Tearaway’s theme is the meeting of two worlds – yours and a papercraft one inhabited by concertinaed creatures. This is upheld at all times. I don’t think I’ve been as aware that I am actually playing a game – more specifically, a Vita game – as with Tearaway. The world itself, and your traversal through it, depends totally on the Vita’s touch, camera, tilt and sound recording capabilities. It’s impressive stuff, bringing rounds of “Wow!” from everyone in my family as I showed them how the back and front cameras pick up the world around the Vita and display it inside the game at certain points.
From the moment you touch the back of the Vita and your finger thrusts through the game-world, tearing the paper ground and showing the real world behind your giant, animated digit, it’s clear that Tearaway is something special. The narrative is loose and whimsical, a celebration of connection between the fictional world and yours. You are referred to as a “You” in the game, while the character you control – either Iota or Atoi depending on which gender choice you make – becomes a canvas for your creative expression, with personalised pieces of bling stuck to them across the course of the adventure.
You hang over most important scenes, your true face (through the front camera) hovering over the vast scene like a bemused god. You’ll take photos of yourself, which pop up inside the world as reminders of your status as a direct influence on this quirky universe. Never for a minute do you feel disconnected, even if you know deep down that it’s all very gimmicky. What makes this step over the line from gimmick to charm is the unexpected ways in which you influence the world. When you come across a level in which it’s snowing, you’re asked to design a snowflake. If you’re happy with your finger-drawn creation – which takes place on a craft board with several coloured paper choices and the ability to layer cut-out pieces over each other – the scene changes. Suddenly, your
snowflakes are fluttering everywhere, painting the world in a unique way. This approach is repeated later in the game with fire, making every flame look like yours. I had an awesome creative moment when asked to record a growl into the system’s mic for a pumpkin-headed scarecrow. I tell you, my growl was a death-metal masterpiece and it has almost inspired me to try for a career in videogame voice work!
You’ll take photographs of anything in the real world, which will then be applied to different creatures. One particular elk is going around with my quilt pattern as its skin. You’ll tilt the world to move platforms, use the back touch pad as a drum and punch through the back of the Vita with your fingers to stop paper waterfalls. These are just a few examples of the cool ideas that Tearaway plays with. At times, it almost feels like the Vita’s answer to Mario Galaxy, with exciting and new interactions coming hot and fast. It soon slows down, though, and that’s when some of the tears appear.
Some of the puzzles, whilst interesting in a fairly simple but fun way, suffer against the system’s lack of accuracy. I’d be on the cusp of getting past a section, only to have the back screen suddenly decide that my fingers were no longer pressing on it – even though they were. Sections that require you to use two fingers plus move the character feel a bit too contortionistic to be fun. Tearaway seems to run out of ideas two-thirds through, so the last third drags you through a heap of drawn out combat encounters and tilt sections. While these parts are okay, they are hardly as inventive as the ideas on display at the front end of the adventure.
It’s worth remembering that Tearaway has been released at a bargain price. For just over $30, you get a good four to five hours of gameplay if you take your time, more if you want to collect 100% of each area’s hidden elements. Most of that time is spent with a smile on your face and the realisation that the Vita is severely underutilised. Tearaway feels like a launch title created specifically to show off a new platform’s abilities. It’s both a show- and play-piece that draws you into the adventure by association. No two players will ever see the same designs for certain parts. I have yellow snowflakes while you might have green. My quilt pattern is wandering the paper meadows, grazing on paper grass. That alone is quite magical.