EXCLUSIVE GAME REVIEW: Tearaway

As the latest game from LittleBigPlanet creators Media Molecule, you’d expect Tearaway — a puzzling platformer for the PlayStation Vita — to be as adorable as it is inventive.

Happily, Tearaway doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Or any other for that matter.

Set in a world made that looks like a construction paper diorama made by Alexander Calder, Tearaway casts you as both hero and god, as you not only control the little gal (named Atoi) or guy (Iota) who does all the running around, but can also impact the world from on high.

Tearaway thumbs poking

In one of the earliest example of divine intervention, you use the Vita’s thumbstick to move our hero into an area infested with enemies. But to dispatch said enemies, our hero doesn’t shoot them or whack ’em with a sword or even jump on their heads. Instead, you have to tap the Vita’s rear touch screen, which sends big fingers poking through the ground that knock the enemies out of the way.

Tearaway also uses the poking mechanic to help Atoi and Iota get around. Jamming your finger up through the ground sometimes let’s you use it to move structures, which will help our heroes get to some hard to reach places.

There are also times in Tearaway when the ground is tougher, like the head on a drum. Here, by tapping the back touch screen, you can sent Atoi and Iota flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Which is especially handy because, with legs made of paper, neither of them are able to jump all that high (or even at all in the beginning). This can also be used with objects in the world. Such as when you need an piece of fruit to get to the next area, but there are none within your grasp, but oh, look, there’s some of those drumming bits.

Tearaway drums

Not surprisingly, Tearaway also has times when you use the poking and drumming mechanics in concert, like when your finger rolls a tube into place, then bumps Atoi and Iota jump on the tube so they can cross a river.

There are also, in keeping with the paper craft theme, instances when Tearaway lets you be like Calder making a construction paper diorama. Or a kid with some construction paper and a pair of safety scissors. Early on, for example, you run into a squirrel who has lost his crown. So, using in-game paper and virtual scissors, you fashion him a new one.

You then use the Vita’s cameras to take pictures, first of the squirrel and his new crown, and then one of yourself. But here, again, Tearaway gets clever since it doesn’t just take the picture automatically, you have to move your Vita around like a real camera so you can center the shot. It’s one of many little details that other game development studios wouldn’t have bothered doing.

Another clever thing about the game is while you can follow a mostly linear path, there are some wide open space, with lots of little fun things to do. None of which are necessary — in the second one you come to, you could just literally run across it to the next area — but by exploring and interacting with things, you might find things that pay off in their own small ways. Like in the first couple you visit, you can not only can toss small furry creatures into basketball hoops or jump on some springy flowers, both of which will reward you nicely.

Tearaway calder

Of course, being a Media Molecule game, there’s also plenty to customize and share in Tearaway, not the least of which is how Atoi and Iota look. There’s even a mechanic that lets you unlock patterns for paper craft you can make in the real world. Well, assuming your mom let’s you use safety scissors.

All of this, in anyone else’s hands, probably would’ve felt a lot more gimmicky. Like how you have to turn the Vita left and right to arm a bomb in Killzone: Mercenary. And it may still if your heart is as black as the piece of paper you used to make the jewels for the squirrel’s crown. (Seriously? Black? Who uses black jewels?)

It also helps that, at its core, Tearaway is still very much a platformer in the classic mold of Super Mario 64, Crash Bandicoot, and, of course, LittleBigPlanet. You still spend most of your time trying to get around by avoiding time-based traps and obstacles. Which can be a bit trickier here than in most when you have to use the drumming mechanic instead of the jump button when you want Atoi or Iota to hop up onto something.

Tearaway platformer

There is, however, one thing about Tearaway that serious platform fans and other hardcore gamers might not like: it’s not terribly difficult. This is not to say it isn’t challenging or won’t tax your brain, more that it can be somewhat forgiving. It is, for instance, fairly liberal with its check points. Though being able to come back to life easily is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the builders of this world ignored general safety standards and thus didn’t put in any guard rails.

That said, having the option of multiple skill levels would’ve been nice.

I also would’ve appreciated the option of being able to the music turn down or off. Which isn’t to say Tearaway has bad music; to the contrary, the playful, folksy music actually fits the game quite well. But it can be a little loud at times, relative to the game’s sound effects.

Of course, if you hate the playful, folksy music in the game, it’ll probably drive you insane. But then, if your heart is black, black as construction paper, you’ll find this to be way too cutesy anyway. Though for anyone who’s not completely dead inside — and, admittedly, likes platformers; let’s not forget that — Tearaway is an adorably good time that will give your thumbs and poking fingers a good workout.

SCORE: 8.0

 

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