I first went hands on with Media Molecule’s PS Vita game Tearaway back in February, but at that point, it was less of a game and more of a smorgasbord of brilliant ideas, all disconnected from one another. The potential was certainly there, but Media Molecule hadn’t yet found a way to tie it all together. After playing a near-final preview build, it’s clear they found the glue to bring together a world of paper, scraps, and happy thoughts in the most heartwarming way.
Right away the game puts you in control of the entire world, its inhabitants, and the existence around them. You’re God, and every character in Tearaway sees your actual face when they gaze up into the sun. I let out more than a few loud laughs as I caught my own face in the upper corner of the screen during a cutscene or in the midst of solving a puzzle, and I couldn’t help myself but to make silly faces—I want to be known as a peculiar God.
It’s a small touch, but I mention it to demonstrate the almost familiar cutesy-ness to be found in Tearaway and that Tearaway takes advantage of all of the PS Vita’s various inputs to let you interact with the game world—this case being the front-facing camera capturing your ugly mug and superimposing it onto the sun. I say almost-familiar, because no evidence of Media Molecule’s other game, LittleBigPlanet, can be found in Tearaway, but the adorable characters, attention to detail, and infinite sense of wonder is not only in-tact, but more prevalent than ever.
As God, you guide iota (or his female counterpart atoi) through a land where everything—trees, animals, water, etc.—are all made of construction paper, and it’s presented as sort of a linear, but open-world-feeling, pop-up book. Paper trees sway curiously in the wind, and snowflakes that you design, draw, and cut-out yourself float slowly to the ground.
Although you’re moving iota and the camera behind him with the analog sticks, you must constantly be touching both the front and back touchpanels of the PS Vita. On the front, you’ll do things like pull pop-up tabs to open presents or manipulate obstacles. And on the back, you poke your fingers through thin, PlayStation-button adorned wrapping paper to move larger objects, solve puzzles, and even attack the enemies in the game aptly called “scraps”.
As you progress, Iota will come across a Squirrel that’s lost his crown. A touch-screen mini-game follows that has you drawing out an outline of a crown on construction paper, cutting it out, then layering jewels you too cut out of construction paper onto it to complete the look. If you’re crafty, the Squirrel will be so overcome with joy, he’ll give you a camera. This camera can restore other objects and characters throughout the world that have their color sucked out of them back to their previously colorful selves—with an added bonus of making what you’ve restored available to you as printable papercraft on the social-sharing site tearaway.me (not live at the time of this writing). It’s an incredibly cute way to bring the game world into real life, much like the game pulls you from the real world into the game.
Aside from all of the adorable little features I’ve already discussed, the important part, the gameplay, is delightful. Puzzles, although early in the game, are challenging enough, fun to experiment with, and designed cleverly. Facing off with enemies, then tossing them into each other to see them explode into confetti is a sheer joy. Then, to use this confetti to decorate and dress up iota and the world around him is the icing on the cake.
iota’s got quite a quest in front of him, and I truly cannot wait to play more of it. Interacting with the adorable, tactile world of Tearaway made my day, and it made me smile. Other PS Vita devs should take note of way Media Molecule has put the PS Vita’s inputs to use in fun, accessible, and interesting ways. If this preview was any indication of the quality of the final game, Tearaway will be a runaway success with critics—or anyone who is a kid at heart. November 22nd can’t get here soon enough.