Media Molecule, the creators of the Sackboy and the LittleBigPlanet series, have taken their Vita papercraft adventure Tearaway, and blown it up into a PS4-sized adorable platforming world! Tearaway Unfolded has pretty much all the knicks and knacks of the original, but jiggered about to fit the DualShock controller 4 instead of the Vita. Plus, there are new and reworked levels, making for a bigger game overall.
The Messenger and The You
A portal has opened up in the sky, connecting the world of the You (aka the real world that the player inhabits) to the world of the game. This wouldn’t be much of a problem (what player doesn’t want to visit the worlds of the games he or she plays? what’s that? you play only survivor horror games? then I’m clearly not talking about you), but now there are many little Scraps invading the game world and turning the vibrant, colourful construction paper world into drab black-and-white newsprint.
Before the You and the Messenger can start fighting back against the Scraps, the You has to choose exactly which Messenger he or she will be helping. The You can choose Iota, the green male, or Atoi, the purple female. This particular You chose Atoi, and will be using the female pronoun to refer to the Messenger from this point on.
As the You progresses through the game, he or she can customize the look of the Messenger, by giving her different facial features, different colours, and various other extras in the form of stickers. These stickers can be purchased by running around collecting confetti, the currency of this world (like Mario’s coins or Sonic’s rings), and then purchasing them from the store. I am bit weirded out by the fact that the world’s currency is basically little bits of paper, as everything, and everybody, is made of paper. Was the confetti once somebody’s mother? *shiver*
Most confetti is just hanging out, waiting to be grabbed, but some of it can be found inside red and blue gift boxes. The red boxes are hidden all over the various levels and just need to be found to be opened, while the blue boxes are easier to spot, but require the You and the Messenger to complete sidequests before they can be opened.
In fact, pretty much everything in the game needs some pretty inventive teamwork between the You and the Messenger to complete.
I have not had the chance to play the original Tearaway game on the PS Vita, so I cannot compare and contrast the different gameplay controls; I can only speak of the controls and how they felt on the PS4. I will say that you’re gonna need a fair amount of extras if you want take full advantage of the various game mechanics, however.
The very first mechanic that you will come across is light. The You must help the Messenger shine a light on the world, and you will do this by pointing the DualShock’s lightbar at your TV. This light has various uses, including illuminating dark spaces, hypnotizing Scraps, create additional platforms, and turn world elements from black-and-white newsprint back into colourful construction paper.
After the first level, the You and the Messenger start unlocking further mechanics pretty quickly (including the ability to jump, which is not available from the very beginning, bucking established platformer rules), most of which required the DualShock’s touchpad to use.
Before the Messenger learns to jump, she needs the help of various drums dotted around the landscape. She stands on them while the You holds down the touchpad. When the You releases the touchpad, the Messenger is bounced up. The You will also use the touchpad for the drawing mini-games, in which he or she has to create various objects for the papercraft denizens (crowns, mustaches, faces, etc.). Finally, the You can run his or her finger across the touchpad to make wind appear in the game world, and make various paper items and creatures blow this way and that.
The Messenger will also unlock an in-game camera early on, which can be used to generally take photographs of various in-game objects for fun, but if the Messenger takes photos of any objects that are completely white in colour, it will unlock various papercraft instructions that the You can download to create in real life. The You just has to print them out and start cutting and folding. While this is pretty neat by itself (and more importantly completely unrelated to gameplay), this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the extra devices required to fully enjoy the game.
As I said at the beginning of this section, the You needs a fair amount of extras to really take advantage of the all the gameplay mechanics. The drawing mini-games that can be done on the touchpad are much easier to do (and usually much more artistically) by downloading the Tearaway app to a tablet device. If the You has a PS Eye, he or she can take real-world photos to use as stickers in-game. There are even instances in the game where the You can capture his or her own voice using a microphone to give it to one of the in-game characters. None of these things are required to progress through the game (various workarounds are used), but it does take some of the enjoyment out of it knowing you could do these pretty nifty things, but it would cost you more money to do so.
The game has two narrators that help both the You and the Messenger throughout the game, and act as sort of the gods of the world and tellers of the story (which, if you think about it, are really the exact same thing). I mention them only because they’re pretty funny, with their constant quibbling while trying to lead you in the right direction. They bring both levity and direction while the You and the Messenger do all the heavy lifting.
I’ve mentioned the fact that the game world is made entirely of paper many times now, but nothing really prepares you for just how great that looks until you actually play the game. Every character, everything the Messenger can interact with, every piece of background is made of paper, and all of it looks like it could be made in the real world using real paper. This is of course proven by the papercraft instructions I mentioned above. The artists and developers really thought long and hard about how to fold and curve paper to make everything in the game.
Tearaway Unfolded also has some pretty amazing music. This is not really a surprise as I cannot name a single game in recent memory that doesn’t have great music (it’s now a prerequisite, along with compelling writing), but there’s just something about the music in this game that really gets you into playing it in a way that the gameplay and visuals wouldn’t be able to alone. The tunes are catchy and provide atmosphere when it’s needed, but are never intrusive. If you remember the original PS2 Katamari Damacy game from eleven years ago (my God, has it really been that long? I am old) and the way the music in that game was used, it’s kind of like that. If you don’t remember that game, and in fact have no idea what I’m talking about, look it up, young’un! It’s a great game!