When I first picked up my Vita back in late 2012, it was to play the excellent P4G and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. While I found both games to be stellar additions to my ever growing gaming library, I felt they didn’t properly utilize all the functionalities of the Vita to their full potential.
After all, what good is a hardware filled to the brim with utility if there is no software to showcase just exactly what it’s capable of? The Vita had one such problem- that is until the release of Tearaway.
The story begins as a terrifyingly handsome (or sexy, if you prefer) face appears on the sun and iota begins his quest to deliver a message to you, the sun.
Just as iota plays the role of the messenger and message at the same time, the player is placed in the role of the sun as he/she must help iota (or atoi, his female counterpart) on their journey. It’s a simple story that’s just as interested in telling a tale as it is to help the player make it their own, as it constantly asks them to become an active element in shaping iota’s world.
This is done in two ways.
The first is through customization and adding elements that the players create themselves and implementing them seamlessly into the world.
The other, by having the players directly interact with the world using various touch and gyroscope controls.
From the very beginning, I was able to customize my iota into how I wanted him to look and as I continued throughout the game, I changed him often to either suit the needs of a side quest or just plainly because I had a new idea on what might look cool.
It wasn’t just iota either, as I was often asked to put my own little touch on all manner of objects and characters. In one scenario, I had to help a head of a scarecrow (a pumpkin), who had lost his features into becoming scary again.
First, I added evil looking eyes and then put on some vampire teeth with what I designed to look like blood dripping off of it. Then, I put some lines that looked like scars, and for the final touch I recorded my own voice doing the scariest roar that I could muster.
When I placed the new and improved pumpkinhead on the scarecrow, I heard my mighty roar and saw the crows that were once blocking my path scatter. The sense of delight and childlike wonder I felt in these moments were truly special, and I can hardly remember the last time I felt that way.
There is also a great deal of interaction through the use of the touch screen as both the front and back is utilized well.
The front is often used as a way to tear away parts of the environment to reveal new objects or to move things around, many of which tear apart in convincing manner as if it was a sticker that was being peeled off.
The back touchpad was used to push through the Vita to reveal giant fingers which could be used to push, pull, and hold things in place. It was also used as a trampoline as a tap on the back would push iota high into the sky on certain surfaces.
While these mechanics were simple by themselves, combined with controlling iota, it held a nice balance in difficulty as while it never became too difficult, there were some sections where I had to react very quickly to succeed and it felt quite satisfying when I did. While instant deaths were somewhat commonplace as a mistimed jump could easily spell my doom, the checkpoints were frequent and lives infinite, so I never felt even a moment of frustration during the course of the game.
Even with all those mechanics, new and interesting ones were introduced often and none of them overstayed their welcome as they either felt like a nice change of pace or an essential part of the experience.
It’s so very nice to see touch controls used this well, as most of the time they’re implemented they feel tacked on for the sake of having them more so than by necessity or creative design.
The camera also sees a good deal of use, as the player is often portrayed as the face of the sun in the world. While I was taken aback the first time seeing myself within the game world, I got used to it rather quickly and was soon making silly faces for the amusement of myself and another that was watching me play the game.
While the whole of Tearaway is quite exceptional, there are a few blemishes that keep it from being perfect.
First of all, there are some moments where the frame rates stutter slightly, and while it by no means makes the game feel unplayable, it sticks out in memory since the rest of the game felt so very polished.
Then, there is the challenge of trying to draw with one’s finger on a touch pad. It’s something that comes up often and I found it very difficult to draw exactly what I wanted, not knowing where the line was being drawn as my fingers were always in the way and I couldn’t see just exactly what I was drawing.
The inclusion of a Vita stylus with every copy of Tearaway could have remedied this issue but unfortunately, this is not the case. I recommend everyone to grab a capacitive stylus (different from the ones you’d use on the 3DS) for the best experience possible but it’s not required.
Even with its relatively short length of about five hours, there are plenty of collectables to find hidden throughout all the levels, which are well worth collecting as some of them are even associated with paper craft that can be downloaded and printed out to be made in the real world.
I might not be much of a paper craft guy, but I plan on printing out an iota to display on my desk!
Forget Killzone, forget Call of Duty. It’s no understatement to say that Tearaway is the game that the Vita has been waiting for since its launch, almost two years ago.
It showcases every single functionality that the Vita is capable of in one expertly and lovingly crafted package.
It’s a must have if you own a Vita and a reason to own a Vita if you don’t.
Fun Tidbit: The smile on my face as I flipped through the message at the end of the tale was worth the cost of admission on its own.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.