating, and it is the absolute best use of the PS4’s controller’s features to date.
The game’s roots are in platforming, and a lot of the game will be spent jumping from one platform to the next. At first, this is almost too easy as Iota/Atoi doesn’t even have the ability to jump, instead relying on you to use the touchpad bounce pads to fling them to platforms. Later on, however, an actual jump button is added in and along with it comes various challenges to keep me on my toes. Jumping to a platform is easy, but jumping to a platform that rotates with your controller requires both precision jumping and holding still, a rather creative challenge that I haven’t seen many other games utilize.
It’s not just jumping you’ll be using while navigating the environment. Iota/Atoi eventually gains the ability to turn into a ball, allowing them to roll into smaller areas or follow tracks. One particularly neat challenge turned the game into almost an on-rails shooter: my character moved along a track while a squirrel sat inside my controller, allowing me to throw acorns at the enemies by pointing and aiming with the controller and swiping the touchpad up. Later on, I was able to get a paper airplane to fly around the environment, using gusts of wind to push me around and keep me in the air. No one section of the game ever really felt like any other section, and that’s where one of Tearaway‘s greatest success comes from.
There is also some light combat in Tearaway as well. Scraps invade the world of Tearaway through the hole in the sky, and will try to stop you on your journey to reach You. Iota/Atoi doesn’t have any way to attack directly, but you can use several ways to attack the scraps indirectly. One of the most useful is using the guiding light, which most Scraps follow blindly, to lure them off cliffs. Some arenas have traps built into them, activated by your touchpad and opening holes or activating springboards to toss the Scraps off cliffs. Once you gain powers over the wind, you can stun Scraps that use their jump attacks so you can pick them up and toss them off cliffs, or into other Scraps, yourself. Despite the lack of direct combat, there’s a surprisingly large amount of ways to engage in battle. It makes each fight play like a delightful puzzle, as you run around constantly switching up strategies to deal with enemies.
While you may be destroying Scraps, Tearaway is really a game about creation, and you’ll be doing plenty of that. Many objects in Tearaway can be edited using a rather well-made sticker system. The game comes with a large chunk of stickers for you to use how you want, but you can also create your own. The tools to do so are impressively simple: all you need is to draw the shape you want on the touch pad and then you can later do some basic size and position editing, or take a scalpel to it to cut out pieces you don’t like. Better yet, the things you create will constantly be showing up in the game. At one point I was asked to create a snowflake, and a later snowy level saw it snowing with the snowflakes I made. An early game assignment saw me create a crown for a squirrel king, and a later venture through a level had the crown I made showing up on shields as their crest.
Exploring is an important gameplay element, as many side quests and collectibles lay hidden in areas. Some of the side quests are rather simple, only requiring you to create a sticker (the majority of which are going to be showing up later in some fashion, making doing these side quests important, if not vital.) Others saw me collecting objects for characters or delivering them to locations. Usually nothing more complicated than that, but they offer up a good chunk of extra fun to be had. Early in the game Iota/Atoi gets a camera that allows them to take pictures that you can save. While you explore, you’ll find objects that have been whited out. By taking pictures of them, you can restore their colors and collect what is probably one of the most interesting collectibles in a game: the ability to print out instructions to create real world papercraft versions of the things you find in the game.
Even if you don’t print out and create papercraft versions of the things you find, Tearaway still treats you to a beautiful papercraft world. The way each character is animated and moves about the world is genuinely impressive. The game does have some improvements over the Vita version, most notably in a bigger draw distance and larger areas. These expansions to areas aren’t always an improvement, sometimes it meant just running longer to get from place to place, but this isn’t a huge problem. Tearaway also features a fun soundtrack that fits the game well, using instruments as unconventional as the game’s art style.
Admittedly I have to stretch a little to find things I truly did not like about Tearaway Unfolded. As I’ve already mentioned the new stages are filler at best (albeit good filler), and the larger world sometimes leads to pointless back and forth travel. There was one rolling section that frustrated me due to a strange button pressing segment that seemed designed to knock me off even when done right, but this is one section at most. I’m grasping for faults at this point.
Look, if you own a PlayStation 4, then you owe it to yourself to give Tearaway Unfolded a shot. If you already played the original on the Vita, then this remake does more than enough to bring you back for a second round. If you haven’t then you’re missing out on an impressively creative game, one that seems to have decided right from the start that it wants to celebrate everything there is to offer and successfully manages to do so with almost no hitches. Tearaway Unfolded is a game I’ll continue to look back on fondly for years to come.
Tearaway Unfolded was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
Tearaway Unfolded does nearly everything right, leading to one of the most surprisingly fun games available on the market right now.