Generally, the more systems a game is available for, the better it is for everyone. Sometimes, however, it’s easy to feel a little selfish about how far a game’s travels take it.
When I first heard that plans were underway to bring Media Molecule’s brilliant PlayStation Vita release Tearaway to the PlayStation 4, I’ll be honest: I was a little disappointed. As much as I’ve fallen in love with the handheld, it has struggled to gain ground in most countries outside of Japan, and taking away one of its truly great exclusives would only give people less reason to need to own one. At the same time, however, the reality of the situation was that Tearaway was a fantastic game that didn’t get the chance to be appreciated by the audience it deserved, and that was never going to happen so long as it stayed lock to the life of a Vita exclusive.
So, it’s now time for the game to shine as it’s reborn for the PlayStation 4, and shine Tearaway: Unfolded absolutely does. As wonderful as the game was on the Vita, the papercraft-inspired world is all the more gorgeous now that it’s on big high-definition screens and been given a noticeable bump in framerate due to the power of Sony’s latest console. I still argue that what Media Molecule created in the original game is one of the most inviting and personality-infused video game universes I’ve seen in years, but you really gain a new appreciation for that when so much more detail and scenery can be represented on-screen at any one moment. I think Unfolded is at its best in its quieter moments, when green construction paper cut to form grass and trees gently sways in the wind in an open field, or as waves of paper and glue crash hard against the docks of a meticulously-built seaport. When the action kicks in and things really come to life, the papercraft concept still impresses, however, as enemies called Scraps form themselves from corrupted pieces of paper, or obstacles appear and disappear from the landscape like scenes in a pop-up book.
Tearaway: Unfolded is visually stunning on the PS4, but that was never in doubt for me given how much effort Media Molecule had put into those elements in its original portable form. The bigger question, then, was how the game would turn out given it was planned to be a mix of elements from the original Tearaway blended with completely new scenarios and situations—not to mention the obvious need to replace most of the Vita version’s touch gimmicks.
As much as I may love the world of Tearaway, it was the story and its characters that had the biggest impact on me. It’ll help hammer home just how magical and special I felt the game was, and I still feel that way coming into the game again.
The story behind Tearaway is that of a young messenger—Iota or Atoi, depending on which gender you pick—and their journey to deliver a special message to a mystical, overseeing being known as the “You.” Which, of course, is you the player. That idea of an adventure, you and your messenger together, is core to everything the game does, both in a traditional travel-through-worlds-and-defeat-foes-while-helping-inhabitants style of gameplay, and in the emotional voyage you’ll find yourself being taken on by the narrative the team has lovingly created. If it’s a journey you’ve already taken before, then you’ll know a good deal of what to expect along the way—though you won’t always know the exacts of when and how they’ll now show up. Even with that knowledge, I still loved going through the game again, seeing old friends and favorite areas while enjoying those elements that were added to Unfolded. I think Tearaway is the kind of game where any good excuse to replay it will be welcomed by fans, but for those expecting more new than old, you might be disappointed by the results. Those who have never touched the game before, of course, are in for a treat—you’ll get to play an expanded and refined version of Tearaway with completely fresh eyes.
The only point at which Unfolded stumbles is in the changes made to how you’ll interact with the game’s world beyond traditional controls. The original Tearaway had players virtually poke their fingers into the screen to help the messenger, blow into the microphones to cause winds to gust up to affect items or enemies, or take photos of objects to bring new colors and patters to the game’s inhabitants. These were all actions that seemed like they existed mainly to show off the Vita’s hardware options, but they worked surprisingly well in practice, adding an extra level of intimacy to the game than would not have existed without them. While Media Molecule have done the best they could to come up with similar PlayStation 4-supporting ideas—centered around the DualShock 4’s touchpad and motion tracking—here they do at times end up feeling more like gimmicks that exist to tick off additional boxes on an “immersion” checklist.
Thankfully, those actions are a small part of Tearaway: Unfolded, ones that do little to taint everything else that’s been built up around them. In nearly every other way, this is an experience that showcases the power and beauty games can hold when crafted by a development team who’s been given the freedom and support to work on a project that comes straight from the heart. As sad as I may be that Tearaway, and the system that offered it a home, didn’t do better than they did the first time around, Unfolded has given an absolutely deserving game a second chance at life—and given a far wider audience the chance to play one of the most heartwarming and enjoyable adventures gaming has seen in years.