Media Molecule, best known for their innovatively unique LittleBigPlanet games is up to their old tricks again, with the second outing of their Tearaway series, which premiered on the Vita in 2013. Perhaps one of the first non-Nintendo based games to feature worlds entirely made up of various kinds of paper craft, Tearaway Unfolded represents a whimsical, if familiar journey on the PS4.
The game itself is something of an expanded remake of the original, with the most notable changes being the substitution of the PS4’s touchpad for the Vita’s touchscreen in certain sections.
The innovative control scheme is a bit like a piece of well-folded origami, a uniquely crafted thing of beauty. The shoulder buttons allow you to shine a bright spotlight on the screen, which affects the world in many different ways, such as renewing the paper foliage of density and color, opening up new pathways or mesmerizing enemies into walking themselves off cliffs and high ledges.
You’re also imbued early on in the game with the power of the wind, and a simple swipe on the touchpad will send whooshing gusts blowing through the landscape, the direction you swipe determines whether your windy day blows in from the north, south, east or west. This is used to unfold paper bridges, blow enemies off screen and remove obstacles.
"Once you get familiar with the abilities and inner workings of gameplay, however, that’s when the puzzles and platforming really come together, like a paper dragon suddenly finding its lost tail. "
It’s easy to see that Tearaway: Unfolded shines brightest when it’s using the interesting abilities and mechanics of the PS4 controller to effectively influence gameplay options. Like the Vita version, you can still use your voice to give life to characters in the world or “sketch” your own creations that come to life in the world but these seem secondary to the more interesting gameplay mechanisms.
Once you get familiar with the abilities and inner workings of gameplay, however, that’s when the puzzles and platforming really come together, like a paper dragon suddenly finding its lost tail. You’ll often find yourself mapping out your movements and chaining together abilities, such as blowing confused enemies off restored bridges or successfully navigating maze like structures, and with the flick of your wrist, hurling enemies into gates to smash them open or slicing down paper hedges.
Drawing with the touchpad, however, isn’t nearly as intuitive, and the results of your creations are often kin to a Microsoft Paint program. There’s also a companion app which turns your cell phone or tablet into a virtual sketch pad as well, and if you want to add a more personal touch to the game, you can use the PlayStation camera or your phone camera to take a picture and “import’ it into the game for use as stickers or as a texture for surfaces.
The companion app has several other functions if you’re so inclined. A second player can join in on all the paper fun by creating little cutout shapes and adding them to the game world as you play, blown in by a stray gust of wind. This isn’t a huge addition, but it’s kind of neat to get younger players who may have siblings sitting on the sidelines involved as well.
"Despite it’s wondrous visuals and unique mechanics, there are a few paper cuts along the way. The platforming elements aren’t quite as sharp as they could be, resulting in some deaths here and there. "
Visually, everything is as crisp as a brand new sheet of paper. The world you traverse is rich and vibrant and it feels like you’re journeying through your own pop up storybook. Colors are bright and textures are well done. Rolling paper waves and fluffy paper clouds are marvels and everything is gorgeous and consistent.
Consistency is probably one of the finer aspects of Tearaway: Unfolded. Every new gameplay mechanic, enemy, or location finds and builds on new ways to use paper, glue and stickers to surprise you and hold your interest, even after you’ve put the controller down.
The story is simple but filled with Media Molecule’s demonstrated ability to add whimsy and charm to even the most mundane of things. As a result, as the envelope shaped Iota or Atoi, your journey leaves quite a paper trail, literally. You’ll run into boxy squirrels, and sharp edged crowds and many colorful denizens of the world who seem cut from the same piece of paper you are.
"Consistency is probably one of the finer aspects of Tearaway: Unfolded. Every new gameplay mechanic, enemy, or location finds and builds on new ways to use paper, glue and stickers to surprise you and hold your interest, even after you’ve put the controller down."
The narrative is delivered with style and wit, thanks largely to the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry, whose devil’s pact with all things Media Molecule has yet to run its course.
Despite it’s wondrous visuals and unique mechanics, there are a few paper cuts along the way. The platforming elements aren’t quite as sharp as they could be, resulting in some deaths here and there. Combat is also repetitive at best. Also for a game in which there are hidden collectibles, like gift boxes littered about each level for you to find, there is surprisingly, no post game additions to make going back and tracking down all these confetti laden containers easier. Some kind of paper-oriented assist would have gone a long way. A treasure map, perhaps?
With each new location literally unfolding right before your eyes, and the expanded areas and locales brimming with gusts of wind just begging to shake paper sails, Tearaway Unfolded gives new meaning to the term “paper trail”. It may not be a flawless journey, but it’ll be an unforgettable one.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Gorgeous visuals, Unique and innovative gameplay mechanisms.
Some platforming elements are finicky, Story drags on for longer than it should.
Tearaway Unfolded survives the trip from the small screen to the big screen, for the most part withers unique core intact.
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