In an industry that can often be seen as a little too macho-centric, it’s easy to forget that companies such as Media Molecule are breaking the mould at every instance. LittleBigPlanet came on the scene with cute visuals and an adorable mascot who fronted a whole new type of creativity within console gaming. A cynic could say that Media Molecule has wrung out all the saccharine and twee already, but Tearaway is building up to release as a game that will rot your teeth as you play.
An early hands on with the game shows that the creating team has once again thought outside the box and has approached, not just the concept of the game, but the platform on which it sees a release in an entirely fresh and unique way. Some could say that no company has yet to master the technology within the Vita or capitalise on the possible potential of Sony’s waning handheld. However, Media Molecule have created something that is not only incredibly enjoyable but feels intuitive to actually play.
Once the bright, eye-popping visuals have faded and the loose idea of a story has been hung, it is time to create a messenger – your avatar in the papercraft world. Of course, this is the maker of one of the most creative franchises, so it’s clear that building this small envelope person is going to allow vast customisation. Only as you progress can you chop and change body parts, but even the base design at the start allows for your imagination to stretch. With this new title, the creativity is in your fingertips.
Tearaway uses every function of the Vita in order to draw endless smiles from those with big hands or small hands. When the sun first rises within the gameworld and shows your face as seen through the front facing camera, the first cheek bursting grin is displayed. It is highly unlikely that anyone can see their own face pictured like the Teletubbies baby with pulling a face. Herein lies the power of the concept; Tearaway is just really great fun. After an introduction which sees the player using the touchscreen and analogue sticks, it’s clear that the way we use our hands is integral to the game.
This is explored further and most originally in the use of the rear touchpad. Often, the messenger will reach an area that features the same design as the touchpad itself. On the first instance of this occurrence you are asked to touch the rear of the Vita to clear the area of Scraps (the bad guys), upon your fingertips meeting the unit, they digitally burst through the ground and sweep the area clear. Thankfully the developer hasn’t made the game easy to match the sugary visuals, there will be times where you’ll wish you had more fingers to take advantage of certain situations.
The adventure itself does seem rather easy going from the first quarter of the game. As your messenger journeys on, new abilities are unlocked, so it’s easily imaginable that the game could offer a challenge to some at later stages. It’s seems that Media Molecule want the player to explore and, more importantly, create. When exploring areas confetti can be found which can then be spent on items to personalise your messenger or certain aspects of the environment. Also, if you can’t find a look you really want, you can draw your own accessories from coloured paper using the touchscreen, these can be as intricate as your imagination allows.
It’s easy to see that a community will quickly build upon release. Sharing is as integral as in LittleBigPlanet. With Tearaway you’ll be taking photos of scenes within your game, changing the lens’ and filters and uploading them online. It wouldn’t be a modern idea of in game photography without a “selfie” button which allows you to show off your messenger to your friends. But, it’s the small touches and minutiae that truly adds to the character of Tearaway.
There is a lovely amalgamation of traditional console game and the touch interfaces that are now so popular. Small touches such as opening presents of theatre curtains by spreading your thumbs are a delight to younger players and a subtle touch for older players. Then there’s platforms made from records that allow the player to transform the environment by scratching a rhythm. And an ability to roll into a tiny ball and shoot down slides that are manipulated on the touchscreen as you roll just adds more charm.
Tearaway looks to be a solid entry into the Vita catalogue of games. More than that, it could be seen as a system seller to younger players. While I played, my six year old daughter was enraptured by the ideas of her effect on the game world. She adored the idea of adding her face to signs in game or moving papercraft platforms around as we played. Then there’s the in game collecting of papercraft items that can then be printed and made when your Vita runs out of juice.
With so much interactivity and possible potential, Media Molecule have hit the proverbial nail on the head. Sony need games such as Tearaway to showcase what other developers can wrangle from the system. There’s sadly a chance that the game will be lost in the Christmas shake up. In an ideal world Tearaway will capture an audience both young and old with its unique take on modern platforming adventures and spawn even more inventive games for the future.