Media Molecule made a name for themselves this generation by creating a wildly creative platformer set in a fabulously fabric world of digital textiles. Cloth, wool, felt, cotton made up the world of LittleBigPlanet. Their newest game is made up of a different sort of material: Paper.
The entire world of Tearaway seems to have been created and glued together by some insane scrapbooker. Everything is made from bits of torn or folded, brightly coloured paper, and the whole thing focuses on an envelope-headed messenger‘s quest to deliver a message.
It all starts when a dashingly sexy face breaks through from the real world in to papercraft world that’s in the Vita and, thanks to the Vita’s front facing camera, becomes the face in the sun. This naturally, confuses and terrifies the local papercraft populace, but the game’s not about them. It’s about Iota (or Atoi depending on your gender preference), the Messenger who has a special message for the otherworldly face in the sun. It’s also about you, as you interface with the world as a You.
The Messengers’ quest will take him through many varied and interesting different lands, but it won’t be a simple journey. The same tear in the world that allows your face to shine through has brought an invading army of Scraps; little box monsters that’re sucking up the joy and colour leaving bland and uninteresting newspaper in their wake. Vanquishing them is easy enough; make them miss an attack and then pick their dizzy frames up and toss them at a wall or over a cliff. Later, taller Scraps will have you rolling into a ball to take out their stilts. Later still, a weapon comes in to play that you’ll use for sucking up aerial Scraps and spitting them away. It’s fun, but hardly complex.
It plays, for the most part as a 3D platformer; you’ll jump on platforms, walking in, on and around things and even ride a paper pig, but it’s more about exploration than real platforming. Each area is peppered with presents, confetti and characters in need of your help and it takes quite an eye to find it all. Where Tearaway really distinguishes itself is in how it makes you interact with the world. Specially designated paper in the world allows you to push through it by pressing the Vita’s rear-touch pad, your fingers displayed on the vita’s screen as if you broke through the Vita. To get the Messenger to his goal, he’ll need more help. Some platforms act as drums that you tap from the back, to give Iota a bit of a lift. Other bits of paper on the front screen have you pulling at them, moving about bits of paper and cardboard as if you had the hand of God, interfacing directly with the world.
It’s not just a one-way street either. The Messenger is given a camera with which to record the adventure, but the camera isn’t just for instagramming your breakfast cappuccino. Objects that are missing their colour can be photographed, returning their brighter hues and unlocking those objects for download as real papercraft templates, allowing the game to invade the real world too. Similarly, objects in the real world you take pictures of in the real world can enter the world of Tearaway. There’s a moose in my game that looks awfully like my duvet.
Customisation is very much a part of Tearaway. Right from the beginning, the Messenger can be heavily customised, made to look however you like. You can remove his eyes and replace them with smiley teeth or pumpkins if you like, and it’s not just for show. Some quests actually require you to add embellishments to characters, or Iota himself. One particularly memorable bit had me design a snowflake. Taking a bit of blue paper and a bit of pink paper I cut-and-pasted together some crude shape, and soon the entire scene was covered in bubblegum ice-cream coloured snow.
Together, it evokes a child-like sense of wonder and delight, and it feels a little bit like magic. That sense of wonderment though is fleeting. Tearaway is not an especially long game, and the whole thing could be completed in an afternoon. Beyond collecting everything, there’s little reason to return. The wonky camera system, common to so many 3D platformers of this ilk, often gets in the way and the frame-rate occasionally dips to a stutter but they’re minor problems that hardly diminish the magic.
While it lasts , Tearaway’s sumptuous, papercraft world and intriguing controls will have you grinning from ear-to-ear.