The PlayStation 4 version of Tearaway uses the camera, if you have one, to send your grinning mug into the game like a couch-bound god peeking in through the sky. You can also plaster yourself all over the place – finally testing whether you’re a good idea on paper – or create new shapes by tracing them on the touch pad. Certain objects can also be photographed with the in-game camera to unlock blueprints for real-life paper crafts. You know, paper. That flat stuff people used to write on?
Brushing across the touch-pad summons a gust of wind, battering and bending everything on-screen, while pressing down on it activates drum-like bouncing pads to launch Atoi up and over obstacles (these taps usually require the right cadence in platforming challenges). Your messenger can pick up enemies, or the adorable papercraft squirrels, and toss them through the screen, right into the controller. From there you can flick them back like a missile – or stroke them on the touch pad like a purring Tamagotchi. These ideas not only make Tearaway an almost-palpable exploration of texture in a game, but of games as self-contained, toy-like machines.
The writing is just wonderful, as you’d expect for something so committed to paper, and I love its cast of superstitious sea folks and the flustered scientists analyzing your protrusions into their domain. Coupled with its inescapable air of pleasantness and an upbeat percussive soundtrack, Tearaway Unfolded feels lifted by a light heart.
Tearaway Unfolded doesn’t make a strong case for why its unmistakable “feel” is enough, however. Though the PlayStation 4 version adds new levels and imaginative ways to interact, it doesn’t really dive any deeper than Tearaway did before. It’s always trying to find its groove, ramping up the platforming or some puzzles hinged on your prodding of the world, and then flattens out in boredom before ideas can develop further. The dedication to the paper aesthetic is remarkable, yet other aspects of the game don’t really feel connected to the same goal.
Combat against the Scraps feels especially loose and laborious – though you can knock them into a stupor with a well-timed blast of wind, it’s easier just to toss things at them or simply lure them off a nearby edge with your DualShock’s light. It all feels like cleaning the yard, like sweeping leaves out of the way so you can get on with your day. And what does it have to do with paper or Tearaway? The game constantly prompts you to draw shapes, decorate your messenger with bits and pieces, or take cute pictures, but creativity is oddly undervalued when there’s action. Fighting meanies merely feels decorative, and does little to add tension or excitement to Tearaway.
Tearaway Unfolded also crosses the line when it comes to unique control methods, going from inventive and flush with the rest of the game to obligatory and obnoxious in the game’s final segments. Platforms that move as you tilt your controller are doubly awkward when the camera misbehaves, and they only create a mechanical rift between you and the potential that rests inside Tearaway’s paper world. Just like the Vita version, there’s a sense that the game isn’t really about paper or craft – it just looks like it is.
Of course, some rubbish platforming here and there doesn’t hit Tearaway as hard as it might other games. Media Molecule isn’t doing Super Meatboy here. It’s a great testament to the game’s optimistic personality and detailed construction that you never quite think of it as just another platformer or an action title. But even accepting it as a whimsical object to be touched and toyed with, there’s an inkling of trouble throughout: Tearaway Unfolded is a tad too thin, even for paper.