I spent £13 on Tearaway: Unfolded. I feel doubly guilty – as a PlayStation Vita owner, I never bothered buying Tearaway despite being somewhat interested in it, and then didn’t even get its PS4 counterpart until it was too cheap to pass up.
So how did it fare?
Atoi is the sweetest character I’ve ever seen in a game. Dialogue-less until the very end, she instead squeaks and makes small Link-like noises for various actions. Absolutely adorable. The NPCs are the same, too – all their dialogue (excluding the narrators) are squeaky, wonderful gibberish.
What an utterly beautiful game. Tearaway’s fully-papercraft art style is unique, gorgeously-done, and so, so cute. Like LittleBigPlanet before it, Media Molecule succeeded on bringing a style to life. It’s complemented by the story, which takes you through every type of area imaginable, from sunny plains to desserts to icy mountains to futuristic laboratories to evil caves and everything inbetween.
I was ready to praise Tearaway: Unfolded but dock it marks for its shortness – six chapters, and around six hours in, the game made me feel like it was concluding. Since the game was never priced as highly as other, full-price AAA games, I figured that was my lot. Nope, a plot twist threw me into an entirely new area, and treated me to six more chapters. A hearty chuckle to myself, and an inner sense of glee at the prospect of only being halfway through this adventure, kicked me off. And all of this was cool, except for at the end of the 12th chapter, IT DID IT AGAIN AND HAD ANOTHER SIX! It took me a good 15 hours to finish Tearaway: Unfolded, and it was 15 hours of densely-packed joy.
Tearaway: Unfolded manages something that few games do – it has a large array of different gameplay mechanics that are employed throughout the game, but it never feels complicated – and that’s thanks to how evenly their introduction is spread out. You get plenty of time for each mechanic, and how/when it is to be used, to sink into your brain.
The mechanics are generally great, too. One of the first ones, the Guiding Light, is shining a godlike light out of your controller onto the game world to dazzle enemies and otherwise stimulate the world and its characters. There are drums/trampolines that bounce whatever is on them when the touchpad is tapped. You can cause a gust of wind by swiping the touchpad. Many other mechanics continue to be introduced even up to the last few chapters. And, pretty much, they all feel like they connect together well.
The sticker mechanic is so pleasing – Media Molecule clearly already know from LittleBigPlanet how satisfying it can be for a user to personalise, or desecrate, a game world to their heart’s content. The moment I realised that, despite a squirrel asking me to draw her a bow-tie, I could also satisfy her desires by sticking the word PISS to her forehead, was a wonderful one. And the game never lost its beauty, even when it snowed the word WANK.
I have my PS4 and TV by a settee, which means I can lay down on the settee while gaming. Whether it’s an issue with the game or with the PS4’s tech, I found that laying down made the controller tracking difficult – which effectively meant I was forced to sit up if I ever needed to use the Guiding Light (a mechanic used continuously throughout the game).
The camera also let the game down on many occasions. It was never a problem when the camera was under my control. But Tearaway: Unfolded likes to lock and/or steer the camera itself for certain obstacles and locations, either to be cinematic or “helpful”. Maybe 20% of the time, it was one of these – the other 80%, it was causing me to arbitrarily have no idea which direction I was facing, or straight-up knocking me out of the camera’s view so I veered straight down a ravine.
The most extreme example of this – late game, there is a section where a waterfall is splashing over the only path (a series of stepping stones) to progress, and you have to jump across while using gusts of wind to keep the waterfall off of it. The camera locks into a wide-angle view so you can work out that that is the solution to the “puzzle”, but remains locked until you’re on the other side, already making this part difficult because it seriously hinders judgment when jumping across the stones. But there is a secret that requires you to walk BEHIND the waterfall, that is very, very easy to fall off – and the game’s obsession with locking the camera means that unless you can carefully avoid the trigger that does this, it will then lock into the same location… meaning the waterfall, which is not see-through, entirely blocks your view of Atoi.
Tearaway: Unfolded is bloody superb. I really hope Mm isn’t done with it, because I feel like I’ve stolen from them at the price I paid, and would like a sequel to give them full price for.
Barring the camera and the odd kerfuffle with the controller tracking, Tearaway: Unfolded was a near-perfect experience – memorable moments densely packed into a thrilling adventure that felt both minuscule due to the papery worlds, but also vast in scope.
If you have a Vita or a PS4 and haven’t already… do it.