|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Media Molecule|
|Release: October 22, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 544p|
by Josh Engen
Tearaway is one of those games whose aesthetic is magnetic enough to trick you into spending a little time behind the controller. Media Molecule, the publisher behind Tearaway, has a lot of experience with this kind of ornamental game design. Since 2008, they've been working on the LittleBigPlanet franchise, and simply based on their history, it's probably safe to assume that their newest expedition will be something interesting.
Plus, Tearaway doesn't land very far outside of LittleBigPlanet's signature charm. You take on the role of a delivery boy or girl who is trying to transport an important message. However, and this is where it gets a little weird, the letter is addressed to you. The player. In reality.
So, not only do you control the title’s in-game protagonist, but also you, the real you, will affect the storyline through your physical interactions with the in-game world. You'll be asked to reach into the world using some of the Vita’s unique control schemes, rescue the Messenger from attackers, and then return to your god-like seat.
At its core, Tearaway is about breaking down the walls between reality and those worlds that only exist inside of our favorite consoles, and the folks over at Media Molecule have practically nuked the fourth wall. I've honestly never felt like any developer has managed to pull off such a massive deconstruction of modern game design with such a sense of flair. And the fact that this studio only has two other titles under its belt makes this kind of narrative control all the more surprising.
The demo that I managed to get my hands on at E3 had a bit of backstory regarding the paper-pieced characters and the evolution of the universe's folklore. But once the intro was complete, I immediately found myself looking through the Vita's rear-facing camera. However, as I shook the little console, the two worlds—the in-game world and my own—began to converge, and I found myself receiving a message from the tiny, paper characters that had taken up residence inside the Vita.
Sadly, though, the message was quickly swallowed back into to the paper world, and our character’s trek was underway.
Aside from the touch-based controls and the video camera elements, Tearaway is a very standard third-person adventure game. It's nothing fancy, and the graphics aren't very impressive, but it has more personality than most of the video games in history.
However, it's when the touch-based controls and the standard controls start to interact that the game becomes truly brilliant. You really will need to think of yourself as two very separate characters as you complete some of the puzzles in the title. Even during my short experience with Tearaway, I found that the game tested my brainpower, and it required me to reconsider what I know about game design.
The title’s paper aesthetic underlines the fragility of life, both in and out of the game, but it also captures a kind of introspective naivety that defines the title’s mood. There's a darkness to this game, but you don't really notice it at first, and that's a very good thing.
Throughout the campaign, you'll collect little chunks of confetti, which will allow you to craft in-game items. Media Molecule spent a lot of time consulting with paper-craft professionals about good design practices and implementations. And they're allowing you to benefit from all of their newfound expertise.
You'll be able to create trophies, crowns, and a potpourri of other in-game items using the title's crafting engine. The producers are hoping that this will inspire the community to break the walls down even further and start crafting in reality.
"We’ve been releasing papercraft plans to make little guys like the squirrels and the elk and things like that," said James Spafford, the community manager at Media Molecule, in an interview with PlayStation Lifestyle, "and even actually before we released them people have started to embrace this world and started to make things out of paper, which is exactly what we wanted them to do. So we take that wonderfully creative community of LittleBigPlanet and show them some more creativity, and they just leap on it, it’s so amazing. “
What I'm about to say is probably an overstatement, but I'm going to say it anyway; Tearaway could save the Vita.
I'm sure that it won't single-handedly make people purchase the Vita, but it proves that Sony's newest portable is a powerful storytelling machine while simultaneously creating a brand-new, Vita-centric franchise. This could be the kind of thing that turns the little system around, but, like I said, I might be far too optimistic.
But that's the kind of thing that Tearaway does to you.
Plus, after Tearaway is released in October, I'll finally be able to play my Vita in public without being embarrassed.
Date: July 22, 2013