A Message with a Mission: Tearaway Review
Tearaway conveys narrative through gameplay. Sometimes this is achieved traditionally through dialogue text from interacting with characters, but it reflects on how the player can influence their character. The game is aware of the player engaged, and makes direct reference to this, as the player’s face is brought into the world through sun using the PlayStation Vita’s built-in camera. The playable character is a letter containing a message that they would like to deliver to the player. Incidentally, it is because of the player’s newfound presence that legions of hostile creatures made up of newspaper clippings, striking a dreary contrast to the colorful, construction-papered world they’re invading. Using the player’s limited influence on the world, it is their goal to get the messenger to deliver their letter.
Between the player and the messenger, there are two narrators: one that acts as a voice for the player, and another that challenges their objective. The helpful narrator assists in “teaching” new moves directly, but does so by convincing the messenger to let them be controlled by the player in new ways. He tells the messenger to let the player use the jump button on them, instead of having to tap the rear touchpad on the drum-like terrain, bouncing them upwards. As such, there is a progression of trust between the player and whom they control, which affects how the gameplay changes.
However, what doesn’t affect gameplay as drastically is when the game asks the player to customize the aesthetic of their experience. Using confetti scattered around the world, players are encouraged to customize the messenger, as NPC’s will force these opportunities upon them from time to time. Despite these seemingly pointless demands, there is one instance where the player will have to dress the messenger appropriately for a tavern in order to progress. The same could be said for some sidequests to gather more confetti, but it’s disappointing these outweigh what is necessary to move along in the game.
Beyond what is customizable within the world of Tearaway, the properties of the player themselves can be changed to appropriately represent what they look like or how they identify themselves with in the real world. From skin tone to what gender the player wants the game to refer them as, the game even asks the relative size of the player’s hands to help determine how the rear touchpad should read their input. However, the additional choice of gender for the messenger is interesting, because the player is not meant to identify with them, so it adds to the extraneous aspect of customization, which seems to be the overall theme of the game.
To a marginally lesser, almost equal degree, Tearaway wants the player to interact with a colorful world of whimsy and imagination. Even though customization is still encouraged, there are many options for modifying objects that are pre-made. Using all of the Vita’s hardware, the player can feel like they’re inserting themselves in the game, whether it is through their sticking their fingers inside, or by the environments seemingly reacting to the sound of their voice. This is the core aspect that allows the player to progress, in which they are prompted by fingerprinted surfaces to manipulate them. However, these mechanics seem to occupy only half of the game’s progression, as there is another part of this dichotomy that may not fit in with this theme.
The aforementioned hostile agents are dealt with initially by the player themselves through the use of the rear touchpad, sweeping them away with their mighty extremities. However, as the game progresses, the player relies more and more on the messenger to get rid of them. One enemy requires the touchscreen to defeat after jumping on it, but aside from that, no further environmental manipulation is necessary to defeat the enemies. Thematically, it makes sense to defeat these garbage-looking vermin by tossing them, resulting in a satisfy thumping splat, but not integrating it within the environmental manipulation mechanic disservices the pacing of the game when an ambush occurs. Indulgent, yet repetitive, it feels very tacked on, especially since only two thirds of the game involve disrupting their affairs.
When their time comes to pass, a greater focus on the messenger's mission takes the them and the player to more intriguing and difficult puzzles in concrete environments. It feels like the game is coming to an end, but there's a lot more meat on this final stretch than what might be anticipated. Certainly not a negative, it slowly culminates to a great union that can only be witnessed at first hand to experience the touching payoff that deems any prior trudging on the player’s part irrelevant. Anybody who feels invested with video games will find something to take away.
+ Unique soundtrack
+ Distinct art-style
+ Fun use of system's hardware capabilities
+ Extensive customization
+ High accessibility
- Stale combat
Making full use of the Vita's capabilities, as well as encouraging an outside experience with its collectible papercrafts, Tearaway is one of a kind, and demonstrates exactly the kind of games that should be made for its system. With many different collectibles and the versatile customization mechanic, there's replayability to be had, especially with the game's easily navigable level select. It feels like the game that keeps on giving.