It’s hard to believe the PS Vita wasn’t made specifically for Tearaway. Such is its use of the machine’s extra bells and whistles it owns the hardware in away nothing else has managed to so far. It certainly shames all other attempts to shoehorn in a touchscreen version of some familiar function. It’s also lovely. Big stupid grin on your face lovely almost the entire time you’re playing it.
I really hope Media Molecule make more games that are just games. No crafting or creating tools, just games, because Tearaway is adorable to the point that it’ll probably make you’re little head pop with joy. It reminds me of Katamari Damacy where everything is basically made of colour and smiles. The male Iota or female Atoi (depending on your choice) are every bit the equal of the Prince and the world is as vibrant and demented as anything the King Of The Cosmos could cook up.
But it’s the way you’re involved in, and made a part of, the world that really wins. You’re an active role of the story, a mysterious entity just outside Iota’s world who he needs to get a message to. You appear frequently in the sun watching over the proceedings – the front camera putting you in-game, often to drift into view as Iota wanders around. Sometimes it catches you by surprise, taking a second to recognise the the big yellow smile in the sky as your own but it’s a beautifully executed way of all but demolishing the barrier between you, the player, and the world you’re interacting with.
Then there are the fingers. Your fingers, that you can use to stab up though the rear touchpad, appearing as neatly manured tips on screen to buffet and batter ‘scraps”, the enemies causing trouble. Again it puts you in the world, and when a scrap smacks into the underside of the Vita’s screen it really does make you feel like it’s all physically happening within your hands. Another great use are the drum skins you can use to bang Iota into the air during platforming sections, unlocakbles you collect by pulling apart the ribbons wrapping them up, or records you stop, rewind and scratch to create safe passage.
Gimmick aside the platforming is a joy, even if there’s no real challenge. The constant procession of mechanics evoke a sense of wonder as you look forward to how the next bit is going to literally unfold: strips of paper that roll and unroll, drums that drift on tracks requiring well timed taps, or a rolled up paper tube that needs to be moved into position by your big fat on-screen finger. It doesn’t have to be hard when it all makes you smile.
And that seems to be the key here: the few hours I played simply unfolded before me as I threw squirrels, jumped between cardboard pillars and crafted my own decorations (you can draw shapes on paper squares then cut them out to use in the game world. I put glasses on a pig). The charm here made almost every second the kind of warm and fuzzy fun you don’t experience often. All helped along by an excellent jangly but earthy sound track and a beautiful flickery effect that gives everything the barest hint of zoetrope-style animation.
I’ve had more genuine fun in it’s purest
form with the few hours spent playing
this than almost anything else this year
If there’s any sadness attached to Tearaway at all it’s the fact that the Vita’s numbers mean this won’t reach as many people as it should. It’s cutesy papery style and childlike presentation will most likely limit its ability to be a system seller, in the same way Katamari remained a niche pleasure. And that’s a shame because I’ve had more genuine fun in its purest form with the few hours I spent with this than almost anything else I’ve played this year.
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