On paper, Tearaway Unfolded sounds like a ripoff. Media Molecule gave PS Vita owners a reason why they bought the thing by creating Tearaway, which was a huge success. The game’s biggest selling point was using the Vita’s back touchscreen, allowing players to interact directly with the papercraft world. Media Molecule decided that, after their success with Tearaway on the Vita, they’d transplant the series onto the PS4. And while at first it sounded like a generic port (the $40 price tag didn’t help that sentiment) the only similarities between the two are the aesthetics, some base mechanics, and the genre of game.
Tearaway Unfolded starts off with two voices more ambiguous than God himself wanting to listen to a story. Having lost their library cards and not being able to pick up 20,000 Leagues, they decide to mess up the paper world below them. They create a Messenger, a paper person whose head is the literal message he/she has to send to “You,” the player. The plot, in hindsight, seems completely off. People were bored so they made up a story and created some obstacles in the protagonist’s way. As far as plot’s go, it’s not exactly something Alexandre Dumas thought up. It’s quite reminiscent of the plot of that Fable 3 sidequest: The Game. Except instead of a stereotypical satire of Dungeons and Dragons, it starts out sorta rubbish. Then, about halfway through, the game gets sort of meta.
To not spoil too much, the enemies you’ve been fighting throughout the game essentially become self-aware from the role their creators have given them. They then decide they want the same control of the world that the player has and go to build a device to do such a thing. And once that issue’s solved about halfway through, the enemies move out of the way in place of pure puzzle solving, which almost has this zen-like aspect of only worrying about puzzles. And then, well let’s just say that John Lennon’s entire Yellow Submarine probably felt like smoking rolls of toilet paper compared to the last few levels of Tearaway Unfolded.
The game’s papercraft aesthetics are simple yet absolutely gorgeous, with the environment interacting with the player just by having them walk around. Media Molecule made the statement that every item in the game can be created in the real world, and I believe them. The way that certain folds bend under the player’s steps, how a wind will cause papers to flutter, and the actual origami work involved in creating each character really shows how dedicated Media Molecule was to creating such a unique aesthetics. As well, some parts of the game will have you draw parts of the world in yourself. When approaching a snowy mountain, for example, my trusty squirrel guide told me that there usually are snowflakes flying around. For some reason, however, there were none. So using the touchpad, I was told to draw a snowflake. “Screw you and your traditionalist views on what precipitates on a mountain,” I thought as I began to draw money to really make it rain. However, the small touchpad would cause me to make a rectangle and some squiggly green bits, causing my initial project to make it rain cash circumvented and replaced with Pokeballs.
The crafting and creation aspect in Tearaway Unfolded isn’t just a gimmick: it’s folded into the game, having the player create the world around them. The game has a few more mechanics other than just the drawing aspect. As your Messenger roams through the world, he begins to become a scrapbook of abilities. The player uses the controller’s motion controls to aim a light into the world that can disorient enemies, help plants grow, or illuminate dark areas of the world. Pressing the touchpad will cause drums and trampolines to bounce, while swiping it in a direction will cause a strong wind to blow. Eventually you even get the ability to jump. Most abilities are learned and grown throughout the game, meaning that the game opens up organically and uses old abilities to prop up new ones.
The mechanics are later used in sync with each other to travel through the world, progress the plot, and collect confetti, which you can trade in for certain shapes and parts to decorate both your character and the characters around you. The confetti is easy to find, which almost makes it somewhat worthless. Currently I have enough confetti to cover a Thanksgiving Day Parade, while finding only about half of the world’s confetti. It can also be used to buy different filters and lenses for the in-game camera, which creates some awesome shots of the origami world. Sadly, my college’s internet blocks Tearaway’s servers from connecting, so I had to take PS4 screenshots of the pictures. As well, there’s a sort of side-quest piece wherein some pieces of the world will have the color stripped of them. Taking their picture will give you a link to a file that will let you print out that object and create it in the real world. It’s a cool way of bring the paper world to life that not many other developers would take the time to include.
The game isn’t exactly short either. At time of writing I’ve been playing the game for a good 30-40 hours and have apparently only completed 46% of the game, so either I’m almost at the end and passed any and every side quest or there’s way more of the game to unfold in a second playthrough. For those worried about price-to-gameplay ratio, Tearaway Unfolded definitely passes the test. As well, there’s a myriad of secondary projects for the players to do, such as a Companion app that allows you to try drawing, uploading photos, and maintaining what printable objects the player has. While I didn’t personally try it out due to the fact that a Commodore 64 could load a game quicker than my phone can load a Facebook page, there’s definitely more than enough for players to poke their heads around.
Tearaway Unfolded is definitely not a game in my usual area of interest at first-glance. As someone that enjoyed playing Spec Ops: The Line and spent hours banging my head against the Dark Souls wall, a game centered around happiness, genuine creativity, and friendship would normally want to make me projectile vomit. But after playing Tearaway Unfolded, I found myself smiling at the novelty of the gameplay, enjoying the view, and being challenged, but not aggravated, at its puzzles. It’s a charming addition to anyone’s library that can compete with Mario’s puzzle and platform complexity, go toe-to-toe with any indie game’s aesthetics, and at times offer more creativity than Minecraft.