Tearaway Unfolded Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4
After handing over the reins to the LittleBigPlanet series, it seemed that the next game developed by Media Molecule was destined to reach a much smaller audience. Originally released in 2013 for the PlayStation Vita, Tearaway made such in-depth use of the console’s unique variety of inputs that it looked impossible to port to any other platform – but Media Molecule are not renowned for their lack of creativity. Tearaway Unfolded not merely makes the transition to PlayStation 4 smoothly but looks like it belongs there, and must surely be one of the greatest ports ever produced. If you’re looking for the same oodles of platforming charm you found in LittleBigPlanet, be assured that your search is over.
At the beginning of Tearaway Unfolded, you choose either a male character, Iota, or female, Atoi, to be the hero of the story, as they form a bond with a powerful being from another world. That being… is You. Yes You, the player, and you gain the ability to control your chosen hero and guide them on their journey. The entire game world is made of paper and Iota and Atoi are no exceptions; they are both actually envelopes with folded bits of paper for bodies and limbs. Your task is to help them deliver the messages they carry to the portal in the sky which connects our world to theirs.
On the way, they’ll traverse high mountains and vast deserts, dark moors, stormy oceans and verdant grasslands. The world is not entirely safe, however, as box-like creatures called Scraps have also come pouring out of the hole in the sky and are causing havoc wherever they go, attacking the residents and pasting over the colourful landscape with boring grey newspaper. The entirety of the game is dedicated to breaking the fourth wall in the most charming way possible and the Scraps, and their ultimate goal, are a part of that, making game and reality collide together.
Tearaway Unfolded is a game you’ll feel involved in like few others, not merely through the story but the gameplay as well. There are plenty of platforming elements you’ll find familiar, but it also makes better use of the Dualshock 4’s functionality than any other game out there. The controller itself is an intimate part of the game; the gyroscope is used to rotate and move platforms, the sensor bar is used to cast light on the world, and the messenger can throw objects out of the screen and into the controller, to then be thrown back out using the touch pad.
In fact, there isn’t a bit of hardware that Tearaway Unfolded doesn’t try to make use of, and that isn’t always a good thing. While you’ll likely never tire of drawing new designs and pictures on the touchpad, it can be annoying when the game prompts you to make use of optional items you don’t have like the PlayStation Camera, even if it does give you the option to pass these moments up. This isn’t a particularly big issue, however, and if you don’t have every bit of kit, you’ll still feel immensely close to the game. There’s also a companion app that you can play on your tablet or phone, which allows you to customise the world as you play, for an even more interactive experience.
All in all, the gameplay really shines, both in its traditional and innovative components. There are occasional moments when the camera decides to go haywire, but they are very few and far between and everything else goes smoothly. Similarly, the story is a delight, even if it does suffer from a few pacing issues. You are repeatedly told you are nearing the end of your journey, only for yet another area or section to pop up; in fact, it often turns out you are nowhere near the finish line. Although this does chafe, the campaign is not a long one, a fact that is actually to the game’s credit as it keeps it short and sweet.
From a visual standpoint, however, you might wish to spend a bit longer with Tearaway Unfolded. The paper world it portrays is a truly beautiful one, and there are constantly new things to discover and be amazed by. For example, seeing flames for the first time made from coiling bits of paper, or having a hand in designing the snowflakes that flutter in the breeze, are moments that will really stay with you. Although the game was brought over from the Vita, this isn’t a fact that shows at all; it looks as at home on the PlayStation 4 as if it had been natively made there.
There’s no doubt that Tearaway Unfolded is conceptually indebted to LittleBigPlanet. It has the same arts and crafts feel to it, the same customisation options, the same sort of world stitched together from all sorts of oddments. Your chosen hero is customisable, with a large range of bits and bobs for you to buy, stick on, remove, and otherwise jig around howsoever you please. By narrowing its focus to paper, however, it comes across as more cohesive than its older sibling. It removes the jumble and replaces it with smoother lines and a more consistent aesthetic, inspired by the same creativity but with a good deal more direction.
What it does lack from LittleBigPlanet is the multiplayer. Unless you equip someone else with the companion app, as the game repeatedly encourages you to do, you’ll be experiencing Tearaway Unfolded solo. This, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Playing LittleBigPlanet alone, there was always a sense that you were missing out on something every time you came across a puzzle which required multiple players, that you couldn’t actually get to the very heart of the game. That isn’t a problem for Tearaway Unfolded, but it does make it much less of a party experience and more of a personal one.
You’ll rarely find a ported game to which the developers have been so dedicated as Tearaway Unfolded. Part of the reason for its success, perhaps, is that they’ve thought of it less as a port and more as a reimagining, truly freeing it in all aspects to find a new home on a different console. It’s a game which will please people of all ages, easy and inviting enough for younger gamers but conceptually and aesthetically interesting enough for older generations. If it weren’t for a few slight pacing issues and the occasional need for optional hardware to get the most out of it, it might have gone down as the perfect platformer. As it is, it is nevertheless quite excellent.