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Tearaway Unfolded: Crafted Edition

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Media Molecule
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

If you played Tearaway, you already know itís easily one of the best games for the PlayStation Vita. While I wonít ever deny LittleBigPlanetís appeal and charm, I will probably always see it as a robust set of innovative creation tools that happen to come with a game thatís as dull as it is adorable. But Media Moleculeís sophomore franchise is the one that proves that the development house is capable of delivering good gameplay on top of those tools. At this point, itís also well known for being perhaps a true killer app; if not for its enjoyable single player and sharing experiences, for its way of making creative use of every single millimeter of real estate on the Vita without making anything feel forced. It is a game you simply could not make for any other platform. So when it was announced that it would be coming to the PlayStation 4, the worry was that the game wouldnít translate to the different hardware Ė and most importantly, the different controller. But Media Molecule chose the best possible method of bringing this series to a home console Ė it rebuilt the game around the advantages and limitations of the hardware and accessories. And the resulting product, Tearaway Unfolded is the best family game you can currently buy for your PlayStation 4.

If youíre looking for technical wizardry in Tearaway Unfoldedís visuals, youíre missing the point. This isnít a concrete amalgam of realistic physics and cold hard numbers. Tearaway Unfolded is a celebration of art, and itís presented as a world made entirely of papercraft. Literally everything looks like itís been made from construction paper, and the effect is simple but intoxicating. Heavy use of primary colors combine with the natural imperfections of paper to create something that hasnít been done in video games, at least not as far as I can remember. Tearaway Unfolded takes this aesthetic and runs with it, in terms of both gameplay and storytelling. Itís a really a wonderful bit of eye candy, made all the more fantastic because of how unique and bizarre it is.

Tearaway Unfolded is as much a treat to the ears as it is to the eyes, and this is mostly to the credit of the soundtrack, which, like the visuals, is extraordinarily simple while remaining capable of appealing to your most childlike and creative sensibilities. Every situation is accompanied perfectly, and the instruments selection for each particular track are spot on. Like Tearaway and LittleBigPlanet before it, Tearaway Unfolded is fully narrated by a male/female duo, both of whom use the best childrenís storybook voices they can muster. It comes across as a bit overzealous at times, but itís still plenty charming.


Gameplay:

A hole has opened in the sky, and the villainous Scraps have invaded, corrupting the worldís natural beauty, color, and poetry with staleness, monochrome, and (gasp!) prose. Whatever can be done to stop this fiendish siege? Well, in classic Media Molecule form, it involves lots of charm and fourth wall breakage. A message is sealed inside an envelope, which in turn is given arms, legs, a face, a name (Iota for males, Atoi for females) and sentience. It forms a link with the You (that is to say, you), and this link allows you to assume direct control over the cute little messenger as you guide him or her through the troubled land.

Tearaway Unfolded is a fairly basic adventure at its heart; most of the game revolves around helping out the cast of adorably weird papercraft characters in their own way. I donít want to wade too deeply into spoiler territory, because you have to discover it for yourself; but trust me when I say that the entire thing comes across like an interactive childrenís play. Itís almost always goofy, but it will keep you grinning like an idiot until the credits roll.

What makes Tearaway Unfolded particularly special in regards to its gameplay is the impact you have on the world; while itís true that Iota and Atoi are capable of running around and talking to others much like youíre allowed to do in most other adventures, the game makes it plainly clear that the You (as the player) are something of a mystical, divine presence. This makes the act of actually playing Tearaway Unfolded feel more like a partnership between you and this fictional character. Gimmicks aside, the game makes good on this dynamic throughout the entirety of its running time.


Difficulty:

Talking about Tearaway Unfolded in terms of difficulty is difficult in and of itself. Narrative aside, there is literally nothing at stake. This is a game in which you collect bits of confetti, unlock stuff, and spread joy around the world. The game teaches you its mechanics gently and subtly, to the point where you might find yourself questioning just when you learned to do all the things you can do.

Sure, Tearaway Unfolded is a platformer, but you wonít have to worry about dying or earning extra lives. Iota and Atoi can be crushed and hurled into bottomless pits, but nothing is lost when that happens; you just pop right back up where you screwed up and carry on. And furthermore, this isnít a game about skill. Like LittleBigPlanet, it comes across as more of a toybox; you play with the contents and just have fun.


Game Mechanics:

Tearaway Unfoldedís gameplay and narrative are woven through by the core mechanics, so if my most basic explanation of the game comes across as cryptic, Iíll try to rectify that here.

Naturally, you assume direct control over Iota/Atoi. You start the game with almost no abilities; you run, you interact, and you carry things around. But as the game progresses, it becomes apparent that the messenger is counting on you to help out.

One of the very first things youíll do in Tearaway Unfolded is point the DualShock 4ís light bar at the screen and hold down a button. This has the effect of activating a special light that conveniently looks like an inverted triangle. This light can be aimed around by simply changing the angle at which the controller is pointed at the screen, but itís your primary method of interacting with the world. Parts of the environment that have been transformed into newspaper can be cleansed and restored to their natural states by passing this light over them. Scraps are attracted to the light and will chase it single-mindedly, giving you the opportunity to lure them into traps.

While the Vitaís rear touchpad provided some of the original Tearawayís best moments, that role arguably shifts to the touchpad in the center of the DualShock 4 this time around.

The touchpad is the primary home for Tearaway Unfoldedís creation tools. Using the touchpad as a writing tool definitely takes some getting used to, much in the same way that using a drawing tablet comes with a learning curve. But for not being a mouse-and-keyboard kind of game, Tearaway Unfolded makes the best possible use of the controllerís buttons and sticks. Before too long, youíll be sketching, cutting, and gluing to your heartís content. Even if you lack the art gene (which I most certainly do), youíll still have fun with it.

Media Molecule has built a name for itself over the last decade, and few developers so competently champion and foster a culture of sharing for their products. This is true of Tearaway Unfolded, to nobodyís surprise. A companion app is available through the PlayStation app, and you (or a friend) can use your phone to interact with the game world through the magic of the creation tools, which make the jump seamlessly onto not only a different platform, but a different operating system. Itís yet another example of a team willing to go as far as it takes to stick to its mission.

Pre-ordering Tearaway Unfolded gets you the Crafted Edition, which comes with the requisite extras. Most of it is cosmetic, as youíd expect: a Gold Leaf and a Gold Stamp to wear on your messenger as a badge of pride, costumes and custom decorations from other PlayStation exclusives, papercraft plans, and a Pig Crown. But perhaps the biggest draw in this package is the soundtrack, which, as Iíve mentioned, is wonderful.

If youíve got children at home and have been hoping for a way to share your PlayStation 4 with them, you now have a golden opportunity in the form of Tearaway Unfolded. I canít draw to save my life, and the fact that I love this game is simply a testament to its greatness.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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