I got a chance to play a demo of Tearaway today at E3. I enjoyed it a lot, but it’s very early on in the game and there’s still a lot Media Molecule need to get right to make it a true classic. For now it really feels like something that could be enjoyed by everyone – a similar feeling I got when playing Puppeteer. For me this is a holy grail of gaming and something in my opinion only Nintendo has been trying and succeeding to do in the past few years. Sony have in the past achieved universality with games like Gran Turismo, Singstar and, to a lesser extent, LittleBigPlanet. Tearaway is unlikely to sell as well as those, but it has the potential to be enjoyed by a wide range of people.
Tearaway features a world entirely made of paper craft. It’s a really charming and colourful world, with cute squirrel and giraffe non-player characters made of paper as well as flowers and trees. You play as a messenger, although I don’t know what the message is. The demo is very early on in the game, which I was relieved to find out because I couldn’t jump! The very first thing I felt when I started running around the world was that I would very much like to jump. So I pressed X and nothing happened. So sad! The jump move was added to the character’s abilities near the end of the demo and the game felt infinitely better for it. Not being able to jump was actually used effectively in the stage – instead of jumping you have to find other ways to climb such as being thrown up by drums or catching riding platforms. I was assured that over the course of the game you not only get to jump, you also get more abilities such as rolling. I wonder if you get a laminated ability so you can swim.
There is a lot of touch interaction, and it works really well, or, at least, doesn’t get in the way and feels natural. For example, drums which propel The Messenger upwards are activated (or banged on) by tapping the rear screen. These are used for a number of different puzzles just within the level I played. Some other items (presents and pop-ups) need you to open them by touching on two spots and pulling them apart. One little squirrel wants you to create a crown for him out of yellow paper, and you cut a shape out and stick it on him, which is pretty fun because he shows up again in the demo wearing this funny-shaped crown you made, looking very pleased with himself. The various characters are charming and full of personality. In another spot a giant record spins with your face on it (you take a photo at some point and it appears in various places) and you can stop the music by holding the record. You need to do this because the music is controlling various moving platforms. If you want you can even scratch the record back and forth to make a remix of the music. The music feels like an integral part of the game, not just in this section where you interact with it, but in every section because of the happy atmosphere it creates.
Things you can interact with have a design over them that look like fingerprints, or a design with squares and circles, so it’s always clear what you can tap, touch or slide your fingers on. There was no point where I felt I was repeating myself, and there was no point where I felt I didn’t know what to do. The game leads you really well, telling you just enough. My hope is that the concepts are not re-used lots of times later in the game, that Media Molecule find enough ideas that each idea can be used really well only once. In my opinion Tearaway should be a shorter, tighter game rather than one that is filled with re-used ideas. It remains to be seen how Media Molecule handle this.
There was no indication in this stage of collectibles other than confetti which unlocks items to decorate your character with. As you collect the coloured paper bits they fill up a tube on the right of the screen. Once this tube is full you unlock an item that can be used to customise your character. Completing missions and defeating bosses will unlock papercraft which can be transferred onto your computer and printed so you can make your own paper craft items.
Tearaway looks like it will be a must have PS Vita title, especially if you like platforming games that revolve a bit more around solving the puzzle of the platform than the dexterity of a Mario game. Tearaway will be released on October 22nd in North America, October 23rd in Europe, October 24th in Australia and New Zealand, and October 25th in the UK and Ireland. Head over here for El33tonline’s previous coverage of this charming portable adventure from the creators of LittleBigPlanet, and don’t miss this new trailer from E3 below.