To say that 'Tearaway' was the best game released for the Playstation Vita would be putting it mildly. Now, to say that 'Tearaway' was easily one of the best games of the year, on any system, does it proper justice.
The Playstation Vita has a lot of unique attributes that make it stand out amongst its fellow handheld and mobile gaming counterparts; front- and rear-touch screens; built-in microphone; front and rear camera; full-range, internal gyroscope action. Yet, sadly, no game has truly come forward to utilize all of the features of this system, at least without coming off as being gimmicky or even mildly annoying.
That's where the folks at Media Molecule have stepped in to raise the bar for what makes an excellent Vita game.
About 5 years ago, Media Molecule created one of the most believed game series for the PlayStation 3, 'LittleBigPlanet'. It was built on charm and a unique viewpoint on a game's world(s) creation. It took the gaming community by storm, garnering massive success as well as praise for building a popular franchise without having to resort to common, violent gaming tropes. In 2013, Media Molecule took that idea and, once more, made something unique with 'Tearaway'.
In 'Tearaway', you (the real you) are a "You" - no, seriously, that's what the game refers to the person you are in real life - that has broken through a barrier between two worlds, ours and a world made entirely of paper products. Because of this abrupt interaction the narrators of the story send forth a message for you. The message comes to life becoming a Messenger; Iota if you choose male, Atoi if female. This adorable, fully customizable, little Messenger is controlled by you as they traverse the world of 'Tearaway'. The task is a simple one, that of reaching the You and delivering the message; one that is unique to each player and play-through.
Along the Messenger's route you'll encounter little baddies from the You's world, known as Scraps. These little baddies are designed from thrown out pieces of old newspaper. They have come from the You's world through the hole in the Sun, the same hole where your face resides.
That's right, your face is constantly in the Sun, driving Iota/Atoi onward. This is done via the front camera on the Vita. It will capture and stream a live image of your face in the Sun throughout the game in a brilliant fashion that doesn't hinder the game's performance, while still adding a subtle sense of being immersed in the world of 'Tearaway'. At certain points, this same camera is used to take pictures of the You so that the citizens of this world can celebrate your existence.
The rear camera is just as much fun as the front camera. Early on in the game, Iota/Atoi gets a camera and needs to take pictures of the world around him/her, but not just their world. Using the rear camera feature you can take pictures of the world around Iota/Atoi or take pictures of your own world to craft some interesting skins on creatures that wish it. It was immensely satisfying to paste an image of a Twitter feed on a rather depressed, blank-skinned moose and then seeing its spirits soar. Even more gratifying was finding another moose later with the same skin abashedly saying, "What? She started a new trend."
Of course, what's a Vita game without the use of the touch screens?
The front touch screen does all of the traditional functions that you'd expect: opening doors and collectible gifts, squashing Scraps, and moving platforms. However, the most fun is found in the rear touch screen.
The rear touch screen is where the You can literally enter into the world and help Iota/Atoi in their travels. When on specially marked areas you can touch the rear touch screen and the You's fingers will break through to either rid Iota/Atoi of pesky Scraps or move a platform, in order to help them along. That may seem like a rather similar function to that of the front touch screen, but the pure amusement of seeing your fingers manipulating the 'Tearaway' world is what makes the difference, and never gets old.
It's clear that the You definitely helps to fight off the Scraps, but that doesn't mean Iota/Atoi is completely unable to defend himself/herself. As the game progresses, Iota/Atoi will learn abilities that help them on their journey; jump, roll, pick-up-and-throw, and even gain a special weapon which somehow is impressive while still retaining the charm of the world. This progression is done at an intelligent pace. If it were all available at the start, the combat would become dull and wanting, very quickly.
While the gameplay and combat are entertaining, it's the world of 'Tearaway' that truly makes it such an alluring game. And, just like Media Molecule's 'LittleBigPlanet', 'Tearaway' boasts a certain level of creative interaction that makes you feel like you're really involved in this world, especially in how Iota/Atoi looks. To design literally anything for your Messenger, you're given a crafting table and many colored sheets of paper to trace and cut-out clothes, tattoos, eyes, smiles, hats, flowers, dolls, and on and on. The possibilities are nigh limitless.
Unlike 'LittleBigPlanet', however, 'Tearaway' is not a world altering game; it isn't meant to be about building a world, but experiencing it. Whether crafting a squirrel's crown, planting a photo of the You's world as the skin of a moose, or returning a stolen mustache to a random citizen, 'Tearaway' gives you chances to show your inventive forces.
As stated before, the world of 'Tearaway' is what makes it so appealing, and along with the crafting and manipulation comes the allure of a strong, silent relationship between the You and its Messenger. Iota/Atoi does not speak nor interact with the You in the Sun, beyond a wave and a smile, but the world brings these two together in a way that video games today rarely achieve. After a short period of time, you feel the need to protect Iota/Atoi because you want to keep them safe and share in their adventure, as well as find out what's in the message.
The lone drawback to 'Tearaway' is its seeming lack of replayability. There are certainly many things to collect and unlock. There are even unlockable diagrams for how to craft real-world version of creatures and items from the world of 'Tearaway'. However, if you've taken your time to find all of these things in your first play-through it might seem like there's little else to do once the game is completed.
Perhaps that's true, but the story of the Messenger and its You is endearing and charming that you cannot help but feel so strongly attached to the game after its completion. As you read through the message that Iota/Atoi fought so hard to deliver to you, you'll feel that twinge to want to reload and play it again. Do so, if you must. Or place it on your shelf. Either way, this game is one that many would be happy to keep in their personal gaming library, and is a must have for Vita owners.