Review: Tearaway

The Playstation Vita is an excellent home console. At launch, it had a few decent games, but none that really took advantage of all the Vita had to offer. Tearaway feels like it would have been the perfect Vita launch game because it takes advantage of practically every feature the Vita has to offer; the only downside is it missed the launch date by about two years.

Tearaway is a masterful game that showcases how the Vita’s system features can be brought together to make a game that can only exist on Vita. What’s particularly great is that whereas a show case game like this can implement features that feel gimmicky, in this game it feels natural.

Perhaps the most important way Tearaway does this is by using the front facing camera to make you and your hideous visage a part of the game. You become, in essence, a character in the game. Your face is beamed into the game world’s sun, where your character is told you are a God called the You. Yes, that’s right; the You.

Your character, you are told, is on a mission to deliver a message to the You; a fitting role given your head is an envelope. You navigate this world, whose inhabitants and environmental obstacles are made entirely out of construction paper, occasionally coming across obstacle that must be manipulated using the Vita’s numerous input methods.

For instance, at some points in the game you touch the touch screen to unwrap presents or draw objects into being. At other points you will use the rear touchpad to poke your godly finger through the paper into the game world to manipulate objects. Or you’ll tap the back touch pad to help your character bounce on bounce pads. Another point in the game sees you use the Vita’s microphone to give an in-game character a voice. It’s all really great stuff, and it doesn’t feel gimmicky because in this paper based world, it feels like it’s a natural thing to have happen; an extension, of sorts, of the unbridled creativity on show throughout the game.

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The game even rewards your creativity. Poor drawers may worry upon hearing that certain in game tasks will force you to draw and create a pair of mittens for a character to wear, but even if you can’t draw to save your life, Tearaway doesn’t care. I’m pretty good at drawing, so at one point I was asked to draw a snowflake. I decided to see if I could fail this by drawing something that looked nothing like a snowflake. I used pink paper, and drew a weird blot that ended up looking like pink vomit… and yet I passed the test. What’s even greater is that the game used my abomination of a snowflake in game, so that whenever I entered ice stages, my pink vomit snowflakes fell down from the sky. It’s great, and terribly post modern, in a sense.

There’s a few subtle uses of the Vita tech as well. For instance, the back camera is used to deliver a very light feed of what is happening behind the Vita. This is overlayed on the game world. It’s so subtle that you hardly notice it, but it adds to the feeling that this world is made of paper, and is indeed paper thin.

Another neat touch is how the game rewards your creativity in game by giving you rewards outside of the game as well.At certain points your character will be asked to use his camera to photograph objects who have had their colour removed. By photographing them, you add colour back to these objects. As an extra reward, any object you restore in this way becomes available as a papercraft model at a real world website. Log in at this website using your PSN ID, and you can start creating papercraft models of in-game Tearaway objects to your heart’s content.

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But aside from all the creativity that is on display in the game, the gameplay itself is, sadly, rather shallow. The game can be completed in about five hours, and is relatively easy to beat. There’s rarely any challenge on offer here, and even when there is, it feels like more of a speed bump to your progress through the game. Arguably this allow you to focus on enjoying the game, but sometimes enjoyment comes out of overcoming challenge. Tearaway, more often than not, falls a little bit too much on the easy side of things. Whether or not that’s a bad thing is up to you.

What’s probably a bad thing, and slightly irritated me at times, is that the in-game camera would often be pitched in a certain direction that made it difficult to see where your character was headed until it was too late. At its least annoying this meant a mistimed jump; at its most annoying it meant running off a ledge you didn’t even know was there. With unlimited lives this is not a deal breaker, but it most certainly was irritating when it happened.

Interestingly, this is also one of the few (only?) Vita games I have experienced frame rate drops in. This happened more towards the end of the game, in bigger, more open areas with a lot going on, and again, not a deal breaker, but it did serve to pull me out of a game world that was otherwise highly immersing.

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Tearaway is a great game that’s brimming with creativity, style and flair. It just lacks substance and, at times, polish. It’s a great experience that’s a bit too easy and is over far too soon and while sometimes leaving your audience wanting more is a great thing to do, this feels like it left the stage before it was done. You definitely should buy it if you own a Playstation Vita, but wait until you can get it on sale, if you can.

Final Score: 7.9 out of 10.

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