When Tearaway launched on the Playstation Vita in 2013, I wasn’t especially enamored by the experience. While the game has a very defined and seemingly charming presentation, Tearaway failed to captivate me on the Vita’s smaller screen. Perhaps it’s the effect of a a larger television or 7.1 surround sound, but something’s changed. Tearaway Unfolded pulled me into its papercraft world as I found a new appreciation for the whimsical experience that Media Molecule have created. With additional content and a sharper presentation only possible on home hardware, have no doubt, Tearaway Unfolded is much more than a port.
In Tearway Unfolded, like the original you are tasked to undertake an adventure as either Iota, or his female counterpart Atoi. During this adventure you’ll journey across a diverse and wondrous papercraft world, filled with perils and challenges both typical, and atypical of platforming adventure games. The core of Unfolded’s innovation comes from its application of the Dual Shock 4’s unique features. The touchpad can be used to change the direction of the wind in order to blow around aspects of the papercraft environment, or tapped to bang on drumskins enabling Iota or other objects to use them as a bounce-pad, while the dualshock 4’s light bar is emulated in-game as a means of using light to manipulate elements of the world around you.
Although these unique uses of the Dual Shock 4 controller create very interesting and unique gameplay mechanics, when taken alongside the games narrative acknowledgement of the players role in Iota’s adventure they also help create an almost tangible connection between player and game. Tearaway is consistently breaking the fourth wall, and not in a way that’s comical or superficial, but meaningful and involving. It gives the game a very unique flair, and the player, a sense of agency that very few games possess. There’s a real sense that Iota’s adventure is dependent on you, and without your help he won’t be able to finish his quest and deliver a message to your world. The end result is an experience that’s immersive like few others, and unbelievably satisfying to play as a result.
The message Iota needs to deliver is a mystery of course, and the intrigue that’s naturally associated with unveiling its secret is what pushes your journey forwards, both for Iota as a fictional character and you as the player. On this journey you’ll meet a wide range of characters and progress through an array of colourful, papercraft environments. Despite everything being made of a single material, Tearaway still manages to offers plentiful aesthetic variety, with themes ranging from vibrant forests filled with butterflies and playful squirrels, to industrial areas that are permeated by a dark and almost lonely atmosphere. Some of the more dynamic elements are truly beautiful and watching strands of paper flicker in order to emulate a fire is almost mesmerizing.
Although each of the chapters in Tearaway unfolded is populated dominantly by platforming challenges, there are a number of enemies Iota must defeat along the way. Scraps they’re called, odd bits of paper that have poured into Iota’s world from our own. Combat mechanics relatively are simple, yet inventive allowing you to use a variety of your god-like powers to help Iota in defeating these foes. Enemies can be blown away by the wind, or hypnotized by the light from the Dual Shock 4 controller. It’s not challenging, and if you do manage to die the game merely places you very close to where you were defeated, but it does feel rewarding to use these abilities successfully and I found some of the ways in which I was able to help Iota kill the scraps rather humorous.
Interestingly, Tearaway often asks you to create elements of its world yourself. From snowflakes to hats for squirrels there are various instances where you must cut and stick together bits of paper in order to craft your own contribution to Tearaway’s universe. These influences are small, but powerful, allowing you to provide a demonstration of your almost god-like presence in Tearaway’s universe. Sometimes the creation tools can come across as a little clumsy though, and while the Dual Shock 4’s touchpad is a capable enough as a basic drawing tool, this aspect of the game was handled better on the Playstation Vita. You can however use the Tearaway app for your smartphone, which features a much more robust creation toolbox allowing you to better realise your papercraft creations.
As well as papercraft, the game also promotes creativity in the form of photography. Its very early on in the game that a squirrel gifts you a camera, and from there onwards your expected to go nuts, snapping photos of just about anything that takes your interest. The camera comes with a wide range of unlockable lenses and filters, and you can even make short animated .gifs in order capture the more dynamic aspects of Tearaway. Selfie’s are a thing too of course, and this integrates nicely with the games crafting elements as you can dress up Iota and many of the worlds inhabitants with a wide variety of preset or user crafted decorations. I met a Gopher that wanted a new outfit and name, so I dressed him up as Delsin Rowe from Infamous Second Son, and then named him Delsin Ropher, of course.
Those who have played Tearaway on the Playstation Vita will be pleased with how much has changed this time around. While around 50% of the game appeared recognizable to me, even these segments were characterized by new gameplay facilitated by the Dual Shock 4 specific mechanics. It’s a positive change that helps keep both titles relevant, as Tearaway Unfolded isn’t explictely better than the Vita version, more specifically, they are simply different games. While I preferred my playthrough of the Playstation 4 iteration, this also made me want to go back to the PS Vita incarnation and experience the world with a different perspective once more.
Tearaway does have significant limitation however, and this stems from its linearity. Unlike many traditional platformers like Banjo Kazooie or Spyro the Dragon where you’re free to roam each stage in any way you will, Tearaway pushes you forward on a relatively linear path. There are some elements of exploration and plentiful hidden collectibles but the manner in which the game is played is very similar from one playthrough to the next. This inherently limits the games replayability as playing the game over again offers little opportunity for variation. Despite this, there are enough collectibles and unlockable mechanics to justify a second playthrough, as certain collectibles can only be accessed by backtracking to previous chapters with newly unlocked abilities. However it’s hard to imagine wanting to experience the game much more than that, as unlike its contemporaries which offer flexibility to the manner in which you approach each level and objective, Tearaway is somewhat restrictive.
The collectibles themselves feel intrinsically rewarding however. There’s something about Tearaway’s universe that just makes you feel good about helping a squirrel restore his royal crown, and subsequently completing these odd little quests come as a fun distraction. The collectibles themselves grant you either additional in-game currency or unlock papercraft plans that you can print and create in the real world. It’s a neat extra and some fans will enjoy these little touches, but those without a printer capable of printing onto thin-card will struggle to enjoy this aspect of the game. Still, I plan on taking my plans to a local printing shop and seeing if I can build a squirrel king of my own… probably not as the plans themselves are quite complex, but it furthers Tearaways grasp into our reality, and if little else is merely another, small element that strengthens the connection between our own, and Iota’s world.
All of these unique, creative features come together to make Tearaway something of its own; an entirely unique gaming experience where innovative gameplay is bound with an endearing papercraft artstyle and lovable narrative. It’s these unique qualities that make Tearaway a pleasure to play, as every turn on Iota’s journey offers something new or inventive for the player to engage with. Tearaway’s only significant limitation stems from its linearity, as although there’s more than enough game to justify two playthrough’s the game doesn’t offer enough freedom to justify the near endless replayability that its contemporaries have often provided. Despite this, Tearaway Unfolded is both inventive, and a joy to play, an absolute must have for Playstation 4 owners.