Beware of Papercuts

Tearaway Unfolded

Tea: Chocolate Tea

With phantom thieves banging on my window to start playing their game already, I cut out some time to make a little bit of space for Tearaway Unfolded. In hindsight, I couldn’t even tell you why. Partially because it was free and the remaining portion is due to a podcast backlog I have to work through and this seemed like the kind of game to do that. So before I can finally enjoy approximately 100 hours of typical Japanese highschool life, take a quick dive into the paper crafted world of Tearaway and prepare for some nasty papercuts.
The plot of Tearaway is pretty straightforward, although surprisingly meta. A hole has been ripped into the world of Tearaway which connects the game reality with the supposed real reality, meaning your gamer reality, and a messenger has been dispatched to fix the hole and deliver a message to you, yes you, the one playing. What follows is a journey through themed worlds that introduces more and more gimmicks while mixing and matching old ones, often asking you to draw things with your touchpad and other various time sinks. The primary enemy are scraps. Little beings made from newspapers that aim to simply mess things in a – at first at least – nonspecific way. I will say one thing about the plot, it surprised me. Surprise in the form that it ends about four times and keeps going. There are certain moments when the music settles in, the main conflict is resolved, or the environment simply screams “ending”. Well, Tearaway goes through all of them, sometimes overlapping. The amount of times I thought this game would end only to drop me off right into another level is quite high. Two times of those I actually wanted it to end and afterwards I was simply curious how often it could pull the same stunt again and again. You will certainly get your money’s worth in terms of playtime, let me assure you of that. Other than that, the tone is what you would expect: Light-hearted without any real sense of danger, inoffensive design choices, and an ending similar to “the real treasure were you all along”.

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– Also you can ride a pig. Instant bonus points. –

At its core, Tearaway is a 3D platformer of which there are very few these days, partially because they have been done to death before. Luckily, this time there is a saving grace apart from the visual design to which I will return later. Tearaway is very good as making you feel as if you can actually shape the world inside the game as a player. Not just in the way of your character interacting with things, but in a more impactful way, like environmental design. You are often asked to design certain things for common people, for example someone will ask you to make a star for them. You draw a horribly misshaped star (like I do and you are supposed to) and then the guy is happy. But, after a while your star will feature in certain other places. Maybe the sky? Maybe a sign posted on a street? You get the idea. And this little gimmick is played with a lot of different things. You are also able to apply stickers to yourself and others as well as make photos or short gifs with the in-game camera. All of these elements are neat, but do not carry the game. What is more interesting is the way the game alters the well-known 3D platforming sections. Gimmicks are constantly introduced and by constantly I certainly mean so in every sense of the word. Up to the second to last pseudo-ending, new gameplay gimmicks were being introduced. They are taught in an understandable way and (mostly) have good visual stimuli to make you recognise them immediately. I say mostly, because drum-fields tend to be hidden and barely visible sometimes. Therefore, should you ever be stuck without an apparent way forward, give the touchpad a tab and you will most likely be good to go.

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– Recognise that? It’s your manifested god will. –

The platforming itself is okay. It is not Little Big Planet-levels of terrible, but it is also not point perfect. Thankfully, the game is forgiving as hell and pushes a checkpoint under your paper-thin rear every five steps. There are some challenging sections throughout the game, but even they sometimes have four to five checkpoints in between so it really should not be an issue. I say this, because – and I am somewhat taking away my conclusion at this point – the game is fit for children or first gaming experiences. It is also laudable how the game tries to integrate every feature of the Ps4. Be it the motion tracking of the gamepad, the touchpad, or even the light at the back of the controller which becomes a metaphorical manifestation of your will as a player and thus god in this world which can force innocent weak-minded scraps to commit mass suicide. I am not kidding. Fighting can be a bit of a chore since the enemies are basically small puzzles. Asking you to remember their type and how to dispose of them properly. This can sometimes demand a high degree of management as it is often advisable to endure the presence of certain enemies as they take longer to dispatch and rather go for the quick kill with others. You die surprisingly fast but with no real consequence and the life-bar(?) is hard to read. It is a flipping stamp with no real indication other than “you have sustained damage”. Combat is probably the biggest critique I have with this game as it is often hectic and uncoordinated. Additionally, some enemies can get stuck in the level geometry. Thankfully, this happened only to enemies I could still kill, but if certain other types would have been affected this would have been a reload situation.

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– Force your will upon the weak minority. –

Speaking of, there are a number of times the games seems to get stuck in certain zoom-in cutscenes where I could not get out of. Sometimes I would be comboed into a cutscene and not have it trigger afterwards, cancelling a dialogue option etc. So the technical side is not perfect, but nothing mandatory a quick reload cannot fix. And here I return to the general design. While the papercrafted look is unique and often quite astounding, it also often can be in the way. The collision is far from perfect and blowing the wind from the right angle to unroll certain papers is sometimes tricky, especially when it needs to happen under pressure. Aside from those instances, the world design is astounding and the fact that you can collect all the instruction to make the little paper buddies yourself is a nice addition. The soundtrack can be surprisingly catchy as well and often manages to fit the mood quite well.

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– You are also peer pressured to get a sick tattoo to get into a club, I am not kidding (again). –

It is here we arrive at the conclusion I previously hinted at: Tearaway is a great game for children and for a first contact with the medium itself. It is easy to grasp with a somewhat steady learning curve. All of the different features the console offers (touchpad, motion detection, even a microphone should you have one) are implemented in a creative way. It tells a heart-warming little tale (although it is a bit too light for me as I like to leave my games devastated and in a state of near depression, but that’s just me). All the meta shenanigans give the game a huge boost and make it stand out among other titles and after all I have a soft spot for meta narratives. Those new to the medium will find an excellent first game while veterans can still enjoy the different gimmicks and the catchy soundtrack. It really is a surprisingly good game.

Image sources in order of appearance:
http://assets1.ignimgs.com/2015/09/02/tearaway0901151280jpg-9aaa5c_1280w.jpg (Last date of access: 10.04.2017)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/G/01/aplusautomation/vendorimages/dc8724bb-3fa7-4690-9dab-25d3c39e0d44.jpg._CB318481891_.jpg (Last date of access: 10.04.2017)
http://www.brashgames.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Tearaway-Unfolded-Guiding-Light-Scraps-Screenshot-4.jpg (Last date of access: 10.04.2017)
https://static1.gamespot.com/uploads/original/917/9176928/2750454-14713899039_8961a13901_o.png (Last date of access: 10.04.2017)

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