Play. Create. Tear.
I have a confession to make. Despite being what the other GR staff like to refer to as a "PlayStation fanboy," I never really liked LittleBigPlanet. I'm normally a creative guy, and I can see the wonder and potential it offers, but generally, I'm not into cutesy games. And when I do get that itch, I scratch it with some Nintendo.
So when I saw that Media Molecule again had a cute little creature in an even cuter little world, Tearaway was immediately a turn-off. But to my surprise, I left my hands-on demo with Tearaway with a big smile.
Let's get this part out of the way. Aside from being adorable, it's nothing like LittleBigPlanet. I felt bad for the Media Molecule team who were being barraged by media asking questions comparing it to LBP. Let's hope it ends here.
With Tearaway, Media Molecule's goal is to create something with a tactile feel, as if you are really touching, feeling, and holding this game world in your hands. You are, of course, since it's a handheld game, but the sensory feeling is deeper than that. Your hands become part of the game, akin to a god poking and prodding the world you've created, molding and shaping the outcome.
Drawing inspiration from tossed away concept art thrown in the rubbish, Media Molecule have used paper as a central theme. Paper is part of everything that makes Tearaway, from the gameplay mechanics to the characters, to the art and level design.
You simply want to touch it. Think of a young child, a toddler maybe. They're constantly wandering and exploring using their hands (and their mouths... gross). They're doing this to learn, to understand the world around them. And that's exactly how you discover the world of Tearaway, puzzles, adventure, and all.
Paper is fun to play with, and Media Molecule has thought of every fun way possible you might interact with paper. The game features printable papercraft as a reward for exploration, and many of the story elements are explained to you in the style of a pop-up book, pulling and sliding tabs to bring the paper art to life. It's pure genius.
There is a sort of stop-motion effect to the animation, again making you want to touch it. I can recall watching the stop-motion clay Christmas movies each year and wondering how it would feel if I could just touch the characters. Now you can, in a world that you may grow just as fond of as you were of these Christmas tales as a child. It's the same sense of wonder, the same level of charm and happiness, just in the palm of your hands.
Notice I didn't talk all that much about the gameplay. Yes, it's a game, with a story and an adventure focus featuring cute, little characters named iota and his female counterpart atoi. But Tearaway is more than that. Like paper itself, it's nothing until you make something of it. It's your imagination, and your interpretation that will bring you personal enjoyment. Watching trailers and even seeing the developers demo the game before my eyes did little to make Tearaway appeal to me. But the moment I had it in my hands and started poking, swiping, and tearing myself, I discovered all of what Tearaway meant to me.