I played the original Tearaway on Vita and though I never quite finished it, the time I spent playing it were packed with pure child-like joy. Decorating pigs, exploring the papercraft world, admiring the animation style all stand out as highlights of the experience. Tearaway Unfolded on the PS4, however, feels like a step back from its predecessor.
Don’t get me wrong, the game is still absolutely delightful and a joy to play for the most part, but there’s a handful of glaring issues that slowly pop up as you play through the game. First, let me outline the story; You are.. well, “You” – an almighty god-like figure that is able to affect the world you’re looking in on through using the gamepad. You also control your little messenger, either Iota or Atoi (former being male and the latter being female, though they’re mostly the same character with the only difference being their hairstyle). Your role is to guide your messenger through the world, fight through enemies called Scraps and deliver the letter that they’re made of to You, as in You the player.
As you progress you unlock a variety of abilities that keep the gameplay somewhat fresh, but the pace at which you unlock these is a little off. The addition of new levels and areas to the original Tearaway’s content really stretches out the game, meaning a playthrough can last a solid 9+ hours which is a bit long for a linear platformer. I think the biggest pacing issue is how the game tricks the player into thinking they’re at the end not once, but twice. Towards the end of the first chapter there’s this big build-up that feels like you’ve reached a huge milestone, only to have one of the other god-like characters kick you down into a whole new chapter of levels. That’s fine, it was funny and I was ready to play more levels anyway. But then it happens again. It’s like a kick in the balls just as I was ready for the game to be over.
Let’s average the game out at 3ish hours per chapter without too much exploration, that’s about 6-7 hours into the game which was just right. The final chapter, while it doesn’t feel tacked on, drags on. Sure, the care and effort went into it but I just had no drive to play the game for much longer. I don’t even think the target audience of the game, young kids/teens, would want to keep playing.
Despite this, the game’s powers that you unlock are at least interesting. You can use the PS4 controller’s lightbar to affect the in-game world by using it to confuse and guide enemies, or ‘heal’ parts of the world that’ve been ruined by the Scraps. You can also throw items “into” the controller, then shoot them out of the controller by flicking the touchpad to hit on-screen items that your messenger wouldn’t be able to. This leads to some interesting and fun puzzles that happen all too infrequently.
You’re also able to control the wind by flicking a direction on the touchpad. This can open up new paths or help you take out Scraps – overall similar usage to the lightbar, but at least this power looks interesting as you use it and actually has a lot of impact on the world while in use.
Another huge issue I had was using the touchpad to create in-game stickers. I’d love to say the touchpad is precise, but it’s actually really tough to make something look good. Even with the ability to use a cutting tool to rectify mistakes, it uses the analogue stick which is also pretty inaccurate. I suppose the designers were just using the tools they had to the best of their ability, but that doesn’t excuse these touch controls being so difficult. Using the companion app is a solution but requires you to use a tablet or phone alongside the game. Other features such as the lightbar and gyroscope are work great and feel pretty natural to use alongside controlling the messenger.
Everyone loves collectables right? How about too many collectables? That notion is only going to appeal to a small number of people, but if it does then this game is absolutely for you. Tearaway Unfolded has tons of collectables that it actually exceeds too much. Finding every single piece of confetti, the in-game currency that can be used to customize your messenger and the world around you, unlocking every present, taking pictures of every blank papercraft, doing all the puzzles, it goes on. If you’re a completionist, I feel very, very bad for you.
For those who don’t know, Tearaway Unfolded is a weird mish-mash of old and new, with the original Tearaway areas being used alongside some all-new places. The older areas look fantastic on the PS4, with the crisp papery visuals looking smooth and colourful (a nice change to most PS4 titles eh?). Sound design on the other hand is fine, but very minimalistic. Only a handful of areas have music that really stood out to me, but the music that did catch my attention is beautiful, especially the final theme of the game.
I hope you like games that break the fourth wall, ’cause in this game it’s a mechanic. As I mentioned earlier, you can throw things ‘into’ the controller and the object will literally break the fourth wall and appear to burst out of the game world. There’s also tons of dialogue, often humorous, that breaks the fourth wall. There’s even an entire level that takes place outside of the game world – get your head around that one. Not many games do this right, but Media Molecule have always seemed on top of their game with making fourth wall comedy ever since Littlebigplanet on the PS3.
I adore this game, I honestly do, but that doesn’t stop some issues get in the way of the game being an absolute must-have for the PS4. If you like platformers and collectathons like Banjo Kazooie and Mario 64, chances are you’ll love this modern love-letter to the genre. Otherwise though, unless you’re really in that target audience I can’t see the game having a long-lasting appeal.