Tearaway is one of the ‘gimmickiest’ games on the PlayStation platform. Whether it be the original Vita version or the all new PS4 adaptation, Tearaway is hugely reliant upon the kind of unique mechanics that we would usually associate with launch titles on a new platform. Whether it be the touchpad, the gyroscope, the light bar, the PlayStation camera or the PlayStation App, Media Molecule have used just about every additional ability that the PS4 has at its disposal in the recreation of their hugely imaginative Vita title for the big screen.
The thing is, while these types of ‘gimmicks’ are often frowned upon by the gaming public, as they proved with the largely fantastic Vita original, non-traditional control inputs can be a good thing if they are done right. From the innovative use of the Vita’s camera through to the brilliant way that the rear touchpad put your finger in the actual game, Tearaway went a long way towards justifying many of the Vita’s less celebrated features.
While that innovation has made its way to the PS4 iteration of the game, the level of successful implementation is a little more hit and miss. Don’t get me wrong, all of the mechanics here work fine, it just doesn’t feel as coherent or as imaginative as it did first time around.
The most obvious issue is the lack of an ‘as standard’ camera. If you have one, that’s great; your face is plastered onto the sun as it was in the original Vita release and everything is lovely and charming, but if you don’t (and come on, you probably don’t), the feature is either omitted completely or is reliant upon the use of the PlayStation App. Yes, the app worksas expected, but what made the Vita version so special was the way that it dragged you into its world and how the whole experience felt so cohesive thanks to all of these left field design choices feeling so organic thanks to the Vita’s unique design. Here though, well, it feels a little forced – using a PlayStation App on a smartphone simply isn’t the same as using the Vita’s internal abilities.
The same is true of drawing and creation – on the Vita’s touch screen, drawing items that appeared in the world felt natural and my squirrel crown was the absolute business (it’ll make sense once you play the game), but on the PS4, using the touchpad, well, it all feels a little awkward and cumbersome. It’s probably more accurate than you would imagine, but despite my best efforts, my squirrel crown looked like it was drawn by an especially uncoordinated infant. Again, I could use the PlayStation App to create a much more intricate design, but as far as a game like Tearaway is concerned, to do so would be to miss the point.
Still, while the move away from the organic and all in one experience of the Vita was always going to be tricky, kudos to Media Molecule for making the quintessential Vita experience work on the PS4 at all. This is a game that fundamentally shouldn’t really work on anything other than a Vita, and yet, thanks to some clever design choices, Unfolded, despite its issues, is a largely enjoyable adventure that continues to celebrate imagination and creation in a way that few other games do.
The light bar, something that, to my knowledge at least, has never been used to positive effect in the past (beyond the cool police sirens for GTA V perhaps), is used here to clear away enemies, light your way in the dark and interact with Tearaway Unfolded’s array of paper-based plant life. The touchpad is used to simulate wind to defeat enemies in the same way that blowing into the microphone worked on the Vita while the gyroscope is used for balancing and basic platforming. None of the implementation is quite as effective here as it was on the Vita, but again, it all works well enough with Tearaway Unfolded finding justifiable uses for all of the Dualshock 4’s more unique capabilities.
That’s the thing though, be it the light bar, the touchpad or the gyroscope, everything here does indeed work, but it simply doesn’t come with that same sense of cohesion that made the most basic of implemented mechanics feel so special on Vita due to their place within the collected whole of the experience. Tearaway was custom built for the Vita’s unique capabilities, but on the PS4, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Media Molecule had to force a square peg into a round hole.
With some of that magic lost, Tearaway Unfolded has to fall back on its more traditional game design and, despite being a competent 3D platformer, like LittleBigPlanet before it, Unfolded falls some way short of matching Nintendo’s (or Ubisoft’s) finest. Still, it’s an enjoyable if somewhat linear romp that, while relatively short, packs in a huge amount of imagination and fun along the way. The enforced battles can be a little bit of a chore, but with some surprisingly fiendish challenges later in the game, Tearaway Unfolded does more than enough to warrant its existance on the PS4 platform.
While the mechanics never quite match those of the Vita original, there is no doubting the fact that the games’ visuals have benefited hugely from the move to PS4. The paper created landscape looks absolutely stunning with every single part of the world created using tangible paper-based effects that look like they could be lifted directly out of the screen. This is no Lego-like halfway house in which the backgrounds don’t match the foreground, no, in Tearaway Unfolded, everything you see has been created using a consistent visual design that would hold up just as well in the real world as it does in the virtual one. Be it the adorable character design, the gorgeous paper-based world or one of the games’ myriad of fantastically whimsical incidental details, Tearaway Unfolded is an unmitigated visual tour de force.
So, as one might expect, something has rather inevitably been lost in translation between the Vita and the PS4, but you know what, despite the new experience feeling less cohesive than it did on Vita and the underlying gameplay remaining largely linear and somewhat uninspiring, Tearaway Unfolded overcomes its issues thanks to its glorious visual design, it’s upbeat attitude and the fact that, while feeling a little more forced this time around, it remains a highly entertaining and endlessly charming adventure that ultimately delivers an experience that is more than the sum of its individual parts.
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