Review: Tearaway

What a wonderful game to spend the winter break with! Having played a majority of the Little Big Planet installments, I’m well aware of the visual feats that Media Molecule is capable of crafting, and Tearaway is no exception.

There are actually times in which I was playing that I grew hopeful of future Little Big Planet titles and their implementation of similar Vita functionality within the framework of the game; Tearaway is absolutely stellar and it feels like the type of game that the Vita was made for.

That isn’t to say that Tearaway is without flaws, but the drawbacks of the game itself are not only infinitesimal in number, but rarely depreciate the game’s overall experience.  For those not familiar with Tearaway or its storyline, a truncated synopsis is that you are put in control of a highly customizable and personified envelope in search of a “You” which just so happens to be, well, you! Too short? Ahhh, fine.

Intermittently throughout the game, you’ll catch a glimpse of the “You” with the help of the Vita’s front facing camera, which deftly relays a real-time feed of whatever you’re doing and transposes it in the center of the ever-onlooking sun a la the creepy baby from Teletubbies – in this regard, the game really shines in incorporating the player and assuredly lends to the jovial adventure.

Hail Kittehz

Hail Kittehz

Throughout the rather short quest, the Messenger is purposed with delivering him or herself in this intentionally allometric story, and purposely shifts perspective in order to emphasize dynamic; the game feels rather stunted to begin with before experiencing deliberate narrative refocus and pushing the player further into the well-crafted storyline and environment.

The dichotomy between modern video games and their illustrative properties is that most people posit that they have to look a certain way or push hardware boundaries in feigned attempts to look as good as possible before considering story lines, believable story arc and credible lure – Tearaway doesn’t primarily concern itself with being modern and instead treads a divergent path and believably crafts something new and different.

When playing Tearaway, I felt as if I were playing something innovative

When playing Tearaway, I felt as if I were playing something innovative, but also something that has an indie persona; the concept of having an entirely paper craft world with pop-up book stylings is a visual feat in and of itself, but the ability to customize pieces of the environment, as well as a great deal of your character is peerless in execution.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is introduced early on when you are prompted to craft a crown for a squirrel; the game then elucidates one of its best features and gives you a few sheets of construction paper, a crafting mat and a set of easy to use tools that enable you to create anything from pentagrams to flashy sacred hearts. What’s even better is that this function is available to the player at any time, and serves as an excellent way of killing time when you’d rather not play through the story, or you just want to further augment the visual aspect of your character.

Customization is heavily relied on when playing Tearaway, and you will more than likely find yourself redoing certain things when playing back through it – oh yes, Tearaway will composedly urge you to play back through it, or at least trophy hunt. Tearaway certainly appealed to the trophy hunter in me, but due to its brevity and linear level design, I had beaten it and had amassed all but three trophies over the course of 4 days of casual gameplay.

Sadly, the platinum trophy should’ve been easily attainable, but the sparse technical hiccups prevented me from being able to attain the level-specific trophies. The three trophies pertained to beating the three most challenging levels without dying, but the unfortunate fact is that Tearaway tends to suffer from randomized and awkward camera issues, as well as the back panel failing to work at the most inopportune times.

While Tearaway did excellently implement the Vita’s functionality, there were times in which I was forced to exit and restart the game, as well as reboot the system in order to finish out a level – this happened several times with the level “The Tear” because the Vita’s ever-snappy quad-core processor was unfortunately overloaded for any number of reasons, but it eventually came down to how I held the system.

Supah bummed

Supah bummed

With the help of Tearaway, I discovered that when not using the back panel, it’s best to avoid resting any of your digits on it unless it’s required at that very moment – this is obviously difficult for someone like me who has larger hands and tends to hold handheld systems rather clumsily to begin with. Several hard resets later and having nearly filed a claim with Sony, I had to espouse a new way of holding my system in order to finish out the game, but this is completely understandable when considering what the Vita is capable of.

Digression aside, the back panel functionality of Tearaway is a perfect addition to the game, and serves to further expound why this game is nearly perfect; the usage of the back panel for dispatching scraps and helping the Messenger reach unreachable confetti helps lend to the immersing qualities of Tearaway and it feels like you’re truly helping the Messenger along on his or her journey to ultimately reach you.

Another facet of Tearaway worth mentioning is the audio; the sound-design within Tearaway is expertly crafted and should be championed alongside the unconventional visuals. Coming from someone who has spent a multitude of hours within ProTools crafting and editing various sounds and experimenting with sound design, Media Molecule absolutely kills it. Every creak and groan is exactly what you’d expect if you set out to craft a game comprised entirely out of pop-up books, and the soundtrack serves its purpose of being just enough to accompany the gameplay but abstains from diverting attention away from it at the same time.

There are a number of things I could say about Tearaway, but what I find to be most surprising is its conclusion; Tearaway surprisingly stuck with me after completion, much like Journey, but on a smaller scale. The game brings to mind a certain amount of introspection and borders on the metaphysical; when considering that Journey focuses more so on the soul’s transmigration Tearaway’s existentialist-at-heart emphasis is limited to the Messenger and sheds the free agent ideology when factoring the player into the equation.

So, is it any fun?

Frankly, Tearaway is a wonderful game with very few points in which it falters; with the implementation of everything the Vita has to offer, Tearaway should (and hopefully will) become a paramount reason for which people elect to buy a Vita, or at the very least, a means of garnering attention for a console in dire need of it.

 

Marc Douglas

Marc Douglas

I'm currently a full-time student that spends far too much time playing video games and very little on homework; I'm elated to share my thoughts and rants with such an eclectic group of authors and welcome any and all questions!

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