Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tearaway (Vita) Review

We continue our PlayStation Vita-focused month of reviews with Tearaway. It's a fantastic title, but it also does the Vita hardware's functionality proud. See how with Phil's review.

A Cut Above the Rest

With all of the unique features that the PlayStation Vita hardware has, there's really been no game that has really delved into presenting each feature successfully. The launch title Little Deviants attempted this, but it was in greatly segmented mini-game form. Leave it to the amazing minds at Media Molecule, the same developer behind the awesome LittleBigPlanet series, to create an adventure that not only makes terrific use out of the PlayStation Vita's functionality, but does so in a way that has no stench of feeling shoehorned in. This adventure, Tearaway, is not just a sublime showing of the Vita's hardware, but it's also a fantastic, endearing, and charming game in its own right.

In Tearaway, you play as either Iota or Atoi, both messengers trying to reach the sun, which just so happens to use the Vita's front-facing camera to keep a visual of your face in the middle of it. The choice of which messenger you choose has no real bearing on the story at all. It's simply a choice between a male messenger or a female messenger. However, whichever messenger you play as won't have a trouble-free journey ahead of them. To add some excitement into Tearaway, mischievous little creatures known as Scraps are let loose into the world. These are the sole antagonists in the game.

One iota of courage is all
your messenger needs!
While Tearaway is primarily a platforming adventure, your messenger's journey begins with him or her unable to jump. It's one of several abilities that must be unlocked through story progression to learn. However, don't think that Tearaway isn't a great game already just because of the inability to jump. As you move through the game, you learn multiple abilities, such as something as simple as jumping, the ability to roll, and your messenger is also given such tools as a camera and a device that sucks up enemies or shoots out wind.

Big brother's watching you, Iota!
The opening section of the game introduces you to some of the uses of the PlayStation Vita's hardware functionality, specifically the front and rear touch screens the system possesses. The rear touch screen is used in Tearaway at certain paper floors. Here, you can have a virtual version of your finger shoot up through the paper, slide it around, and interact with the world. Whether you're slamming your finger into Scraps to defeat them, lifting up a barricade for your messenger to walk under, or sliding a platform to create a path for your messenger to cross, Tearaway's back touch functionality is ingenious and executed rather well.

This early puzzle requires you to
use your finger to slide this platform.
It's not all without its minor hangups, though. Certain platforms can be activated with a tap of the rear touch pad. When your messenger is on top of them, they are launched into the air. The issue here is that on more intricate platforming perils, where you must time your tap correctly in order to cross larger chasms, it's all too easy to accidentally strike the rear of the Vita, sending your messenger into the air at the most inopportune moment. This usually leads into death as an aftermath. Now, while you have unlimited lives in Tearaway, this is frustrating for the few no-death trophies Tearaway contains.

Who knew inanimate things like
this level could have a crush on Iota?
The front touch screen has its uses as well, primarily in creating objects out of paper for various NPCs. For instance, the first opportunity you have to unleash your creativity is with the king of the squirrels. He's missing his crown, so he requests you create one for him. This is done through entering a special menu where you can drag a piece of colored construction paper onto the work space, and then draw the shape of the crown. Once you have a shape that is fully connected, you cut it out with a tap of an on-screen button.  You can use multiple construction paper pieces for a design, such as adding differently colored gems to the squirrel's desired crown, as long as they're all layered on top of each other. Not only can you create designs from paper for various NPCs, but you can also customize the look of your own character with custom designs or pre-made ones unlocked through purchasing them with confetti.

Through using the front touch screen,
you can create these ramps with a swipe of a finger.
There's numerous NPCs to help out in Tearaway, and while most are optional, it usually behooves you to assist them, as the rewards are always beneficial. One elk wants a more interesting skin pattern, so you use the Vita's camera to take a photo. The photo turns into a skin texture for the elk, satisfying his request.

I'm in a game!
Ma, I've finally made it in life!
Alongside NPC requests, each of the 13 or so unique areas in Tearway, all of which are interconnected and can also be fast traveled to via bookmarks, there's a checklist of things to do in each area. For example, you can use your messenger's camera to take photos of brightly colorless objects, thus restoring color to them. This adds its design into your papercraft collection. This isn't just to get 100% in Tearaway either, as each found papercraft model has the ability for you to follow step-by-step guides to create the models in real life. Aside from papercraft objects, there's presents to find, Scraps to defeat, and confetti to collect. Getting 100% in Tearaway is not just a great feeling, but it's an absolutely fun optional task that never comes across as a grind.

Some NPCs just want their own mustaches.
Is that really too much to ask for?
Tearaway isn't exactly the longest game out there. If you're just going to blaze through it, it might last you but a handful of hours. However, attempting to complete everything Tearaway has to offer will reward players with about 15 hours of content. It also helps that Tearaway is rather enjoyable to replay every once in a while.

In Gibbet Hill, you reunite this pumpkin
with its body multiple times to spook crows.
The world of Tearaway is completely composed of paper. The trees are made of paper, the platforms Iota or Atoi jump on are made of paper, and even the waves of the ocean are made of paper. Tearaway is breathtaking visually, although there are certain instances in the game where frame-rate issues become apparent, particularly at the Windigo Fissure. The music of Tearaway is occasionally subdued, sometimes mysterious, but always appropriate for each given situation your messenger comes across and each given area your messenger visits. The voice acting that your nebulous guides dish out are rather charming and accentuates Tearaway's tale rather well.

It's a killing field here!
Iota is tearing all these Scraps a new one.
Tearaway makes proficient use of nearly every hardware feature the PlayStation Vita possesses, and it does so without feeling too gimmicky. Whether you're putting yourself into the game through taking a selfie, using the front touch screen to roll out a path for your messenger to safely cross, or tilting the system to slide platforms around, Tearaway is always inventive and never boring. It's the quintessential PlayStation Vita game to show off the system's features. The adventure may not last as long as one might like, but Tearaway is easily a classic case of quality over quantity. To "cut" to the chase, Tearaway is without question a must-have for any Vita owner.

[SPC Says: 9.25/10]

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