IS IT “NEW” ENOUGH?
I must confess something – I never played Tearaway on the PS Vita, and yes, I have owned a Vita since launch. *GASP!* I know, huge exclusive title from the makers of Little Big Planet, how could I avoid this? The truth is – I don’t like Little Big Planet. It’s fun as hell to watch videos and see others play, but I despise actually playing the game myself. So, naturally, seeing the link to that franchise, I was skeptical about Tearaway. But, SCE contacted me asking if I was interested so I took them up on it. I can’t offer a direct comparison but I vouch for what the PS4 version offers. The DualShock 4 controller is stunning to me personally. I love the design, the weight, and the comfort level… pretty much everything but the price I suppose. It’s got so many possibilities for controls and Media Molecule seems to have harnessed it quite well. The light bar, its touchpad and corresponding button, and all gyro sensors in the controller have all been put to great use. Drawing on the touchpad could probably have been a little more fine-tuned, but without the need for perfection in the game, it’s acceptable because the game allows anything. The light bar is truly a delight in both battles and just colorizing the world around you when it’s been covered in newspaper. A wonderful feature, one which I believe is exclusive to Unfolded, is “Thrown Forth” which allows Iota to take items such as rocks, squirrels and even stunned “scraps” and throw them at your TV screen, and then you can aim and throw back at specific targets using the touchpad. It’s a great mechanic that plays a pretty huge part in the whole game.
LET US TELL YOU A STORY…
The plot in Tearaway isn’t convoluted whatsoever. Actually it’s pretty simple and really comes out as more of a life lesson in the end rather than a story, but it’s cute, and well told by its narrators. Iota plays the role of the hero, controlled by the “YOU” ….being ‘you’ though also referred to as the ‘button presser’. He’s a strong silent hero, similar to JAK in that sense but you really do form an impressively strong bond with him by the games end. The narrators themselves aren’t bad, but for the simplicity of the story, it really could have been laid out through text – but hey, we’re lazy would prefer to have it read to us.
Most of us have played an adventure game or two in the past so we know a thing or two about what to expect, and puzzles are usually a given. While Tearaway does throw a few puzzles in the mix, this game is clearly aimed toward younger gamers so don’t expect anything too challenging. Usually it’s a mix of using “drum pads” for jumping, a mixture of face button platform puzzles, or having to use the new “Thrown Forth” ability. Don’t underestimate the game though – sometimes the answer is so simple it’ll have you scratching your head in confusion. I felt like a moron on a few parts where I walked around aimlessly for 5-10 minutes feeling lost, only to realize the answer is right in front of you. In retrospect, I do wish it had a few more challenges for the brain, but I suppose it would have changed the overall focus of the target audience so it’s understandable.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t really care for Little Big Planet, but I do see how it fascinates its fans with its natural sense of charm. Tearaway is no different in that sense and it features the same pizzazz with a magical sense of allurement in its gameplay. It won’t appeal to everyone become of its simplicity, but if you give it a chance, it really pulls you in the world. Visually, it’s a beautiful game with its paper-crafted worlds filled with folding oceans and folded mountains. Everything from the smallest animal to the largest castle is quite marvelous, especially the weather effects including rain and high winds. I really can’t come up with anything negative to say in regards to the graphics or general style of the game.
The soundtrack accompanying the gameplay is definitely one of my favorite parts of the game. In most games, the music is just there. You don’t really notice it, and you don’t really remember it. But then you have some games where you hear it and you immediately say, “Hey! I know that song it’s from [insert game title here]!” – Tearaway: Unfolded is one that fits into that category. There’s more than a couple catchy tunes that will become memorable, including the Lair theme, and the theme that plays during the end credits roll. Easy to hum or whistle along with – and that’s what can confirm if a soundtrack is good. Alongside the music is the ambient noise and sound effects – all of which help bring the world together. The crashes of huge folding waves, howling of the high winds, and fluttering of the evil, nasty crows – they are all little pieces that come together to form a beautiful soundtrack.
What’s a game without a few extra things to do for fun? If you do the extra leg work in-game you can unlock a whole bunch of paper crafts to print at home and fold them up yourself. If you figure all the direct links, you could of course get them anyhow I believe. You can choose from plain white or the in-game designs and create a whole collection of paper crafts for yourself. Sure – it’s not really for everyone, but I imagine it’d be a fun afternoon if you have younger children or you’re a naturally creative person.
THE END… OR NOT?
Level design is a key feature in a game like this because it’s basing its whole reputation on a unique style. Media Molecule knows how to design levels better than almost anyone in the game design business, and it extends in Tearaway Unfolded. You’ll explore open fields, caves and castles, and scale a snowy mountain… then you’ll reach a completely new stage that’s unlike anything else. You have the end in sight and it’s almost sad at this point because it feels entirely new. Fortunately, when this happened to me, I realized I was quite wrong. The puzzles changed, the design was completely new – and it because even more challenging to simply traverse the level. Then something else surprised me… another completely new style of level, and another. At one point, I felt some inspiration from a personal PlayStation favorite, “Journey”. I couldn’t believe how well the game transitioned into something new, multiple times, yet still felt right in every way. When it finally ended, I felt really, really good about the whole experience. It wasn’t too short, and not too long that I really was waiting for it to end.
If I had to sum up Tearaway: Unfolded in a single word, I’m pretty sure ‘extraordinary’ would be the perfect term. It’s not a perfect game in every sense, but what it did offer was fun, simple fun and it made me smile. I did encounter an annoying bug a little later in the game that required two checkpoint restarts, but it was literally 20-40 seconds of play time that I had to replay so it’s really a non-issue. Charming visuals accompanied by an amusing soundtrack with a lovable hero make Tearaway: Unfolded a well-rounded package and a very worthwhile experience. Do yourself and don’t miss out on this gem – especially if you missed out on the Vita version like I did!
A copy of Tearaway: Unfolded was provided by the publisher.
At times it lacks enough challenge, but it's fun and charming, everything you'd expect from Media Molecule.
Stunning. From the weather and environmental effects to the design of everything in the game from birds to mountains, Tearaway: Unfolded is damn beautiful!
A few tunes will be stuck in your head, and easily recognizable when you hear 'em in the future. That's what you know it's a good soundtrack.