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PS Vita Review: ‘Tearaway’

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This is the story of a personable envelope and his plucky dog as they set out to play dress up with paper pigs. And, it’s the best game on Sony’s Vita.

You can say many things about Iota, the adventurous envelope with a healthy strut and determined focus, but most importantly, Iota is open to change. He doesn’t care if he is given googly eyes to wear and never judges as you peer into his world from the torn sun. Iota’s story is shared across Valleyfold, a storybook in motion with a strict adherence to creating its elements from paper.

Tearaway is representative of old Hollywood, where ingenuity superseded the readiness of green screen. Monsters were created from imaginative rubber or snazzy fish bowls, and whether they were effective or not was irrelevant. Someone had the ingenuity to create them in the first place. Thus, Tearaway, where flowers are tattered, animals are misshapen, and water is a series of torn tubes. Homely, but perfect.

As if animated by hand under the guidance of a stop-motion artist, life is breathed into the caverns, barns, and platforms of Valleyfolds, the ultimate after school art project. This is a bouncy, chipper playscape of color and careful folds, always friendly. Day-to-day problems are scrums with pesky crows and an invasion of one-eyed Scraps. These discarded boxes of mayhem chirp and gurgle as they uproot the peace, begging to be flicked from ledges or popped against walls.

Conflict, however, is not what sells this world. In some avenues, it feels wholly superfluous to the needs of this non-judgmental realm. Tearaway’s graces are its encounters with daffy squirrels or egotistical beavers, or maybe those flippant witch doctors with masks meant for grade school art time and to be sent home and magnetized to a fridge.

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In its effort to snatch all avenues of a feel good adventure, Tearaway employs you as a superior, near god-like being whose dancing fingers squish Scraps or bemuse idle citizens with requested trickery. Poking at touch screens shears open pathways or eases puzzle plight. The Vita’s rear touchpad is used for drum beating and paper ripping enjoyment. Cameras are employed to clone environments or texture creatures, while the omnipresent “You” stares down in wonder. Express creativity embeds the traditions of developer Media Molecule, carving out colorful mischief with pencil and scissor strokes to appease Valleyfold denizens. When someone requests a crown, you create one, no matter its certain cruddy shape.

Tearaway makes certain to breed awareness in beginners, cautioning that they are holding a world in their hands. It is unequivocally true, but aren’t we always? Do we not hold planet Helghan in our grips as we plaster Helghast with bullets in Killzone? Are we not impacting mythical Greece as Kratos rips open the belly of some unholy beast in God of War? In some sense, yes, and in others, their worlds are tattered or owned by conflict. There is no appreciation of Helghan because it only exists to shoot things.

For Media Molecule, their brisk, unassuming platformer is the world. You are holding a microcosm jettisoned from the hands of digital craftsman only after creative spirit was applied to build, with systems meant to replicate an innocent wonder. So rigid is the give/take relationship inside this interactive paper puppet show, it wouldn’t be the same without your hands.

Tearaway is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.