Media Molecule’s latest feels every bit like a game built by the developers of LittleBigPlanet. Tearaway is charming, outlandish, imaginative and whimsical in equal proportions. Crucially, however, it’s more cohesive than the world that Sackboy built. You play as an envelope, an envelope named Iota with a message to deliver. That loose narrative is indicative of the overall tone of Tearaway, a game in which the broad strokes are defined but the details are left blank for you to fill in.
Each of the game’s visual building blocks takes the form of papercraft constructions, resulting in an aesthetic that manages to feel at once childlike and complex. The fact that everything you see in the game could be reproduced in the real world by anyone with access to paper and scissors accentuates your connection with the world, elevating the experience from the realm of the quaint and twee to something with a little more heart and soul.
This is a 3D platformer that is at once unapologetically representative of the genre, while also managing to feel completely removed from it. You can jump, roll, pick up objects and throw them on your way to tackling various chasms, enemies and headlong sprints from danger. It all feels very typical until you start to embrace the ways in which you can influence the world through frequent breakages of the fourth wall.
Via the Vita’s front camera your face appears within the sun whenever the celestial body comes into view (literally, you are the sun), and you’re frequently asked to personalise the game world by gluing new bits of paper to people and places or by adding your own photos. Combine that with the front and rare touch controls that allow you to dispatch enemies, peel the paper world apart and activate jump pads, and tilt controls that reposition platforms, and you’ve got in your hands what could well represent the best use of the Vita’s features to date.
The true triumph for Media Molecule is that none of the ‘extra-curricular’ controls or feel forced or unnecessary. On the contrary, each and every one feels natural and works just as you would expect to it should. That intuitiveness is thanks in no small part to DIY look of the papercraft world, a design choice that tickles your instincts to get involved and touch/change the world with your own hands.
Made out of paper it might be, but Tearaway is anything but flat. This is Media Molecule showing it can make a game as well as it can make a set of creation tools, and it only makes you more excited about what’s to come from them in future.