Developer: Media Molecule/Tarsier Studios
Medium: Blu-ray Disc/Digital
Online: Social Content
Media Molecule is one of those unique game development studios that very obviously put their heart and soul into any project they work on. LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway were magical, joyful experiences for many players, and the 4th wall breaking storylines and gameplay concepts were especially effective in pulling gamers into their hand-crafted worlds. I always hate to say that a game was “sent to die”, but the original Tearaway PlayStation Vita launch date was certainly less than ideal. While it wasn’t a commercial hit by any means, Tearaway is still one of the most enjoyable and creative PS Vita titles available for the system. With the release of Tearaway Unfolded for the PS4 it’s exciting to see that Sony and MM found a way to adapt the unique gameplay to a platform where it can be appreciated by a greater audience.
Tearaway Unfolded tells the story of an adorable messenger known as Atoi (or Iota if male). Having an envelope for a head and an origami body, our protagonist is the sort of charming character that you would expect to be dreamed up by the uber-creative designers at Media Molecule. She/he (ultimately the player’s decision) teams up with you, the player, to rescue the papercraft world from the evil scraps by delivering a mysterious, important message directly to the individual playing the game. The story in Tearaway starts off relatively happy-go-lucky but it also has a few darker twists and turns before the credits roll. In typical Media Molecule fashion, Tearaway ends up digging deeper into emotional territory than players may expect from a colorful platformer.
The original PS Vita version of Tearaway heavily utilized the platform’s rear and front touch screens, motion controls, and built-in camera and microphone, so it was understandably difficult to conceptualize how these ideas could map to a console game and controller. Thankfully the unique functionality offered by the DualShock 4 (and optionally the PS Camera), including the light bar, speaker, touchpad, second screen app and motion controls, do a extraordinary job in providing a familiar yet re-imagined portal into Tearaway’s stylish pop-up universe.
Many of the levels in Tearaway Unfolded were rebuilt to work with the new gameplay concepts, including directional wind gusts by swiping with the touchpad and manipulating and trapping enemies using the light bar and DualShock 4. Having Atoi trap a baddy by tossing them “out of the screen” and into the controller (complete with muffled sound effects from the built-speaker), and then launching them back into the world is a memorable and effective mechanic. Media Molecule mixes up the 4th wall-breaking abilities pretty regularly so a player doesn't get too comfortable relying on one technique over the other all throughout the adventure. Those who played through the PS Vita version (which I completed 100% and platinumed /not-so-stealth-brag) will find a lot different here, both gameplay and content wise. Levels are noticeably larger/longer and many of them feature entire new areas and challenges.
The second screen functionality (using the PlayStation App for PS Vita or iOS/Android devices) absolutely deserves a second mention. Having a another player help customize the levels and characters of Tearaway and/or solve puzzles by creating paper objects or taking actual photos, and then throwing them back into the game is a super nice touch. It’s a feature that my kids more than appreciated as they sat by my side as I played through the game.
With vibrant and stylish visuals throughout, Tearaway was an incredible looking PS Vita game. Tearaway Unfolded for the PS4, which is technically a remastered release (we guess), is no slouch either. Running at 1080p and a nearly perfect 60fps on the console, you can really appreciate the upgraded, finely textured paper worlds and environments which are in constant motion. For a videogame rendition of an artificial world, it certainly is ridiculously alive looking and feeling. The customizable pop-up papercraft characters and enemies are amazingly detailed up close and full of personality
If I had to complain about something in the game it would probably be the sometimes difficult camera that occasionally misbehaves even as you reposition it. Tearaway has super generous checkpoints, but repeatedly missing an easy jump or being trapped in a corner ruins the experience here and there. Also, a portion of the game has Iota traveling through the world at a fairly slow clip and there are a few some puzzles and platforming bits that drag down the pace. Both issues are really nothing worth making a big deal about overall.
Tearaway Unfolded is more of an enhanced re-imagining than a remaster of Tearaway, and it’s not difficult to be impressed with Media Molecule’s (and Tarsier Studios) effort in bringing the beloved Vita release to PS4 owners. For less than $40, it’s kinda a no-brainer for gamers looking for a fun and creative, family-friendly adventure.