My face scowls in the sun. Suddenly aware of his audience, my face opens his mouth wide and makes a series of quick, sloppy gestures before disappearing behind the horizon.
I did that on purpose, of course. The Vita’s front facing camera picked up my dumb head and stuck it into Tearaway’s sun and I couldn’t resist being a moron on screen. It makes me wonder why iota wants to deliver a message to me. I’m an idiot every time I show up in the game. But iota is earnest. Tearaway, as a whole, is earnest. Its papercraft world, blunt and saccharine storytelling, and borderline non-sequitor cast of characters could easily come across as hokey and forced, but surprisingly (and much to its credit), it usually does not.
That is not to say Tearaway doesn’t stumble. It does. As an omnipotent sun-dork, my job is to force myself into iota’s world and help him deliver his message to me. The Vita’s touch screen screen, the rear touch panel and even the gyros are put to work here, and it’s a double edged sword. On the one hand, poking, prodding, swishing and tilting are all novel inputs for a platformer, and Tearaway generally pulls its ideas off to good effect. It’s fun and engaging. But on the other hand, the Vita is a large, heavy system. Fumbling around with it to do what the game asks of me is, at times, downright annoying. At one point, I had to interact with the rear touch panel with two fingers while also guiding iota with the left analog stick. What the hell kind of hands does Media Molecule think I have?
With Media Molecule’s reputation, in all fairness, I expected a lesser game. The single player campaigns in the LittleBigPlanet games are dull and exhausting affairs, to put it kindly. Tearaway doesn’t break any molds; iota trucks through a linear adventure finding hidden presents, collecting junk and helping denizens with the most simple of tasks, but despite having done all this in any number of Nintendo 64 platformers, Tearaway does what it does well. Media Molecule wisely sprinkles new ideas for both platforming and combat at the right time to keep the simple systems from growing stale. A few segments drag on a bit too long, but it’s rarely boring.
Tearaway asked me about the size of my hands, the color of my skin and even which gender I prefer to be addressed as. It’s a game that tries very hard to be likable, to put you in a creative and prominent role in the story. Sometimes, especially the ending, it comes across as heavy handed, and the variety of inputs are occasionally cumbersome. But Tearaway dusts itself off and tries again, and I’m glad that it does.