Media Molecule has proven itself the master of cuteness and community creativity, constructing a passionate fanbase worldwide through the madly successful LittleBigPlanet series. But what happens when the house that built a Planet sets out to create something completely new?
Maybe I should rephrase that. Their new project, Tearaway, isn’t completely outside the studio’s comfort zone. It’s still adorable, inventive, and a true showcase of its platform’s capabilities. Built with PS Vita in mind, Tearaway makes impressive (but not excessive!) use of the integrated camera and rear touchpad to craft a more tactile and immersive world.
Case in point: You’ll occasionally come across transparent surfaces marked with PlayStation symbols, an indication that you can interact with that area via PS Vita’s rear touchpad. Sometimes this means tapping on the back of your Vita to beat a drum, which will launch iota or atoi (your fearless paper protagonists) far into the air above. Other times, it means poking your finger straight into the game to protect your companion from incoming enemies, or to move an object that’s blocking their way.
At one point, I traced along Vita’s touch screen to cut a crown out of construction paper for a rather excitable gopher, who then demanded an impromptu photo shoot. I selected from various backdrops, including one created from the rear camera in real time, then moved the system around to get the angle just right before snapping the shot for the little guy.
Camaraderie permeates the game. Every so often, iota or atoi will look to the sky to see your face (captured by the system’s front-facing camera) beaming down. This, coupled with your direct physical influence on many of the game’s puzzles, fosters a sense of partnership between the player and the messenger. This drives home the notion that instead of you just controlling the character on screen, you and your papercraft partner are in this together.
Aesthetically, Tearaway oozes Media Molecule. The world feels vibrant and animated, despite the fact that it’s seemingly comprised of real paper structures. Bridges fold and unfold at timed intervals, rocks flex and crease when you stand on them, and wind gusts crinkle plants and grass in a Burton-esque style.
Complementing this whimsical world is a charming, folk-tinged musical score that further invigorates an already breathing environment. I only heard a handful of songs during my play session, but I’m already making room in my head for the game’s recently announced soundtrack (Protip: pre-order to snag the soundtrack for free).
Tearaway, out this October, will be one that keeps people talking. Not just because it’s endearing and adorable, or even because it’s a solid adventure-platformer bursting with creativity, but because it proves that Media Molecule isn’t a one-trick pony. Step aside Sackboy — it’s time for iota and atoi to shine.