Nintendo – and designer Shigeru Miyamoto in particular – are famous for the symbiosis between hardware and software in some its most groundbreaking titles, from the implementation of the analogue stick in Super Mario 64 to the Wiimote in Wii Sports. Media Molecule seemed to be taking a leaf out of the Big N’s book in 2013 when it released platformer Tearaway for the Playstation Vita, a game built around the unique hardware and control systems of Sony’s portable. With Tearaway Unfolded the LittleBigPlanet developer has attempted the seemingly impossible by bringing their handheld title to the PlayStation 4.
In Tearaway Unfolded the player takes control of either Iota or Aoti (male and female avatars, respectively) and guides them as they attempt to deliver messages and repair a tear that has opened in the sky of their world, allowing hordes of ‘Scraps’ – malevolant, scurrying and highly irritating creatures – to enter through the hole and generally run around causing mischief.
Iota and Aoti traverse the game world using a mixture of traditional platforming along with directly manipulating the game’s environments using a number of novel mechanics like motion control and the PS4's touch interface. Over the course of the game, they encounter all manner of NPCs who happily chat away and give them new tasks, all voiced in a babbling gibberish that’s highly reminiscent of Animal Crossing’s ‘Animalese’. Quests and puzzles are never particularly challenging but they are always enjoyable to solve and the imagination that has gone into their setup and resolution frequently delights.
The world in Tearaway Unfolded is – as the name hints – made from paper and as well as being the inspiration for most of the core gameplay mechanics gives the game its unique visual identity. The design of everything from the player character to the buildings, trees and rolling hills is based on papercraft and the upscale to high definition has been kind to the stylish Vita original. While the overall presentation suffers just a little without the pop of the Vita’s bright and colourful screen, the level of detail on show here is much greater and the game looks gorgeous blown up on the big screen.
However, the switch from portable to home console has necessitated some changes in the game’s interface and control inputs. While the Vita version made heavy use of the handheld’s front and rear touch screens to manipulate onscreen objects, the PS4 build instead uses the Dualshock 4’s motion sensing capabilities. Holding down the left trigger lights up an area of the screen, which can be moved using the tilt controls to interact with the environment and shepherd Scraps to traps and pits and onwards to their inevitable doom.
Motion controls in home console titles are often divisive but they are well implemented here and make the game more accessible to younger players. Less successful is the use of the PS4 controller’s touchpad that allows the player to draw objects in the game world to solve puzzles and customise some elements of the visual design. This was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Vita version of Tearaway but the DualShock 4’s capacitive surface just isn’t big or sensitive enough to give satisfactory results and actually stifles the player’s creativity.
A handful of other technical aspects feel a bit disjointed; in situations where the game frames your face as the sun, Teletubbies style, the player will be left peering at a black screen unless they’re among the few with a Playstation Camera hooked up to their console. Overall though, this is a fine port with some sections of the game rebuilt from the ground up to accommodate the new control systems all while maintaining the charm and fun that so characterised the Vita original.
Like some of Media Molecule’s other output, Tearaway has been labelled as a children’s game by some. It’s undoubtedly kid-friendly but – and this is something else it shares with many Nintendo games – Tearaway Unfolded is a game with universal appeal. Sure, the Call of Duty crowd probably won’t appreciate its whimsical nature but this is an overwhelmingly charming game that constantly delights with its sheer creativity and imagination. On Playstation 4 it doesn’t quite have the same magic that it did on Vita but the move to home consoles comes with its own advantages – this version is perfect for gaming parents looking for something to share with their kids.