'Tearaway' review: A wonderful Vita experience

Saturday, 04 January 2014 04:59 PM Written by 

TearawayBoxI have yet to see a single advertisement for the PS Vita’s “Tearaway”; not a TV spot, not even a banner ad on a game site. The game’s lack of marketing is a near-criminal on a handheld that is already struggling. “Tearaway” is not only one of the best games available for the device. It’s one of the best games of the year, and it deserves to be seen by more eyes.

“Tearaway” rekindled my appreciation for the Vita. It uses nearly every ability of Sony’s handheld, and integrates them into the experience so well that they feel more organic than forced. The developers at Media Molecule are known for their whimsical style of the “LittleBigPlanet” series. That style is evident from the game’s opening stanza.

The story follows a character known as Iota. His or her (gender can be picked at the beginning) journey is to deliver a message to “The You.” The You is actually the player, whose moving face pops in the game world’s sun thanks to the Vita’s front facing camera. The people inside Iota’s world want to reach out to The You, and learn more about this world beyond their own.

Enemies known as scraps begin to pour out of The You’s world, creating enemies and obstacles for Iota.  It must travel through the many locations of their world, to finally deliver its important message.

It would be too easy to call this game a platformer. There is running and jumping, but the gameplay is more focused on exploration than jumping from A to B. Every environment in “Tearaway” is there to be experienced and enjoyed. The developers wanted to tell a story, while implementing creative gameplay mechanics with the Vita hardware. They didn’t want the player to be frustrated with difficult battles, or tests of skill. Basically, the game says, “Here’s the story of Iota. Now make it your own.”

Having a bit more of a challenge would have been welcome. Discovering new levels, and putting your own spin on the environment is rewarding, but the lack of difficulty feels like it’s a step above being on rails. I would’ve liked an added challenge, especially towards the later levels.

Like “LittleBigPlanet,” “Tearaway’s” character is in its customization. The world is made entirely of paper. Animals and landscapes are pieces of paper folded into shapes, and textures have the appearance of a piece of drawing paper. You’ll be called upon to poke the rear touchpad, which pokes through the paper on the screen. Even Iota’s head is the message he or she is trying to deliver.

Its focus on paper goes along with its promotion of creation. Paper in real life is a hands-on, and a very tangible thing, whether you’re picking it up and folding it into something, or just drawing. The developers wanted to translate this experience into a video game, which is something that seems nearly impossible. But the Vita makes it possible, and the way it’s made possible is “Tearaway’s” crowning achievement.

The game calls upon the player’s creativity to make his or her own objects that can be placed into the game world. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to make objects for certain characters. You’ll then be able to create whatever object you’d like on the Vita’s touch screen. You’ll pick a color of paper, and then make the outline of an object. The object you created will then be used as a prop within the game.

If you’re not a skillful artist (and I am not), “Tearaway” helps out with its use of the Vita’s camera. You can take pictures of the real world, which can then be used as textures within the game. These creations can be captured and shared online.

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The entire plot is built around the goal of delivering this message to The You, and the finale doesn’t disappoint. It’s actually one of the more touching moments I’ve experienced on a handheld. Without spoiling anything, It’s the perfect ending to an overall great experience.

The Vita doesn’t have enough games as it is, let alone special ones like “Tearaway.” If you’re looking for an experience built exclusively for the handheld, and one that takes advantage of all its power, this game is the perfect fit. It’s the Vita’s best game of 2013.

 

9 out of 10

 

Pros:

Brilliantly uses all of the Vita’s tech
Unique art style
Gameplay calls upon user creation

Cons:

Could be more challenging

 

 Platform   PlayStation Vita 
 Rating  E for Everyone
 Price  $39.99 
 Release Date   11/22/13 

 

 

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