Making the best use of all the Vita's features
Last week, I got to preview a bunch of current-gen games, which we can expect to see during E3, at a special pre-show event that entailed several different game companies. The Sony showcase in particular had a handful of games that are now on my radar, such as The Last of Us, Luftrausers, and Doki-Doki Universe.
But out of everything I saw, Media Molecule's Tearaway was by far my favorite game to play. The papercraft world that they've created is incredibly charming, and the way it incorporates the Vita's features along with the actual players themselves makes it so you never want to leave that world.
Tearaway (PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release: October 22, 2013 (NA) / October 23, 2013 (AU, NZ) / October 25, 2013 (UK, IE)
The Tearaway demo placed me at the very start of the game. I first got to create my custom Tearaway protagonist, choosing my gender and various facial features. From there, my custom hero was mailed off into the human world in an attempt at establishing relations between the two worlds. Something goes awry though, and the hero is forcibly sent back into the world of Tearaway, an event which causes a tear in the sun.
This hole in the sun is now a gateway into the human world, and the player's face will be constantly projected into the world thanks to the Vita's front-facing camera. Yes, your face is shown off live in the sun at all times, kind of like that Teletubbies baby but less creepy.
Once back in the paper world, your ultimate goal is to find a way up to the reach sun and the player. Unfortunately, the whole sun incident also unleashed monsters, so you and your character must work together to clear out them out.
One early example of how this can work is by leading these monsters to a specific area in the level. Once there, the real "you" will place your fingers on the back touchpad and "pierce" through into the game's paper world. You'll see "your" fingers pop into the world as you glide them around and smash into the monsters. Defeating these monsters will give you confetti, which will go towards unlocking customization options and other features.
That whole thing with the fingers popping up into the world is what helped to inspire the idea for Tearaway in the first place.
"The original jumping off point was just, I wanted to use the back touch to show fingertips coming into the world," creative lead Rex Crowle told me. "I was obsessed with this visual because you just couldn't do it on any other device, it wouldn't make any sense. So that was kind of the initial starting point, and then, through doing various game jams and stuff, we expanded that out and into thinking, 'Well, it's a handheld world, let's have fun with the fact that you're holding the world in your hands.'"
Later in the level, you'll have to tap on the back touchpad in order to help your character jump up to platforms you can't normally reach otherwise. In another part, you'll use the front touchscreen to cut up pieces of paper and create a crown for a character. Once the crown is placed, you'll then be able to take a picture of him and share that online.
I have to stress that none of these touch controls felt gimmicky at all. They felt natural and were super easy to use in conjunction with the face buttons. You can be controlling your character with the directional sticks all while sticking your fingers into the world through the back pad.
The visuals from the world design to the characters themselves are just splendid as well. Everything looks like a stop motion video, presenting this abstract vision that's very pleasing. It's like what you would imagine paper to look like if it was suddenly brought to life with magic. All this is complemented with some great music, giving off a very folk-like sensation.
Media Molecule is continuing their trend of creating wonderful original ideas in an industry where everyone is trying to copy each other for the quickest dollar. Plus, they're incorporating some wonderful ideas that make the best use of the Vita features, with which no one else is really doing anything all that special.
I can't sing Tearaway's praises enough.