You couldn't tear me away
Media Molecule debuted a papery present at gamescom last year with upcoming Vita game Tearaway, but they haven't said much about it since. And then, out of nowhere, we finally got our hands on a playable version at a Sony press event tonight. I ripped into this adorable game immediately. I ripped into it like, you know, paper.
Tearaway plays out like a buddy movie, with the envelope-headed Iota as one side of the cast, and you as the other. Through the Vita's interfaces you'll literally poke your fingers into its world, punching through the ground with your fingers through the rear touch panel, or peeling away paper layers with the front touch screen. And judging by a new trailer you'll also be able to yell into the Vita's mic to sort of Fus Ro Dah enemies in the game. All of this might sound gimmicky, but it all looks and feels natural, like you're supposed to be in it.
And it doesn't hurt that it's super adorable.
My hands-on session took me into the island of Sogport. It's a small area that is slowly becoming smaller from being slowly used up, and its your job to go in with Iota and save it. The entire island is surrounded by thick, white glue, which is not a great place for our paper hero to end up in. But a light application of this same glue on the level's paper surface can help Iota climb up walls to reach areas that would normally be inaccessible.
Sogport's Wendigo Fissure level is a sort of sandbox at first, with plenty of fun little interactions available to test out Iota's abilities. Aside from the standard platforming stuff, like running, jumping, and rolling, Iota can pick up paper pearls to do things like play a quick game of hoops. Special platforms let you tap up on the back touch panel to send anything on them flying, including Iota. Some platforms are only accessible through this method.
As the level progresses, Sogport becomes less of a playground and more of a dangerous place. Large, angry Wendigos look on as you cross a bridge overhead at first, but it's only a matter of time before they're on your tail, running at you with paper claws outstretched. Jumping and rolling only got me so far in trying to get away, and I eventually had to interact with paper puzzles to distract or trap them.
Paper oysters scattered over the level give paper pearls that the Wendigos love to eat. I found myself throwing them as bait into traps to have the them running into them, or throwing them off in the other direction so I could run around the monsters. Distractions helped me find glue-covered walls to run up and around to dodge trouble. Special "god platforms" pointed Iota to paper objects that can be interacted with through the touchscreen. One had me peeling away layers of a wall to make a sort of bridge to crawl over to safety.
Finally, after dodging enough Wendigos, the level lead me to a ledge overlooking a mysterious lab off in the distance, where paper synthesizers protruded out of a mountain. All Media Molecule would tell me about this place is that it is "very musical."
Tearaway's puzzle platforming feels right at home on the Vita, and manages to do so without feeling gimmicky in its use of the Vita's alternate control schemes. As I said before, they've crafted a world where it feels natural to put yourself into it. You really do feel like you're helping Iota along on his journey.
And, visually, of course, Tearaway is a delight. Everything in the paper world world bends, folds, unfurls, and unwraps around you, and does so in a way that you're constantly surprised by what's going on around you. Little touches, like how paper surfaces seem to slightly fold in under the weight of Iota, really help sell that everything is lightweight and pliable.
For Tearaway's design, Media Molecule says that they were inspired by the heaps of paper all over their workspaces. Apparently all of the sketches they worked on for this game in a pile were inspiration themselves. They've taken this papercraft world idea and have gone crazy with brilliant, adorable concepts that are coming together in what's sure to be the PlayStation Vita's most exciting game yet.