Media Molecule, the studio that brought us “LittleBigPlanet,” is back with a charming new action platforming game called “Tearaway.” “Tearaway” is one of the most interesting experiences I have had playing a game in a while. It has simple mechanics, but it takes the platforming genre and adds some compelling twists.
The concept is simple – you can choose to play as Iota or his female counterpart Atoi, and you are essentially a living envelope. You have to deliver a message to a mysterious figure in the sky. The figure, though, is you; your face is superimposed on the sun by using the Vita camera.
Similar to the way “LittleBigPlanet” looks like it is made from cloth, “Tearaway” is made from paper, and the levels look like you are looking in on a pop-up book. For the most part, the platforming and jumping is straightforward, but you can use the touch screen in interesting ways by swiping your finger across the screen to unfold pieces of paper, revealing hidden pathways and creating platforms you can use to jump on.
Another fun gameplay idea is the use of the in-game camera; you can snap pictures and use filters, just like Instagram. You can customize your character with googly eyes and other things that you have taken pictures of, such as some of the different enemies in the game. You can also save the pictures and print them out on your computer if you want to use some of the silly designs you see in the games to decorate your stuff. There is also a virtual work table in the game where you can design your own paper designs with the scissors and pencil tools. You can make all sorts of neat hats and clothes for your character to wear that you have designed yourself.
The paper isn’t just a design aesthetic; it also carries over to the controls of the game as well. You can swipe to open pathways, roll out paper platforms, and if you push too hard, you can even poke your figure through the bottom of the screen. If you finger pokes through, you can send enemies flying. It is a really cool effect; the camera on the back of the Vita films your hand and projects it on the screen, making it look like it is supposed to be there, and you control the action with the rear touch screen. In certain parts of the game, you can actually use this to solve puzzles and move things around in the environment.
Later on in the game, a lot of more of the Vita functionality is used; there are some levels that use tilt and motion controls, pinching and pulling, and even some mild augmented reality sections of the game using the Vita’s cameras. Best of all, none of these controls really felt stupid or gimmicky; they all seem natural to the gameplay instead of being tacked on for no reason. This is the first Vita game I have played that used all of the hardware that wasn’t a collection of mini games, and it is definitive proof of what the Vita can do and how fun it can be when a game is developed with only that system in mind.
Overall, I really enjoyed “Tearaway.” The look of the game is very distinct and imaginative, the puzzles are very clever, and the core gameplay is simple and fun. If you ever wanted to see your designs in a game, this is a fun way to do it, and you can even print them out and use them in real life. If you are a Vita owner, this is one the best games so far on the system and shouldn’t be missed, especially if you are looking for a family-friendly game that gets your creative juices flowing in new and exciting ways.
-Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.