As the creator behind the critically-acclaimed LittleBigPlanet franchise, Media Molecule’s pedigree certainly speaks for itself. Indeed, the DIY platform series – starring the multi-faced and lovable SackBoy – quickly became synonymous with the PlayStation 3 and its handheld cousins, solidifying it as one of the most successful new IPs of the past five years. After four core entries spreads across PS3, PSP and PS Vita, not to mention a Karting spin-off, the British developer has made the decision to leave SackBoy and chums behind for a fresh take on the platform genre — Tearaway.
Right from the get-go, it’s evident that Tearaway carries the Media Molecule stamp — this is the House of SackBoy at its creative peak. Protagonist Iota shares many similarities with his stitched stablemate, from his adorable, vibrant aesthetic to the fact he can be customized and kitted out to your liking. And, like LBP, Tearaway still can’t shake that idiosyncratic spark that you’d expect from the likes of Media Molecule. In this case, the protagonist — Iota or Atoi depending on your choice of gender — must deliver a message to you, the player. Not only that, but PS Vita’s camera puts your own face – known as the You – high in the sky looking over the proceedings as you play. Not exactly your standard platformer, right?
Graphically, Tearaway is stunning and certainly differentiates itself from its contemporaries. As you’ve probably gathered by our previous coverage on the game, the platformer employs an aesthetically-pleasing, ‘paper’ visual-style that should bring a smile to anyone who has played something like Paper Mario. Everything, from the trees, logs, to the actual characters that inhabit this bizarre world, looks just like paper creations that you’d cobble together in infant school. It’s cute, yes, but also quite striking and works wonders in conjunction with the core gameplay mechanics.
Tearaway adheres very much to the same platforming paradigm you’d expect in this day and age – so expect plenty of timed jumps, rolling around in a ball and bonking baddies on the head – but with more than a few fresh tweaks to spice things up. The concept is built around interacting with two worlds — Iota’s and your own. Each stage is packed with obstacles and various environmental puzzles to overcome, and it’s here that PS Vita’s unique functionality comes directly into play. For example, stand Iota on top of a springboard-type surface, and you can use the rear touchpad to launch our vibrant protagonist skyward, allowing him to reach items or new locations.
The areas I played had plenty to see and do in this regard, and it was clear that Media Molecule has built Tearaway specifically with Sony’s handheld in mind. Along my brief journey, I had to manipulate surfaces using my fingers on the touchscreen to create makeshift pathways for Iota to traverse, or tap the rear touchpad to smack enemies into the air (causing my finger to ‘appear’ on screen) and dispatching them in a colorful blast of collectible confetti. This combination of controlling Iota and keeping a watchful eye on my surroundings for objects to interact with made for quite a compelling experience, keeping me on my toes and ensuring things never got dull. What’s more, the touchpad/screen controls never feel tacked on, and the response is smooth and intuitive. Exploring and traversing each stage is never limited to simple jumps or well-timed movement; to me, it seemed like each new area was linked to a new type of environmental puzzle that effortlessly uses the PS Vita’s various functions.
Levels are packed with items to collect, with hidden presents featuring ample confetti, papercraft plans (which you can download for yourself from the official website), and various characters that require a helping hand in exchange for extra goodies. While environments progress in a linear fashion, they’re still pretty large, and the chance to hunt down hidden collectibles comes as a welcome distraction to add to your growing collection of trinkets. PS Vita’s touch functions also extend to creating papercraft objects, requiring you to ‘draw’ a given object – be a pumpkin, snowflake or crown – and then cut it out on a crafting board Personally, these segments were a little fiddly, and the touchscreen didn’t translate my movements as accurately as I would had hoped. However, Tearaway is lenient in this respect, so as long as you have a rough drawing of the required object on paper you’re good to go. As previously mentioned, character customization also pops up, letting you kit out your hero/heroine with a variety of accessories, or during missions replace a character’s missing bow tie or facial feature by recreating it yourself on the crafting board
From my hands-on time with Tearaway, it is abundantly clear to me that Media Molecule is on to another winner with this vibrant, unique adventure. How well the game’s mechanics will appeal over the course of the game remains to be seen, and I’m eager to see what other tricks Iota has up his sleeves. Despite all the hype surrounding PS4, Tearaway is one game you need to keep an eye on this holiday season.
Tearaway is due out on PS Vita on November 22, and our hands-on time with the game was based on a downloadable preview code offered to us by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE).