Tearaway is the most creative game you'll play on any portable device this year. It's also one of the best you'll play on any system.
From the house that brought you LittleBigPlanet on PlayStation 3 (and to a lesser extent, on Vita), Tearaway is the next evolutionary step from a company that has always focused on the unbridled joy of creativity and expression within games.
Making full use of the Vita's hardware to realise not just jaw-dropping visuals but also unique gameplay experiences that simply aren't possible on any other system, Tearaway is, without question, the most distinctive platformer of 2013, and an essential part of any true video game enthusiast's library.Art
Tearaway stars you as The You, a God in a papercraft universe. Your task is to guide Iota - who sports an envelope for a head within which lies a "message" - past all sorts of obstacles, in the hope that the two of you will be reunited.
The environments you encounter range from pleasant grassy woodland areas to rain-battered harbours to scrubbed laboratories and far beyond. Each is made completely from papercraft: colourful paper that's folded neatly, or stuck together with glue.
Every blade of grass that flows in the breeze and every solid sun-bleached rock is carefully constructed, and as you progress through the game you'll find that most of its contents can be easily made in real life, which Media Molecule will show you how to do through a series of unlockable papercraft print-outs.
Even though there are always breathtaking lighting tricks in play, special effects popping off, and shenanigans in augmented reality within the gameworld - and even though the textures are detailed and the lines are sharp - the frame rate rarely falters.
But the real beauty of Tearaway is not in its graphics but in the way you interact with it.
You control Iota directly with the left analogue stick, and gradually learn new skills that will aid you in your quest. These include the ability to jump, to roll, and to play an accordion that sucks in air and forces it out with tremendous power.
Each ability is explored in multiple different circumstances. The accordion, for example, will let you rotate fans to turn a piece of scenery blocking your way, or it will suck in the Scrap enemies and shoot them back at their pals.
Iota responds rapidly to your inputs and returns to Earth at a sensible pace - none of that "floaty" Sackboy feel here - and our papery hero can turn on a dime when you need to outrun some particularly nasty baddies.
It's when The You (represented by you) comes into effect that the gameplay turns from "great" to "system seller". You can prod your finger through the world by pressing the rear touchpad when you happen across special areas, and this results in anything from protecting Iota from a raging waterfall to flinging enemies off the level.
Then there's the touchscreen, which is used for simple and frivolous activities, like drawing a moustache design on a sheet of paper so that you can cut round it and place it on a creature, and holding a structure in place so Iota can move forward.Inspirational
The front and rear cameras are used to show you within the game and capture the real world around you, and even the humble microphone is used in a subtle, haunting way.
Understanding how you can use all of these elements to make progress, and simultaneously personalise the world around you, is an accessible challenge that any audience will appreciate. A regular playthrough will let you see about 50 percent of the game, so there's plenty to do for completists.
All of this is deserving of a Pocket Gamer Gold Award, but what puts it Tearaway on the Platinum Award level (a.k.a. the Platisphere) is the message Iota eventually delivers. Built up gently as the story unfolds, it's a remarkably human and surprisingly affecting message, delivered articulately.
Tearaway is a system seller in the genuine sense of that term: you cannot get this kind of game on any other device, and it's worth buying a Vita just to experience it.