It's hard to look at Tearaway and not immediately fall in love with its paper-like charm. First unveiled at Gamescom 2012, Tearaway is a new papercraft game for the PlayStation Vita from Media Molecule, the developer of LittleBigPlanet.
For those unfamiliar, the game is a third-persona adventure game, likened to that of a buddy-movie. Your goal is to help navigate Iota, a messenger who has a very important message to tell you, through a paper world inspired by folk tales and half-told stories.
Although the idea behind Tearaway stemmed from the amount of paper cluttering the desks of Media Molecule's office, its gameplay was clearly designed with the Vita's features in mind. The aim was to create a "super tactile game that you can't just touch, but really feel." Media Molecule wants players to not just play Tearaway, but interact with its environment and creatures within through use of the Vita's features — the camera, the rear touch panel, and the front touch screen are all used throughout the game. And they are all quite effective in creating an entertaining and innovative gameplay experience. My demo primarily consisted of me using the rear touchpad to launch Iota into the air from bounce pads, though a video showed an example of incorporating your real-life images into the game.
Each area you encounter introduces a new twist on the paper theme. During my trip to a Sony game showcase this week, I was introduced to a new region known as Sogport. This paper island, marooned in a sea of thick glue, is shrinking as its inhabitants are tearing up the land mass; it's up to you to save it. This region also introduces a brand new twist on the game's paper theme: glue.
There are two types of glue: thick and thin. Thick is something you don't want to mess with as it will result in your demise. Thin, however, is a more helpful and playful material that you'll need to take advantage of. In my gameplay session, Iota and I adventured through Sogport: Wendigo Fissure. For the record, a Wendigo is a papercraft giant monster that you must dodge and run from. They also have some weird obsession for paper pearls which I used to distract them. Then, using the thin glue, I stuck to walls to walk past these terrifying creatures.
Gameplay, aside from a defunct Vita, was simple, but not repetitive. By taking advantage of the Vita's many functions, I always found myself interacting with the environment in different ways. And boy, what a lovely environment to interact with. Media Molecule has done a superb job creating a charming environment that's fun to explore. It also seems like there will be much to explore as the game offers sandbox elements. At one point, we were shown a simple function that lets you shoot paper balls into a basketball hoops; it's little add-ons like this that will make Tearaway a fun game to just run around and explore.
I have no doubt that Tearaway will offer entertaining gameplay. In just my brief time spent with the game, I could already see Media Molecule had a firm grasp on how to use the Vita to the best of its potential. What does worry me, however, is the message Iota has. Although I'm sure the main experience is meant to be the gameplay itself, there's still a heavy focus — at least for me — on this unique message Iota has to tell. I hope it doesn't disappoint.
While the same charm that existed with LittleBigPlanet is present in Tearaway, it's important to note that this game has been conceived entirely as a solo experience. There's a clear focus on the adventure aspect of the game, though it still offers some creative outlet for players. This creativity exists in the form of unlocking various papercraft blueprints with which you can print out and use to create real-life papercrafts inspired by the elements in the game.
Tearaway definitely has a unique charm to it. It's still early, as Sony has yet to announce an official release date, but the game is certainly shaping up to be one of the most intriguing titles of 2013. I'm excited to see what else Media Molecule has to reveal prior to its launch. If you own a Vita, I'd keep my eye on Tearaway.