Media Molecule burst onto the scene back in 2008 with the charmingly adorable Little Big Planet. The idea was to provide the gaming public with the tools the designers themselves used to create their own levels. It was a rousing success, spawning multiple sequels on different platforms and even some spin-offs (the less said about some of those the better).
Now they are back with their first new IP in a while called Tearaway. The whole idea behind Tearaway is that everything has already been done before and we need to try something new and fresh. Who better to take such an idea and run with it than the team from Media Molecule? Truth be told, I’ve never played anything like Tearaway. It’s easily the best game out on the Vita, not to mention it makes the best use of the tech to date. Even if this isn’t normally your type of game, Vita owners everywhere should pick up this surprising gem.
You take control of a happy little fellow named Iota, who is tasked with delivering a message. Iota’s mission is to reach the sun, which is…YOU! That’s right, you’re the goal! Because of the camera, you are peaking through the sun – an omnipresent, omniscient being in the distance. Thanks to the Vita’s camera, you can take pictures of yourself as you move deeper into the story. These images pop up from time to time and serve as a friendly reminder of the purpose of the exercise.
As you progress, you’ll be given other opportunities to take pictures. If you spot something that is devoid of color (read “white”) then you can snap a quick pic and it restores the item to its former colorful glory as well as garnering you some confetti points. These points can then be used to upgrade your camera with different filters and apertures so you can mix things up! What is really cool is that you can actually download the paper schematics of what you shoot, and if you like can print them out and recreate them for yourself! I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting a lesson in arts and crafts when I picked up the game.
You’ll utilize both the front and back touch pads frequently to manipulate the environment as you endeavor to get around. Certain areas (cleverly marked by PlayStation symbols) allow you to bounce or even tear through the environment with your fingers. You can even move shiny objects that look like tape on the front touch screen to access new areas or even open presents by those you help along the way. There are other examples as well (Iota gains new powers almost right up to the end), all designed to solve puzzles and navigate to the goal.
The art style and graphics are simply amazing. Much like Little Big Planet, the color palette will astound you. You can create things for Iota by drawing them on pieces of construction paper and then “cutting” them out. Iota, like Sackboy before him, is customizable. As you progress, you’ll be given the opportunity to add more to his visage, as well as others in the world. It works astonishingly well. The genius is that you are only limited by your imagination. My personal favorite included one particularly memorable and inspiring snowstorm. I’ve rarely felt I’ve had such a direct impact in a game.
There are plenty of collectibles to go back and find. This is not something I’m normally interested in, but seeing as how the campaign was fairly short, going back to have more fun with the game was nice, especially making use of some of the later introduced mechanics.
Tearaway is not without some minor problems. Issues arise when dealing with the camera, which seems to have a mind of it’s own at times. This is a common complaint with 3D-style platformers and Tearaway is no different. Also, as with other games where combat isn’t the focus but more of a distraction, it therefore suffers from being overly repetitious. But easily the biggest flaw to the experience is that it is simply too short. When something is this unique and fun, finishing it in less than 5-6 hours leaves you wanting more.
Tearaway is an experience – a moniker I don’t lightly toss around. It is not only adorable and clever, but also inspiring and charming to boot despite a few minor flaws. Beyond just a cute story, the wonderful integration of the real world and the digital one makes Tearaway stand apart. It easily makes the best use of the Vita’s various functionalities to date. Media Molecule should once again be commended for thinking outside of the proverbial box and giving us something new and enjoyable to play. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
Reviewed By: Simon Waldron
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
This review is based on a retail copy of Tearaway for the PlayStation Vita provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.