Media Molecule is a studio of many talents, but timing isn’t one of them. Just days before PlayStation 4 swaggers into living rooms up and down the country to a deafening chorus of applause and fanfare, Tearaway shows up on your dusty PS Vita, coughing politely on the off chance someone notices that it is, in fact, a rather magnificent platformer.
No, really. Drop the DualShock 4 for just a few seconds and I’ll tell you why. Somehow Tearaway manages to turn each of Vita’s unique features into a handful of enjoyable mechanics, anchors them in a wonderful papercraft world with wider boundaries than you’ve seen before, and delivers an end result that never feels saccharine, and almost never feels gimmicky.
If you’re curious about what your concentration face looks like, this game leaves you in no doubt, training the Vita’s front camera on you and casting you as a mysterious face on the sun who main character Iota (or female counterpart Atoi) must deliver a message to. On this journey, you’ll ride a pig through the woods to a gleeful barn dance accompaniment. You’ll run over enormous vinyls that slow under your weight and stop to try your hand at scratching. You’ll draw moustaches for gophers and cut them out on a craft table. You’ll lose five minutes playing catch with two origami squirrels and a bushel of apples.
Memorable set-pieces like the above (all of which sound like a Shoreditch hipster’s cheese dream) arrive regularly, but the meat and veg of Tearaway’s interaction is a co-op mechanic of sorts for you and your envelope-headed messenger. While Iota runs, jumps and Sonic-rolls around the environment, your mightily proportioned hands poke through the scenery to tear and fold a route, allowing you both to progress. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of pulling a tab out to unfold a walkway, or banging a drum skin with the rear touch pad to propel Iota upwards. At points it’s a bit trickier: you’ll poke your fingers up through the pulpy floor to dislodge obstacles, or move objects that Iota must balance on. That only leads to 25% as much Vita-dropping and finger sprains as it sounds.
Tearaway’s is a charming world to inhabit, and it’s the perfect host for Media Molecule’s insuppressibly playful spirit. Like this year’s early highlight Ni No Kuni, it’s a great game to share with little ones in your life. Other than the occasional sensation of its design playing for novelty value, combat is the only aspect in which it puts a foot wrong. In a game bursting with invention, Tearaway’s head-jumping kills feel uninspired and unsatisfying, and a predictable array of foes does little to alleviate that. Good job combat’s something of a rare occurrence, then. All Vita’s unique control aspects are exploited brilliantly within another beguiling Media Molecule universe.
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