Tearaway Unfolded for PS4
I’ve long been curious about the PS Vita; it has some really interesting looking games in its library and a fiercely devoted fanbase. Sadly, I already have one underdog console I love irrationality despite a dearth of games; Wii U. Thankfully, Sony seem to have read the writing on the wall and seem in the process of porting most of the best looking exclusives over to PS4. This must be a bit galling for the Vita owners and I sympathise, but for me, it’s great!
In Tearaway you can choose to play as the male Iota or the female Atoi, a letter made sentient and given limbs that must be delivered to the player. You must make your way to rift in the sky, a rift to our ‘real’ world while You manipulate the world to help your protagonist make their journey as a godlike figure from the rift. The actual narrative itself in Tearaway is likeable, but the way that it brings the player themselves in as a figure is really interesting. It’s all very meta and interesting and succeeds in making you feel more personally involved in all the whimsical silliness going on.
I normally don’t talk about visuals until the end of a review, but the visual style is so tied into the core mechanics of Tearaway that I can’t avoid it. The world of Tearaway is based almost entirely on papercraft and this ties into the core mechanics in a way more profound than the similar concept Paper Mario series. It looks lovely, with a massive variety which ranges from colourful and lively to genuinely spooky and striking. The attention to detail is astonishing, with simple things like the way your character moves becoming a joy to behold. The music is very nice too, with a strong Celtic influence featuring lots of violin. There are two voiced roles who do a good job narrating the plot. All tied around a lovely 60FPS framerate, Tearaway is a feast for the senses.
Tearaway Unfolded instantly appealed to me because it’s a colourful 3D platformer, a neglected genre which first brought me into gaming. The core jumping and running mechanics aren’t really the best and can’t compete with the precision of a 3D Mario game, but that doesn’t end up being the focus. Tearaway Unfolded feels like a really good console launch game, in that it uses pretty much every bit of functionality that the PS4 controller has. You’ll be swiping the touchpad to create gusts of wind, tilting it to move things around and shining a light from it onto the world. Yes, these are gimmicks, but they are actually used for some pretty clever tricks. Unlike a lot of games like this where you simply get a new trick for a level and mostly abandon the old ones, Tearaway crescendos as you end up using pretty much every mechanic in the final sections, making things complicated but never convoluted. This being a 3D platformer there are the expected camera issues, which wound up being my biggest irritation. It’s not a deal breaker or anything, but it doesn’t always work as well as it should. Precise jumping is tricky too and Tearaway is at its best where it focuses on its unique gimmicks rather than clever platforming. There is a combat system, but it’s not particularly fun or challenging and I almost always wanted it to be over.
Although obviously not so much so as LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway Unfolded is a love letter to creativity. You’ll frequently be asked to draw new things to put on to the environment, which I’m sure worked well on the Vita’s touch screen but really doesn’t on the PS4 touchpad. It’s a nice touch and I’m such a crap artist it makes little difference, but I imagine that if you take pride in your artwork this may be an irritation. Your creations pop up regularly and it’s nice to feel that you’ve put your stamp on the world. Tearaway is very concerned with making your experience feel personal and while I suspect that most of this personalisation is an illusion it is a convincing feeling one.
Tearaway Unfolded lacks the simple purity of other 3D platformers, but it makes up for it in imagination and engaging gimmickry. Tearaway bamboozles you with charm and ideas and it’s easy to let yourself get carried along for the ride; it’s not the deepest or most fulfilling experience and I doubt I’ll be thinking about it for weeks afterwards, but as a light gaming snack it cannot be faulted.