Tearaway: Unfolded (Review)

 

A platformer just shy of perfection

Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Format: PlayStation 4
Released: September 8, 2015
Copy obtained via PlayStation Plus

Originally released for the PlayStation Vita, Tearaway introduced players to a cute little messenger, a delightful world crafted from paper, and one of the most ingenious uses of handheld hardware to date. Utilizing the camera, microphone, and touch features, Tearaway made the Vita itself an integral part of the experience. With the “Unfolded” edition on PlayStation 4, the charming world of Tearaway makes its console debut, complete with an extended plot and enhanced gameplay mechanics.

The world of Tearaway is a delightful one, what with its bright colors and paper aesthetic. The game opens by introducing a little paper messenger (who you can choose to be either male or female) and explaining to you its task. It holds an important letter that must be delivered to the world of the You (yes, you the player). It’s up to you to help guide the little paper pal on its journey and discover what its message has to say.

Although the game is fully playable without any sort of peripheral, the game is enhanced by the inclusion of the PlayStation camera and a microphone. The camera allows you to put yourself directly in the game, having your face appear in the center of the sun to look down at the messenger throughout its adventure. You can wave at the messenger, use an in-game camera to photograph yourself inside the game, and even use your microphone to include your own voice as part of the experience.

Tearaway also does fascinating things with the DualShock, allowing the messenger to pick up objects and throw them at the screen, which transports them inside of the controller. You can then slide your finger across the touchpad to launch the object back into the game with high velocity, which is perfect for attacking enemies or clearing obstacles in your path. Similar to its Vita predecessor, Tearaway: Unfolded does a great job of utilizing the features of the PlayStation 4 and its peripherals to create a clever and memorable gaming experience.

As you travel though Tearaway’s 15 levels, you’ll run, jump, and roll your way across all sorts of risky scenarios. From bottomless pits, heavy crushing paper, and tiny paper enemies called Scraps, Tearaway throws a lot of peril at you to overcome. The game does some really clever things with the paper nature of its world, such as tasking you with changing the direction of the wind to make paper fly out in different directions to make pathways. For the most part, Tearaway is far above average in its platforming capabilities. Everything feels right, both the way your character moves and the way the environment is designed for you to conquer.

However, where Tearaway falters is its camera. The camera can be extremely frustrating, often getting stuck or moving wildly of its own accord. Several of my deaths in the game were due to the camera drastically shifting around me during a jump and making it impossible to lineup where I was trying to land. There were also fights where the camera would stutter or lock up, which just resulted in enemies killing me from off-screen. As frustrating as it was to deal with, the camera issues weren’t able to bring down the rest of the game.

With the game world being comprised entirely of paper, it gave the team at Media Molecule unlimited potential to play with the look and design of the world. Every object looks like you could make it yourself with a little bit of practice, which Media Molecule knew players would want to do. So, in what I think is one of the coolest features of the game, you can find collectibles which are the actual paper plans to make everything you encounter. Finding these collectibles gives you a link to a webpage where you can download the paper plan and make a copy of an item or character in real life. I haven’t gotten around to doing any of these yet, but I DO plan on doing so. Don’t worry, I’ll post another blog post showing them when I get around to it.

This paper world is such a delight to explore and discover. Tearaway has a strong diversity in its environments, even if they all retain the same paper look. From dark woods, foggy mountains, and bright sunny fields, Tearaway delivers a series of varied environments for you to play in. One of the things that kept me playing, despite the wonky camera, was the desire to see what each new environment would look like and how it would use paper to make its setting believable. In case you couldn’t tell, I was taken by the visual design of the game, which I genuinely think is one of the coolest aesthetics I’ve ever seen inside of a video game.

Likewise, the characters you meet in each world vary as well. From woodland looking critters, to humanoid fish, Tearaway throws a bunch of strange and goofy characters in your path. Some of them, such as a traveling squirrel, even offer side quests, which offer short experiences based around different features of the DualShock. Some may ask you to use the touchpad to draw them a certain design, while some might need you to find them an item or take a picture. These little tasks are completed in just a few moments, but they’re the best way to earn confetti, which is the currency in the paper world. This confetti can then be used to buy new filters for your camera or to unlock a staggering amount of facial features to customize your messenger.

Unfortunately, the variation in level design and characters doesn’t crossover to the enemies. The Scraps are small little box shaped baddies who strip the world of its color and leave trails of black and white newspaper wherever they go. Throughout the 15 levels of the game, you only encounter 3 or 4 variations of the Scrap, all of which can be easily defeated. You can hypnotize them by pointing your controller at the screen and make them jump off the side of the stage, or you can simply pick up objects and throw them at them, which is a guaranteed one-hit kill. The visual design of the Scraps is cool, but the game would have benefitted from more enemy variations, especially if they were themed to each new world.

FINAL VERDICT

Tearaway: Unfolded is a great game with a few major flaws. The paper world is an incredibly cool design, which makes traveling through it a joy. The use of the PlayStation Camera and microphone (although optional) further adds to the experience, giving the game an extra sense of interactivity that’s missing from most games. Unfortunately, the experience is bogged down by an occasionally horrendous camera and a lack of enemy variations. It’s a not a perfect game, by any means, but if you’re willing to put up with a bit of a struggle, you’ll find a charming little gem under the surface.

– Zack Burrows

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