This unconventional game draws players like a pen is drawn to paper.
PS Vita games that are ported to the PlayStation 4 make me very skeptical. Most ports are limited by the power of Sony's handheld system, so they have to add something extra to make them worthwhile. To my surprise, Tearaway Unfolded never made me feel like I was playing a last-gen game, and the addition of mobile app features adds more depth to an already fun experience. It's just too bad that a strong focus on the whimsical presentation and unconventional gameplay comes at the cost of a challenge, of which there is none.
I was intrigued from the moment the puzzle-platformer began and the colorful loading screen started moving around in response to the tilt controls. Then a delightful narrator began telling the story while childlike visuals displayed a fantastical world created entirely from paper cutouts of characters and scenery. This game truly captures the nostalgic feel of the wonderful childhood stories I read in my youth that were full of wonder and make believe. To put it bluntly, playing Tearaway Unfolded makes me feel like a kid again.
Players get to take on the challenging role of themselves (no, really) while simultaneously guiding a paper message named Iota that takes on a humanoid form… well, humanoid crafted out of paper. Apparently, the player is a godlike creature known as the You, and the messenger must deliver an important message (itself) from the paper world to You in the human world. This is achieved by traversing the cliffs, chasms, pathways, and other obstacles in the surreal paper world and then entering a hole in the sky. Adding a bit of variety to this task are enemies known as Scraps. Haven't these braindead bad guys ever heard of the phrase, “Don't kill the messenger?”
When Iota is in the dark, You can activate a light that shines bright into the world below. This light beacon is guided with the PS4 controller's light bar or the right analog stick, and it makes the world come alive! Depending on the background, the all powerful light reveals hidden objects, makes flowers bloom, makes walkways unroll, and much more. Evil Scraps turn the colorful paper world into lackluster white paper covered in newspaper print, but shining the light on newsprint transforms the paper back into its original glory. It's also possible to use the light to hypnotize scraps and then control their movement. This lets You run them off of ledges, under falling objects, into enemy fire, etc…
Not surprisingly, the light beacon isn't available in lit areas, so You must take advantage of other fun features. One of my favorites is the ability to control guests of wind which has many handy uses. One swipe of the touch panel can unfold walkways, blow open gates, and even unfurl building walls to peek inside. This feature is also useful during combat as players can send airborne enemies flying in any direction, even off cliffs. At their most powerful, wind gusts can transform giant areas to make them easier to traverse. I love watching the reaction of A.I. characters and the environment when they're blown around by wind gusts.
Another great use of the controller is drawing objects that can be used in-game by using the touchscreen. Everything from facial features to environmental objects and even creatures can be hand-drawn by You, but certain limitations make most drawings rather crude. However, it was really cool to draw colorful butterfly wings and then see every butterfly in the area fluttering around using said wings. New to the PS4 version is the ability to use the companion app on a smartphone or tablet to draw objects and send them to the game world. This can even be done in real time, so a second player can actually change the world that You are inhabiting.
Adding to the fun is a camera that can be used to take pics of anything, and these pics can be uploaded for anyone to see. This cool camera is also used to bring color back to white objects in the environment which is completely optional. I also like the ability to toss small objects out of the game into You's controller that serve as ammunition to fire at objects and enemies in-game. This is an improvement on the PS Vita's version that simply requires a tap on the touchscreen because it's more interesting and also allows for more creativity.
Sadly, the game has no challenge whatsoever. None of the platforming aspects or puzzles are particularly difficult, and the game frequently reminds You what to do. Every time Iota dies, he/she immediately re-spawns within a few feet of their virtual grave. On more than one occasion, Iota actually re-spawned past the puzzle I was trying to solve, which makes no sense. In addition, there are no penalties for dying, and there are unlimited lives. While this may be great for youngsters, it slowly begins to kill my motivation to continue. Couldn't they have made an adult difficulty that offers some, err, iota of a challenge? It would also be nice if the messenger could sprint because their movement can be painfully slow.
Tearaway Unfolded improves upon the original by adding innovative controls, a handy companion app, augmented reality features via the PS Camera, and a plethora of new content including expended environments with new quests. With this much whimsical content, it's going to be hard to tear away from my TV.