The original Tearaway wowed PS Vita’s dedicated fanbase with its unrivaled charm and creative use of the handheld’s features. In 2015, Media Molecule attempted to translate that magic over to the television with the remake Tearaway Unfolded.
For the most part, this paper craft platformer understands the strengths of the original by bringing the unique playstyle over to the DualShock 4 controller. However, the game doesn’t always benefit from enlargement. And perhaps, the journey of Iota and Atoi was best experienced on an envelope-sized screen.
The story of Tearaway Unfolded doesn’t stray too far from its first iteration. You control either a male or female messenger as they traverse a world made of paper in the hope of delivering a message to you, the player. The devious Scraps have also invaded this world and are infecting it with their depressing newspaper clippings. I guess that could mean the game is presenting a thoughtful commentary on the oversaturation of uninspired media. But in reality, the plot is more interested in providing charming, very British-style humor. While I enjoyed this tone, the voices of the two commentators could be a little overbearing.
Fortunately, the story of Tearaway Unfolded is not a huge focus. Instead, the visually-striking world is where the developer’s effort clearly went. Every element of the levels integrates the papercraft art style. And I mean every. Water is a light blue strip of cardboard that trickles when walked over. Grass is thin cuts of paper that shudder in the breeze. And, buildings are engineered from multiple tactile components. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo got their Labo idea after peering at some screenshots of this game.
This visual cohesion forms some truly inspired levels. A barn is made up of rustic cardboard with whimsically large apples lying around everywhere. And Maypole Fields features enough lush paper to make an employee at Dunder Mifflin swoon. Tearaway Unfolded feels alive with how much activity is present in a single section of its levels. There is always something to see and interact with. I never grew bored exploring these worlds.
The added processing power of the PlayStation 4 only elevates the look of the game. Textures pop more and the animation on some objects is simply gorgeous. However, I did notice some unfortunate callbacks to its PS Vita roots. The draw distance in some areas is laughable and coats these beautiful levels in an ugly, foggy mess. Furthermore, the game’s UI, especially in menus, is randomly obtuse. For a game aimed at people of all ages, I’m baffled at how difficult it was to do something as simple as starting a new game.
Tearaway made a name for itself by finding a use for each of the PS Vita’s unique functions. Therefore, bringing that same level of innovation over to the PS4 presents an interesting challenge. Tearaway Unfolded makes good use of the DualShock 4 controller and had me engaging with some of its features for the first time in a game. However, the game falls into an occasional trap of relying on its quirky playstyle over being a well-made platformer.
I enjoyed using the DualShock 4’s lightbar as a beam to stun enemies and retract any newspaper. Sadly, I can’t say the same for the multiple touchpad implementations. I was fine with tapping it to activate bounce pads that could propel myself or enemies through the air. But, flicking it to send projectiles into the game world that I already had to pick up and throw “towards myself” felt tedious and grossly overused.
Likewise, Tearaway Unfolded’s claim as a “3D platformer” doesn’t always feel justified. I’m all for experimentation in this genre, but not having access to a jump ability for the first hour felt like a step too far. Thankfully, there are some really interesting puzzles and platforming sections sprinkled throughout the game. And when these work in tandem with the unique controls then the game truly unlocks a special feeling. But there is confusion at the heart of Tearaway Unfolded’s design that permeated throughout the entire experience.
Tearaway Unfolded presents an endearing, customizable papercraft world with an overreliance on gimmicks that results in the design occasionally feeling paper thin. When the mechanics and controls click with the timeless visuals, then the game achieves a truly remarkable level of originality and innovation. However, a few hangovers from its handheld roots limits the game from maintaining this feeling over its 12-hour runtime.