Media Molecule starting a new franchise this Christmas, starting with Tearaway seems unwise.
Media Molecule’s latest platformer faces two threats by just being released.
For one it’s a game on the Playstation Vita, a handheld known for its small library of exclusive titles (despite being out for almost two years)… To make matters worse, it’s during the same release window as the latest in two of Nintendo’s biggest franchises (Mario and Zelda), the launch of the Xbox One and Sony’s own Playstation 4. Starting a new franchise this Christmas seems unwise.
Thankfully, Tearaway also happens to be an absolute delight.
Immediately the game has one of the most welcoming introductions to a videogame. You can choose to play as either Iota or Atoi (male and female respectively), but you can also choose your skin colour so that it matches your fingers in the game, and whether you would ‘prefer to be addressed as male or female’. The game goes far in trying to involve you in its story, so these little touches do a great job in making you feel part of the experience.
The game highly values its aesthetics, and for the most part, it’s the biggest focus. The beautiful paper crafted world looks fantastic, and the game utilises several times. One of the main collectibles in the game gives players tutorials on how to create the objects and characters out of paper yourself, and more notably, the Vita’s hardware is used to interact and immerse you into its world.
More often Tearaway feels like a cute theme park rather than more challenging platformers or even art games like Journey. The story is light and charming with its own little message, but it mainly just wants you to smile. It is linear and presents new gimmicks throughout each level such as letting you use the rear touchpad to tear through the floor, using the motion sensor to move platforms or using the camera to take pictures of yourself and your environment to transfer it into the game.
It’s surprising how much these gimmicks work and come naturally to you in order to solve puzzles, although sometimes it feels like some are used too frequently or a little hard to control. It’s difficult at times to be precise when drawing decorations on the front touchpad because you need to use your finger, but for the most part it works.
Unfortunately Tearaway is a very easy game. Some tasks feel pointless. The little challenges given to you by the game’s main enemies (known as ‘Scraps’) are made completely irrelevant by the fact that you respawn immediately with no consequences once you die. Combat is unavoidable and thankfully not long, but there are very few variations of enemy types.
Considering the amount of rich imagination on display, it’s surprising how simple the level design is, how little tools your character has at his or her disposal, and how few times these are combined into to make more creative puzzles. Platforming is never frustrating, but by the end of your six hour journey, your character can only jump, throw objects, roll into a ball and use a concertina to move paper windmills and throw more objects.
It’s baffling that despite being made from such a malleable material, your character is able to do so little. It’s likely that Media Molecule wanted to focus mostly on the player’s powers, but it makes navigating without the gimmicks feel lackluster.
However Tearaway should be celebrated for its accomplishments that outweigh its shortcomings. Making use of the Vita’s tools and making them feel intuitive is no small feet and it plays a huge part in why its engaging. Whether it’s good enough to hold its own through the harsh winter is difficult to say, but at least Tearaway stands with Gravity Rush and Persona 4: The Golden in expanding the Playstation Vita’s library by being a charming and quirky title.