With Little Big Planet 1 & 2 they have secured their reputation as playful game designers who can create games with the same childlike depth as you might expect from the best Disney/Pixar collaborations. Tearaway is built on some of the characteristics and design fundamentals that were established with Little Big Planet.
Typical of gaming, roleplaying is present, but not in the medium's usual sense. You don't embody a character - you play yourself. Our world (or "the world of you" as the narrator fittingly calls it) has been bridged with another exciting world made of paper, and it's up to the player to close this bridge and restore balance.
That is why Tearaway uses the PS Vita's front camera to constantly film your face. The result is that you, the player, are directly involved in the story, and you must use this bridge between the two worlds to help the messenger Iota on his way. Iota has a message you see, a message meant only for you, and this is the game's central premise.
It's a simple one, but it's filled to the brink with Media Molecule's unmistakeable charm. In this paper-inspired open world, there is an abundance of side activities, but neither Iota nor Tearaway's paper universe gets or needs any form of explanation or backstory.
Everything is engaged through the art of papercrafting. As a visual game concept, it's striking and unique, and continues to be the most exciting aspect from beginning to end.
Everything is made out of paper and gives the universe a fragile and porous feel while it also invites interaction. Paper is bent and folded, while the sound of it crackling, cut, swayed and more dominate the entire soundscape of Tearaway.
The Vita's alternative control inputs are central to interaction with the world of Tearaway. There are basic platform controls to be found, like jumping, rolling, a moveable camera and a 3D-world, but all the mechanics that separate Tearaway from other open platform games utilise the PlayStation Vita's many alternative inputs.
You use the back touchpad to bash your enemies with your fingers, you draw and cut with the front touchpad and you use the gyroscope to take pictures with the in-game camera. Every single one of Tearaway's strange gameplay mechanics is so precise and well designed, that it's, for the first time, enjoyable to use the gyroscope, camera and touch in a triple-A game on PlayStation Vita.
Despite the open world, Tearaway remains a fairly linear experience. Every environment has a series of collectibles, which encourage the player to go back and explore areas again after all of Iota's abilities have been unlocked. The game is great at constantly giving you new abilities to experiment with, but all in all Tearaway, while very special, is a fairly short-lived handheld adventure.
Brevity is a small complaint when weighed against a journey that elegantly showcases the Vita's unique control options in new ways: such as the camera that films you, the fingers that are used to reach into Tearaway's world and the touchpad that allows for creation of your own paper decorations. They are all special and are natural fits with the universe that Media Molecule has created.
Tearaway is beautiful, well designed, fun to play and has managed to preserve the childish joy of creation in its design. For a PlayStation Vita owner, this is a must buy.