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Tearaway Unfolded

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Media Molecule
Release Date: Sept. 8, 2015 (US), Sept. 9, 2015 (EU)

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PS4 Review - 'Tearaway: Unfolded - Crafted Edition'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 29, 2015 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Adventure through a vibrant papery world with your new friend Iota, a plucky messenger with a unique message to deliver—to you!

Tearaway is one of the secret classics of the PlayStation Vita. It's easy to forget it existed, as it only made slight waves upon release, but almost everyone who played it would speak of its delightful features. Making full use of the Vita's features, it created a kid-friendly experience that players of all ages could enjoy. Unfortunately, it hit at a busy time and was overlooked, so it never quite hit the success of something like Journey. Tearaway: Unfolded – Crafted Edition is a retelling of the story revamped for the PlayStation 4, an attempt to bring that niche title into the spotlight.

Tearaway is set inside a papercraft world. The people wish to deliver a message to you and need your help to do it. To do this, they send a female messenger, Atoi, or a male messenger, Iota, on a journey through the world to deliver the missive. Along the way, they'll meet delightful denizens and help solve their many problems, and they're occasionally harassed by monsters known as Scraps. This is a simple adventure through a charming world, without any threat of danger or dramatic plot twists.


Tearaway's writing is adorable. The narration is top-notch and does a fantastic job of providing a storybook atmosphere. It is largely cheerful and bright, with just a slight hint of edge to give the story some much-needed spice. The various characters are cute and likeable, and the tone of the story makes it appropriate for players of all ages. It's certainly geared toward kid-friendly adventures, but it doesn't talk down to the player, either. It's a great game for parents and children to play together. There are a few times it gets a bit childish for adults, largely when it insists on repeating basic concepts multiple times, but it shouldn't sour the experience, even if you're playing on your own.

Tearaway: Unfolded uses the PS4's features to serve as its controls. The most common control you'll use is the guiding light, which is the LED light on the back of the Dual Shock 4 controller. Holding down a button makes it shine into the world, and you can guide it by moving your control around. The guiding light can scare monsters, revive plant life, re-create platforms and countless other context-sensitive things. You'll use the touchpad to create gusts of wind or press down on it to make platforms bounce, and you move the controller to adjust platforms. While the game has traditional controls, you'll spend just as much time fidgeting with your controller.

It's a cool concept and is used quite well. For younger gamers, it's a great way to make them feel like they're inside of the game. Tearaway plays with the barrier between the game world and the real world; there are constant references to the fact that you are holding the controller and that the goal is delivering Atoi or Iota to you. By tying the controls to in-world actions, it makes it feel more  instinctive and natural. It's similar to the design used in touch control games, though with more reliable controls.


However, Tearaway: Unfolded doesn't feel as cohesive as Tearaway did. While the product is more voluminous than the original game, it comes with the unavoidable fact that the original was designed with a handheld device in mind. Most of the PS4 features feel like somewhat crude replicas for what was natural on the Vita. Rather than holding the world in your hand, you're merely watching it on a television screen, which provides a different feeling. There's an extra layer of abstract barrier that wasn't there before, and it makes some of the puzzles feel more distant.

This is effectively a puzzle game, albeit a loose and light one. Your travels through the papercraft world often have you come across simple puzzles. Many can be solved by shining your light in the correct spot or tapping the correct button, but others can be more involved. For example, an early puzzle has you trying to figure out how to get an apple away from a squirrel, saving it from monsters, and then initiating a trade. None of the puzzles get too complex, but there's enough style and depth that you'll look forward to them. While there are plot-mandated puzzles, there are also a lot of optional puzzles, which  reward you with extra confetti that you can use to unlock papercraft features to upgrade your character. It's worth going out of your way to do them to see how other characters react.

The only problem is that the charm doesn't fully extend to the gameplay. While there are some incredibly creative moments, it feels like more effort was put into the little details rather than the game. The platforming is simple and pretty awkward, and you're going through areas that are only interesting because of how adorable they are. Combat is similarly mediocre and is often entirely perfunctory. A lot of times, I pushed past the theoretically "meat" of the gameplay, so I could get back to the charming, subdued and simpler segments.


A major part of this is because Tearaway never really comes together. It introduces ideas and lets them languish. You can encounter a cool mechanic and never seen it again, or you encounter cool mechanics that are entirely disconnected. The game feels like it's building up to something and then fails to go any further. The charm and story and style carry the title, but it could have been something more. Melding the curious control elements would certainly have elevated the game.

The beautiful visuals and excellent voice work help smooth over any weak points. The world is immensely fun to explore, the environments are colorful and vivid, and a lot of effort was expended to make them stylish and charming. The character models are fairly simplistic, but that works for the setting and rarely feels out of place. You'll find a lot of neat customization options that make it feel like your world, whether it's changing Atoi or using the touch pad to create a crown for a squirrel. The narrators, played by Richard Ridings and Lorna Brown, absolutely knock it out of the park. As they explain and marvel over your adventures, they set the tone for the game with perfect pitch. Tearaway would not be half as charming without their excellent work.

It's great to see a game that's suitable for all age groups make a strong debut on the PS4. Tearaway: Unfolded – Crafted Edition is the most charming game on the PlayStation 4. It's delightful to look at, fun to explore, and it does a great job of utilizing various PlayStation features. A general lack of ambition in level design and gameplay design hold it back. Older gamers may find it slightly childish at points, but even they should leave the experience with a smile. Fans of the original Vita version may not experience the same sense of wonder for the PS4 iteration, but Tearaway: Unfolded is still a delight for players of all ages.

Score: 8.0/10



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